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Thirty Day Princess  /  The Working Man

Thirty-Day Princess (1934)
March 23, 2013 - 7:30 pm
Jere Guldin, UCLA Film & Television Archive.

Preservation funded by The Packard Humanities Institute

Thirty Day Princess (1934)

Thirty-Day Princess (1934)

Thirty Day Princess is G-O-O-D! It’s fun. It’s clever. It’s suspenseful and it presents a running fire of bright dialogue that keeps the corners of your mouth turned up” — Chicago Daily Tribune 

Directed by Marion Gering

As Paramount enjoyed enormous critical success in the early 1930s with the richly stylish films of DeMille, Lubitsch, Mamoulian, and Von Sternberg, the Great Depression severely threatened the studio’s financial viability. By 1933, Paramount had gone into receivership. Hundreds of studio employees made enforced exits, including producer B.P. Schulberg who had discovered “It” girl, Clara Bow. A former independent pioneer who became one of the most powerful producers in Hollywood, Schulberg’s return to independent production saw him churning out B-pictures for Paramount throughout the early 1930s, many of them helmed by ex-Broadway director Marion Gering and featuring Sylvia Sidney. With her intensely sad eyes, trembling lips, and diminutive and waif-like sensitivity, Sidney was immediately typecast as the studio’s depression-era heroine. Based on a story published in Ladies’ Home Journal by Clarence Budington Kelland, Thirty Day Princess would be one of Sidney’s rare screen appearances in a light comedy.

Four different writers shared credit for the ebullient yet simple script, including the great cinematic satirist Preston Sturges. In his autobiography, Sturges stated that he and Schulberg disagreed on the final writing credits of the film and that very little of his work was ultimately utilized. Although the old prince-and-the-pauper plot of switched identities was already becoming somewhat trite in Hollywood, critics were mostly kind to the film, claiming it a “neat little combination of Cinderella and Zenda.”

Under contract to Paramount at the time, a young Cary Grant was struggling to secure a studio identity in second-tier “tuxedo roles” (several of which were turned down by Gary Cooper). Thirty Day Princess was just such a film. During this period, studio head Adolph Zukor desired to keep Grant for as little money as possible. Knowing that a contract negotiation was forthcoming, Zukor turned down MGM’s request to let Grant star in Mutiny on the Bounty (1935) knowing that it would make him a huge star (Franchot Tone would end up receiving an Oscar nomination for the role). A furious Grant refused to renew his contract with Paramount and would go onto receive almost immediate critical and box-office successes at Columbia and RKO that would define his comedy prowess and leading man charisma.

Thirty Day Princess was preserved utilizing a nitrate composite print that was gifted to the Archive by Paramount Studios in 1971. 

Todd Wiener

Paramount Productions, Inc. Producer: Emanuel Cohen. Screenwriters: Preston Sturges and Frank Partos. Story: Clarence Budington Kelland. Adaptation: Sam Hellman and Edwin Justus Mayer. Cinematographer: Leon Shamroy. Editor: Jane Loring. With: Sylvia Sidney, Cary Grant, Edward Arnold, Henry Stephenson, Vince Barnett.

35mm, b/w, 74 min.

Preserved in cooperation with Universal Pictures from a 35mm nitrate composite print. Laboratory services by The Stanford Theatre Film Laboratory, Audio Mechanics, DJ Audio. 

Preservation funded by The Packard Humanities Institute

The Working Man (1933)

The Working Man (1933)

“...if you miss The Working Man you have missed Arliss at his best.” — Washington Post

Directed by John G. Adolfi 

In the 1930s, as MGM produced glossy cinematic extravaganzas for middle-class audiences and Paramount focused on films with continental elegance for the sophisticated, Warner Bros. churned out movies for the working class. Even the studio’s most prestigious leading men (George Arliss and Paul Muni), both known for “costumers” and historical dramas, were often assigned to low-budget potboilers and comedies. Adapted from Edgar Franklin’s 1916 short story Adapted Father, John Adolfi’s The Working Man seemed to be the perfect proletarian situation comedy to humanize stagy George Arliss for Depression-era audiences, casting him as a bored tycoon who takes over his deceased rival’s company in order to become the righteous benefactor to the rival’s irresponsible children. 

Arliss was one of the few actors at Warner Bros. who was contractually able to oversee many aspects of the production of his films, including the selection of cast and crew. With an unassuming background in B-pictures, director John Adolfi may seem an unexpected Arliss choice. However, Adolfi had directed Arliss in most of his prominent films at Warner Bros. until he died quite unexpectedly in 1933 at the age of 52.

Touted as Hollywood’s “hottest new star” during this period, Bette Davis made seven films for Warner Bros. between January 1933 and April of 1934. After Arliss snatched Davis from bit-player obscurity for The Man Who Played God (1932), the two were paired again the next year in The Working Man. Observing Davis’ new sense of creative self-assertion, Arliss stated on set “my little bird has flown, hasn’t she?” Still, it wasn’t until Jack Warner relented to Davis’s demands that she be loaned to RKO for Of Human Bondage (1934) that Hollywood began to notice such a richly complex and compelling actress.

Even though The Working Man was a typical Warner Bros. “programmer” (taking only eighteen days to shoot), the critical reception was respectfully positive, particularly for Arliss and Davis. Fox would adapt the Franklin short story just three years later as Everybody’s Old Man (1936).

The Working Man was preserved from the 35mm nitrate original picture and track negatives held at the Library of Congress. Given that the picture negative had damaged sections and missing footage, the Archive replaced sections in the new dupe negative with dupe negative made from a 35mm acetate fine grain master positive belonging to Warner Bros., and from a 35mm nitrate composite print in the Warner Bros. collection at the Archive.

Todd Wiener

Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc. Screenwriters: Charles Kenyon and Maude T. Howell. Based on a story by: Edgar Franklin. Cinematographer: Sol Polito. Editor: Owen Marks. With: George Arliss, Bette Davis, Theodore Newton, Hardie Albright, Gordon Westcott.

35mm, b/w, 78 min.

Preserved in cooperation with Warner Bros. and Library of Congress Packard Campus for Audio-Visual Conservation from the 35mm nitrate original picture and track negatives, a 35mm acetate composite fine grain master positive, and a 35mm nitrate composite print. Laboratory services by The Stanford Theatre Film Laboratory, Audio Mechanics, DJ Audio. Special thanks to Ned Price.

Preceded by

Preservation funded by the Packard Humanities Institute

The Real McCoy (1930)

Directed by Warren Doane

City slicker Charley Chase poses as a hillbilly to win the heart of country girl Thelma Todd.

Hal Roach Studios/Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Cinematographer: George Stevens. Editor: Richard C. Currier. With: Charley Chase, Thelma Todd, Edgar Kennedy. 

35mm, b/w, 21 min.

Preserved from a 35mm nitrate workprint and a 35mm nitrate reissue version composite print.  Laboratory services by The Stanford Theatre Film Laboratory, Audio Mechanics, DJ Audio.  Special thanks to: Richard W. Bann, RHI Entertainment, LLC.