Sunday, December 4, 2011

Maureen O'Sullivan & Warren William in Skyscraper Souls (1932)

This pre-code film tells the story of the people who live and work in the world's tallest building - The Seacoast National Bank Building in Manhattan. Taller even than the Empire State Building, it's ruled over by David Dwight (William), the bank president. The building houses businesses of all sorts, from gem merchants to dress companies and has such amenities as a swimming pool in the basement and a palatial penthouse apartment for Mr. Dwight. Dwight is assisted by his loyal secretary, Sarah Dennis (Verree Teasdale) who also happens to be his mistress. His wife (Hedda Hopper, soon to be Hollywood columnist, par excellence) and he live separate lives and she's perfectly content to soak him for dough between trips to Europe. Sarah has employed a new secretary, herself - impressionable Lynn Harding (O'Sullivan), who has caught the eye of bank clerk Tom Shepherd (Norman Foster). Mr. Dwight is not happy with the status quo, however, and he schemes to get full control over the building by creating a bubble in the stock of his bank, and decides to throw off Sarah after he gets a glimpse of Lynn. Will his selfish desires be realized or will he be lose everything?
Pre-code films are interesting to watch because the looser moral standards, coupled with the early mise-en-scene create a tension we're not used to if we're at all familiar with the classic cinema of the code era. This film doesn't disappoint on that score, featuring near nudity and foul language, not to mention explicit sexual circumstances. It's also interesting to note the elements of the story that touch on the still raw nerve of the crash of 1929, and how those circumstances relate to the financial condition of the country right now. Also featured in the film are Gregory Ratoff, Anita Page and Jean Hersholt.

This film has yet to be released on DVD. It was released on VHS in the late 90's and can still be found on Amazon. It's rather expensive though. It's occasionally screened on TCM and can be watched in full on YouTube. The entire film is above, uploaded by kalifani.

Obscurity factor: 8 (On VHS, hard to find, known to fans of pre-code cinema, not well known otherwise, on YouTube)


  1. ha hah....You did much better with the description than I did! Thanx. ^_^

  2. Did I use your YouTube video for this post?