Cast & Crew
John G. Adolfi
The Reeves Shoe Company and the Hartland Shoe Company have been friendly rivals ever since John Reeves and Tom Hartland fell in love with the same woman. Tom Hartland won her while John Reeves remained a bachelor, hiring his ambitious young nephew, Benjamin Burnett, as his general manager. After Tom Hartland dies, Reeves overhears Benjamin muse that he is slipping. Annoyed, he decides to go fishing in Maine and leave Benjamin to run the company without him, just to see how well he will do. In Maine, Reeves meets Jenny and Tommy Hartland, the two undisciplined children of his old rival. Disturbed by their careless lifestyle, Reeves pretends to be an old fisherman named John Walton and contrives to be taken to New York by the brother and sister. Once there, he sees that the Hartland factory is being mismanaged by Fred Pettison. He has himself appointed a trustee of the Hartland estate in order to force the Hartlands to take charge of their lives. Tommy starts to learn the business, and Jenny gets a job at the Reeves Company under an assumed name. Reeves helps Tommy run the business, making it successful again. After learning that Pettison is trying to sell the business to a syndicate at a profit for himself, Reeves fires him. Jenny and Benjamin have fallen in love, but when Benjamin discovers her true identity, he decides she was spying on the company and sadly breaks off their affair. At the last minute, Reeves straightens out everything, and the two companies merge.
John G. Adolfi
J. Farrell Macdonald
Edward Van Sloan
The Working Man (1933) - The Working Man
Bette Davis plays the wayward daughter in The Working Man. It was the second and last film Davis made with Arliss, whom she always considered one of her mentors and the person who was responsible for saving her nascent film career. She first met Arliss in the late 1920s, when he was a guest lecturer at the drama school she attended in New York. He counseled her not to adopt the exaggerated "cultured" English diction that many actors were then using. Instead, he suggested that she speak standard American English, but make an effort to get rid of her New England accent. Davis followed his advice. In late 1930, Davis was signed to a contract by Universal and went to Hollywood, but she was cast in pallid secondary roles and made little impression. Nine months later, Universal dropped her. According to Davis, she and her mother were packing up to return to New York, when she received a phone call summoning her to a meeting with Arliss, then one of Warners' top stars. After meeting with Arliss, she was cast in The Man Who Played God, and signed to a Warner Bros. contract.
Over the next year, Davis played mostly supporting roles, though she did make a strong impression as a Southern temptress in The Cabin in the Cotton (1932). Her role in The Working Man was also a supporting one, but Arliss noted that she was more confident and assertive playing it. "My little bird has flown, hasn't she?" he told her. Davis later recalled, "Whatever was happening on his set, at four p.m. sharp everything stopped for a half hour while we had tea. I think he had it in his contract. Mr. Arliss helped pour, and everyone, to the lowliest grip, participated. I especially enjoyed knowing instinctively that Mr. Jack L. Warner was sitting in his office having a fit during this expensive homage to a civilized way of life." Both Arliss and Davis earned good reviews for The Working Man. "Mr. Arliss offers an ingratiating character study in a role that suits him," according to Mordaunt Hall of the New York Times. "Quite a number of Mr. Arliss's lines are humorous and there is no denying that the actor uses them most effectively. Bette Davis, whose diction is music to the ears, does good work in the role of Jenny."
Arliss returned to England in 1935, but Davis had one more fateful encounter with him. In 1936, unhappy with the quality of roles Warner Bros. was giving her, Davis presented a list of demands, including more money and more say in the films she would appear in, and refused to show up on the set of her next film. Studio boss Jack Warner promptly suspended her, and Davis left for England, intending to make a film for a European producer. Warner retaliated with an injunction prohibiting her from making films for anyone but Warner Bros. Davis sued, but lost her case. Arliss went to see Davis at her London hotel, and was kind but blunt. He urged her not to appeal the verdict. "Bette, you must go home and do anything they ask for one year," he told her. "You must accept the fact that you have lost. It's difficult to handle defeat, but you can take it." Realizing that her career would be over if she continued to fight, Davis followed his advice. She swallowed her pride and returned to Warner Bros., where she soon became the studio's top female star. "He certainly was my first professional father," Davis said of Arliss, and the sentiment was reciprocated. In her home, she kept a framed photograph of Arliss. The inscription read, "with adopted fatherly affection."
Director: John G. Adolfi
Screenplay: Charles Kenyon, Maude T. Howell, based on the story "Adopted Father," by Edgar Franklin
Cinematography: Sol Polito
Editor: Owen Marks
Costume Design: Orry-Kelly
Art Direction: Jack Okey
Music: Leo F. Forbstein
Cast: George Arliss (John Reeves), Bette Davis (Jenny Hartland), Theodore Newton (Tommy Hartland), Hardie Albright (Benjamin Burnett), Gordon Westcott (Fred Pettison), J. Farrell MacDonald (Henry Davidson), Charles Evans (Mr. Haslitt).
by Margarita Landazuri
The Working Man (1933) - The Working Man
The film's working title was The Adopted Father. According to production notes in the file on the film in the AMPAS library, shooting lasted for eighteen days and the film's total cost was $199,000. New York Times incorrectly credited Douglas Dumbrille with the role of "Hammersmith." The 1936 Twentieth Century-Fox film Everybody's Old Man was based on the same source.