Green Olives Seeing Red: Gangsters, Youngsters, and Insurrection in Cecil B. DeMille’s This Day and Age (1933)

In 1933, after a decade of filming wives changing husbands before repenting before the sign of the cross, director Cecil B. DeMille briefly stopped filling his celluloid bathtubs with ass’s milk and instead brewed gin. In his autobiography, the veteran showman recalled the Great Depression as a wake-up call for Americans. Switching to the Democratic ticket for the 1932 election, the diehard Republican supported Franklin Roosevelt solely on one platform. “No one foresaw then how handily many of the racketeers, deprived of their bootlegging profit, would move into the more respectable and still more lucrative field of labor unions,” the director claimed. “That, too, in my opinion has been an indirect result of prohibition, which gave the racketeer his first big chance to entrench his parasitic, lawless power. It was to call attention to the evil of racketeering, and to point to the uncontaminated idealism of American youth, that I made my next picture, This Day and Age.” [1]

To get with the times, DeMille embarked on a filmic crusade. Film historian Scott Eyman writes the film came together quickly: shot in four weeks for a cost of $279,811, Paramount released the film in August 1933. Unfortunately, This Day and Age wasn’t one for the ages. Although the film reflected contemporary times, DeMille’s political slant didn’t pan with audiences. The film eked out a razor thin profit of $21,712. [2]

From a modern viewpoint, Eyman faults the performances, labelling the leading lovers, Richard Cromwell and Judith Allen, “colorless” and gangster heavies Fuzzy Knight and Billy Gilbert “bizarre.” [3] Contemporary viewers, however, praised the film as an apt commentary on the times. Photoplay ranked Richard Cromwell’s and Charles Bickford’s performances ahead of Katharine Hepburn’s Academy Award-winning turn in Morning Glory (1933), and the Marie Dressler-Wallace Beery tag-team Tugboat Annie (1933). [4] As The New Movie Magazine told readers, DeMille’s celluloid youngsters gave America a kick in the pants by “revolting against stodgy tradition, and frayed precedent, rejuvenates our decaying civilization.” [5] Photoplay agreed the picture was “bound to arouse controversy all over the land, both as to theme and performance […] When it ends, you’ll have all sorts of questions about the propriety of it all – but no doubt whatever that you’ve seen one of the season’s strongest films.” [6]

This Day and Age reflected a larger film cycle of criticising political inaction. The most notorious of these movies, MGM’s Gabriel Over the White House (1933), featured a presidential mouthpiece who channels heavenly powers, becomes a dictatorial demagogue, and wipes out unemployment, warmongering, and racketeering. The Hollywood Reporter enthused in a run-on sentence: “Not only will ‘Gabriel’ attract patrons to the box office, not only will it please those patrons, not only will it net MGM more money than any picture has ever had since talkies came into being, but it should bear a message to the American people that may put an end to the great problems that confront our nation today.” [7] It added, “If it can make the people conscious of the power they have legally under our fair Constitution and how they can use that power lawfully to the greatest advantage of all, it is decidedly American.” [8] When the film premiered, The Hollywood Reporter noted the patrons gave “applause all through the picture and at the end there is cheering.” [9] The Film Daily concurred: “applause, cheering, and whistling such as seldom has been aroused by a motion picture […] House attaches say they never saw anything like the reaction being aroused by this film, as a result of its outspoken America-for-Americans theme.” [10]

This Day and Age similarly attempted to bring American values home to roost through Hollywood’s juvenile set. Teenage vigilantes became DeMille’s means to rejuvenate vitality in American law and jurisprudence through near-mob rule. Paramount thought the social relevance so obvious, the advertising barely mentioned it: “Surely, by now, all exhibitors are skilled in the methods of community cooperation when it comes to advertising a picture which has great civic significance.” Instead, the pressbook offered various sales pitches “because they are of far more importance than the civic import.” For the tottering studio entering receivership during the Depression, money talked. [11] The film’s mediocre receipts, however, indicate the director misconstrued the American spirit. The picture indicates a shift in public politics: Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal stifled the hot air in DeMille’s sails. Classical Hollywood cinema following This Day and Age re-cast youth not as political agents of change, but as stalwarts of the status quo.

Dictatorial Direction
Cecil B. DeMille was no friend of the working man. He held a long antagonism to collective bargaining; by 1945, he penned “Must Union Members Give Up their American Rights?” in Readers Digest condemning “union racketeers.” [12] In the early Great Depression, however, he appreciated Soviet efficiency, if not its ideology. According to film historian Thomas Doherty, DeMille visited Russia and proclaimed the Soviet Union “a great prehistoric beast shaking off its shackles and stepping into civilization,” a change he considered necessary as the United States sank into an orgy of gats and gals. [13] The New York Times confirmed DeMille’s new insight into politics with his latest picture: “Mr. DeMille says that a year ago he would have been regarded as a Communist for making such a film but he feels that events have changed the attitude of the country. He has even contemplated changing the picture’s title to The New Deal.” [14]

DeMille had no heart for fireside chats. Rather, he sought to root out the problem and crush it in an authoritative manner. Like Gabriel hovering over the Oval Office, he issued a commandment to end the Depression here and now. “I am not a radical, but now things are a question of right and wrong […] the public has been milked and are growing tired of it. It is not [financial] speculation alone. There is something rotten at the core of our system.” [15]

Safely nestled in Hollywood, DeMille had authority to issue such directives. Trade papers and fan magazines portrayed him as the movie colony’s king of kings; his profitable longevity in the Dream Factory connoted reverence. Photoplay dubbed DeMille and Charlie Chaplin the “last of the veteran showman” of the silent days “when Hollywood was really ‘Hollywood’.” [16] The film’s press sheet marked the movie as DeMille’s twentieth anniversary in the business “and it is not amiss to speak to the public about this fact.” Paramount offered for sale placards and interviews about DeMille for showmen to exhibit, including comparisons with the director’s older triumphs: “The Ten Commandments! [1923] Hard to beat – but DeMille beats it with This Day and Age!” [17] The New York Times also portrayed DeMille’s presence on the set like a ghost from the old days. “Note DeMille’s tone is different from previous efforts,” the newspaper observed. “He has abandoned bathtubs and gone for brick yards. And every day he arrives on the set with a different pair of riding breeches and boots-the uniform of the old school of direction abandoned by others with the advent of sound.” [18]

With decades of experience in the biz, DeMille set out to purify the nation’s bad behavior. The late twenties loomed large with rowdy, irresponsible dancing daughters, blushing brides, and modern maidens – the alliterative monikers were interchangeable descriptions of essentially the same film. “The younger generation was on a rampage,” historian Frederick Lewis Allen recalled, describing a decade that roared itself hoarse by 1929 with petting parties, champagne baths, and a plastic age of morals. [19] In the early 1930s, the widely-circulated text Our Movie-Made Children blamed the movies as breeding grounds to spur young people to mimic lust and lawlessness depicted on the screen. [20] The Hollywood Reporter eavesdropped on some children debating whether to see Little Orphan Annie (1932) or the lurid Penguin Pool Murder (1932). “Aw, who wants to go see Orphan Annie!” was their consensus. “Hmm, THAT for the dear kiddies,” the trade paper mused. [21] For DeMille, This Day and Age had high hopes to turn these wayward kids – and their parents – around.

Jaded Youth and Hard Times
This Day and Age sought to correct the excessiveness of the Lost Generation through their younger siblings in the Great Depression. The movie begins with a montage of kids giving the old college try on the football fields. The soundtrack’s main theme, Yankee Doodle Dandy, stresses these youngsters as shouldering the American Way. Cut to North High School, where a cosmopolitan class of kids meander the halls, including ROTC students, sporting jocks, and a few African Americans. The student body president (Horace Hahn) praises his peer’s maturation: “we’re always being told that we’re men and women and not kids.” [22]

While the president drones on, four teenagers sneak in. Their leader, Steve Smith (Richard Cromwell), has more pressing concerns than hearing the requirements of citizenship. He makes goo-goo eyes with Gay Merrick (Judith Allen), the class flirt, over a lunch date against rival Morry Dover (Ben Alexander). Steve gets a rude awakening when the school selects him to participate in a national “Boys Week.” The boys actually have one day, not a week, to exercise power, but the event allows kids with leadership skills to assume civic offices “to learn the duties and obligations of citizenship.”  Steve fills in for the District Attorney and buddies Gus Ruffo (Oscar Rudolph) and Billy Gordon (Michael Stuart) become a municipal judge and the Chief of Police, respectively. Steve expresses his annoyance this honor has caused in his social life. When Gay teases him, Steve pouts, “Heck, I didn’t ask for that darned appointment.”

Despite his introductory irresponsibility, Steve has a good head on his shoulders. The script described him as “a fine, upstanding kid of 18, not too good-looking, rather serious, wholesome, with a nice grin when he uses it, and steady eyes – solid, unpretentious.” [23] He tells Morry he’s merely one Smith out of “one million five hundred eighty-six thousand in the last census.” Like any average, good-natured teenager, Steve is shocked when Gay wants to hang out at mobster Louie Garrett’s skating rink. “Aw, you know what a rep that dive’s got,” he tells her, which is why she wants to see it. Morry, who has an “in” with the mob, gladly escorts her and later tries to dissuade Gay from being goody-goody Steve’s steady: “Wouldn’t you have a honey of a time married to that sis? He’d always be away from home singing in some choir.”

Indeed, Steve opts to hang out with the equally angelic Herman (Harry Green), the elderly tailor across the street. A Jewish immigrant from the “Old Country,” Herman feeds the boys while they lounge in their shorts. When a bomb blows up the shop, the tailor identifies the culprit: “That’s what I get for not joining the association, is that it?” he rages, referencing Louie Garrett’s protection racket. The police are of little use; the clueless investigator asks, “What happened here?” When Herman sputters in outrage, the cop calmly tells him, in this day and age, victims need “a photograph of the guy who did it to get a conviction. So what are you going to do about it?” When the tailor demands to know if he lives in a free country, the law enforcement officer’s responds, “You got me.”

Cut to Garrett (Charles Bickford), who is not as hapless as the Law. Worse, Garrett reveals himself as a mere stooge. His head honcho, the “Little Fellow,” pulls the strings. Garrett visits Herman to urge him to sign up. “The purpose of the organization’s to protect the little guy,” he tells Herman, creating a link between his superior’s name and the American masses. Garrett presents himself as a civil servant: representing the Little Fellow, he indirectly operates for the common man, U.S.A., and his protection service is a natural development of contemporary politics DeMille found in disrepair. In these hard times, Herman’s rights mean nothing. When the tailor cites his inalienable freedoms, Garrett kills him, socks Steve who happens to drop by, and makes a getaway.

Herman’s death ends the battered teenager’s innocence as he describes the tailor’s corpse to his parents. They offer coffee, but the kid’s eyes are already wide open at the corrupt society and complacent citizenry around him. Steve has a revelation: “Maybe it sounds silly, but […] you know, we were kidding about those jobs for Boy’s Week.” Now emboldened, he decides to take his position seriously and “hang his gad…for killing that poor guy.” Steve stops short of offending the censors, but his willingness to use harsh words demonstrates his maturation.

Unfortunately, the civic elders haven’t reached Steve’s level. The Police Chief (Guy Usher) wants to show Billy the jail and gun range, but the lad wants Garrett’s head. The chief shakes his head, “You don’t understand, son,” but offers no explanation. Gus’s mentor, Judge Maguire (George Barbier), gives a visual explanation. He shows the camera bookcases of law books detailing due process. The result: chances of conviction are slim because “presumption of innocence is the cornerstone of the law.” Noticing Gus’s bewildered look, the Judge comments, “It takes years of experience to understand these things.”

The teenage rookies don’t stand a chance in court. The district attorney (Charles Middleton) informs Steve the defense employs a “million dollar-a-year mouthpiece” who “is part of the system” allowing Garret to slide through the court like a “greased eel.” Another montage of law books entitled Federal Statues and Law Psychology overlap over Steve’s face as the teenager witnesses an inept court system unable to avenge the innocent. Garrett gets off with a wave (“Thanks, judge!”) and signs autographs. In contrast, Gus receives a lecture about the criminal code, which he later summarizes as “kinda complicated.” A humiliated Steve gets his name in the paper (“Young Reformer Learns Moon is Not Made of Green Cheese”) and the disillusioned teen calls it quits. “What we oughta do is get ‘em to stick a course in racketeering in school. So when we get out, we know what it’s all about.”

Undeterred, Gus, Sam, and Billy break into Garrett’s skating rink to find evidence. At the same time, Morry and Gay get tipsy in Garrett’s lounge. They aren’t the only kids gone wrong. Garrett’s entertainment consists of corrupt youth. The orchestra plays a repertoire of nursery songs, starting with Rockabye Baby as teenage girls in billowy dresses swing over the audience, singing, “School days, school days/dear old golden rule days-s-s.”  The night continues with Ring-Around-the Rosie, Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, and Three Blind Mice, while skimpy-attired chorines crawl around the stage on all fours. The host informs the nostalgic crowd the show would “take you back to your childhood days,” presumably as lewd as the acts on display. He continues: this is “Old Songs Night and I want you to sing and dance and make merry, or any other social function.” Garrett reiterates the point to chief gunman, Toledo (Bradley Paige): “This is kid’s stuff.” The show rubs off on Toledo as he hits on Gay. Toledo says his nephew, Gay’s classmate Mosher, has heard “that girls […] young ones […] are different now. I’d like to know more about that.” Uncle Toledo describes Mosher as “bowl-legged, and in the head, too.” The dim-witted, freckle-faced, frizzy-haired kid, like those in Garrett’s entertainment, is not a regular feller. His physical and mental handicaps mark him as an easy stooge for the bad guys to exploit.

Gay inadvertently reveals the boys’ plan to search Garrett’s office. The soundtrack cuts between Garett’s girls on stage and the boys sneaking in: all are young, but have different societal standards. The girls imitate blind mice for male entertainment, just shy of obscenity charges. The boys are also blind as they break in, under the auspices of social justice, but clearly in over their heads. The cradle drops hard for Gus and Billy. Garrett catches them, shoots Billy (Boy’s Week’s chief of police), and frames Gus for the murder. “Maybe this will teach you babies a lesson,” the mobster snarls. Lying on the streets, Billy gasps, “I want my mother,” and dies in a double-exposure from the chorines foot-tapping to the refrain of Rockabye Baby.

Lost Innocence
Billy’s death wakes Steve up, but DeMille already recognized a call to arms among Depression-era kids. The director told The Los Angeles Times the younger set were tackling the nation’s problems. “This new generation hasn’t supplied us with any literature by which we can study it. I had to spend weeks at high schools, attending student-body meetings and observing self-government – something which didn’t exist when I was attending school.” The students’ activism surprised the fuddy-duddies in the Paramount executive board. According to the director, the old fogies complained, “High-school boys don’t talk that way. It isn’t adolescent enough. You have them talking and acting like grown-up people,” which was DeMille’s point. “Those who criticize prefer to judge the present generation by the last, of which they were part. There is little or no written record – and only the youth of today side with me instantly.” [24] The Hollywood vet would lead the rising generation out of Depression depths.

To counter Paramount’s misconception of contemporary kids, DeMille hired Los Angeles High School student Horace Hahn. Hahn, a local celebrity “boy orator,” could authenticate the script’s dialogue with teenage vernacular. [25] Hahn told the director the script was “really not typical of high school students.” To punch up the script, the boy recommended it contain “a few exclamations like, ‘heck’ – ‘gosh’ – ‘gee,’ etc.” [26] For his efforts, DeMille cast Hahn as the high school student body president. [27]

Despite DeMille’s acknowledging modern kids as all right, the director believed he knew better than a genuine teenager. Most of Hahn’s suggestions ended on the cutting room floor: Cromwell and company don’t utter a single “gee.” The director reinforced his version of high school by casting “a group of young sons of famous film stars” of Old Hollywood in bit parts, including Erich von Stroheim, Jr. and Wallace Reid, Jr. Alert viewers could also spot former child actors Philippe De Lacey, Baby Peggy, Buddy Messenger, and Dick Winslow, all teenagers ready to play in DeMille’s day and age. Former child actor Ben Alexander, whom DeMille directed in Mary Pickford’s The Little American (1917), received the plum role as Morry. [28] Paramount even made DeMille’s casting a selling point, promoting a “Famous Father-Son Contest,” which asked participants to guess which lad had a dad from the old days. “The second generation carries on thru the sponsorship of DeMille,” the pressbook asserted, hoping the various “juniors” would appeal to the “over thirty crowd [who] will want to see the sons [of silent stars].” [29]

DeMille’s time-tested showmanship proved eternal. The New York Times claimed the director exchanged Roman “bathtubs for brick yards” and The New Movie Magazine thought DeMille “seems to be a little lost when he ventures out of the realms of ancient history and tackles the problems of today.” [30] The director defied these reporters with allegories of ancient times. “Don’t you see?” he asked, while filming the climax. Gesturing at the set, DeMille argued the kids channeled the Circus Maximus in their treatment of Garrett. “This brick yard is actually the reincarnation of the Roman arena. Unconsciously these boys are sitting in judgment just as the Romans did.” [31] One theater picked up on the ballyhoo for “the first modern spectacle of our time” as it advertised This Day and Age as every age: “5000 maddened voices ring out the ancient law!” [32]

The director wielded his authority as gospel for the teenage actors to follow. Reporter Sara Hamilton records he chastised the young cast with comparisons to his own glorified past. “‘When I was with Mansfield,’ is a favorite line with Cecil,” Hamilton divulged, referring to the turn-of-the-century, stage actor Richard Mansfield. Mansfield’s range ran the gamut from Gilbert and Sullivan to Jekyll and Hyde to Shakespeare and his name cemented DeMille’s authority on the set – even though the director’s acquaintance with the venerable trouper was perhaps humbug (despite the director’s “favorite line” referencing Mansfield, he mentioned the great actor only once in passing in his autobiography). [33] But on the set, DeMille basted in the limelight for the benefit of these rookies: “When I was with Mansfield, we acted. Really acted. If Mansfield said, ‘The mob mutttereth,’ we immediately muttered ‘rumba, rumba, rumba, rumba’” to maintain the effect.  In this day and age, though, the Victorian thespian belonged to a long dead past; one lad reminded him “I never learned the rumba,” causing DeMille to throw a fit over his interrupted reverie. [34] Former child actor Robert Parrish also recalled DeMille publicly fired an actor for an unsatisfactory performance and held the crew over into their lunch hour. [35]

DeMille’s reconstructed past shadowed his production, but especially his casting. Enlisting former child actors as screen filler seemed simple. However, for the part of leading lady Gay Merrick, he wanted a fresh face to represent a generation coming of age. The Film Daily advertised the studio’s publicity stunt “The Search for Beauty” in which DeMille had “a summer vacation job for a youth of high-school age showing possibilities.” [36] The Los Angeles relayed his frustration, as few applicants met his requirements. Like his outlook and behavior on the set, the director wanted to blend Old World mystique with modern “It.” The newspaper teased ingénues with movie work: “He can’t find any girl to play the lead satisfactorily in his picture […], tests have been made of all available in the movie colony, [but] they don’t fulfill the specifications.” The qualifications demanded “the heroine must look like Diana, act like Bernhardt, be about 18 years of age, with mature understanding and touch of sophistication, and must also be vivacious, sweet, and virginal.” DeMille, the reporter confided, “needs this ‘find’ within a week.” [37]

For hopefuls, the veteran showman told Photoplay he could spot the acting phonies from the progenies. He employed “The Eye Test,” where he gazed into a starlet’s peepers and saw her “true nature and the quality of her intelligence.” Photoplay confirmed DeMille’s method: “Her quality of round-eyed innocence won for Judith Allen the leading role in DeMille’s forthcoming film of modern youth, This Day and Age. Scores of other lovely girls prayerfully tried for the part, but apparently there was that behind their gaze which De Mille considered alien to the character to the girl in his story.” [38]

Concerning Judith Allen (nee Mari Colman), DeMille gushed, “Judith’s eyes suggest innocence mostly, although in them also is a touch of sophistication and slumbering passion. They are blue, clear, and unafraid, thus fulfilling the ‘Diana’ requirements for my new picture. By her alert expression, I judged this girl in our first interview as having intelligence and mental equipment. Her eyes are round, the quality I desired above all others for he heroine in my production – for she must have a virginal appearance. Their clear coloring suggests frankness, eagerness and curiosity – all attributes of the modern generation.” [39]

DeMille’s spotlights Allen’s virginity in her big moment. Steve’s assigns his would-be girlfriend the key part of distracting Toledo while he and the boys make a date with Garrett. Gay does her bit, wining the gunman to a hot-and-bothered state in a hotel room. “I like my olives green,” he leers, fondling a “do not disturb” sign. When Gay professes her purity, however, he backs off, chastised. “I like my olives green,” he clarifies, “but I like to pick them myself.” Even in heat, the gangster’s carnality respected the boundaries of depravity. Toledo clearly likes ‘em young: the chorus girls in Garrett’s joint are appropriately spoiled and soiled to suit his taste. But Gay won’t be joining his harvest; her come-on was a faux pas, Toledo recognizes her as an innocent, and he lets her go.

When the “frankness, eagerness, and curiosity” in Allen’s eyes revealed a lusty life beyond her celluloid chastity, the director felt a personal betrayal of his idealized youth. As Movie Classic coyly observed, Allen was a newbie to the cameras, but she “didn’t have to learn about sex appeal.” [40] Former child actor Diana Serra recalled DeMille promoting Allen “as this pristine little ingénue, but it came out she was married to a wrestler […] She had kept her marriage quiet and DeMille felt deceived. Then she got a divorce, and he got really angry.” [41] The press revealed Allen/Colman as Marie Sonnenberg, who deserted hubby wrestling champ Gus Sonnenberg.  Allegedly, she took him for a ride down the marriage aisle in Boston, soaked up his wealth, and then scrammed to Los Angeles. [42] Sonnenberg played the broken-hearted patsy, telling the press that, though they were divorcing, “right down deep in her heart I know she loves me […] and I love her.” [43] The Los Angeles Times kept a scandal sheet on Allen, detailing her subsequent marriage to boxer Jack Doyle in 1935, their divorce a year later, and a $2 million lawsuit against automobile heiress Delphine Dodge Cromwell Baker Godde over Doyle. [44] By then DeMille had had enough. He blacklisted Allen and her career faded into poverty row productions. In 1940, she left show business and became an investment councilor. “I was dissatisfied with both my acting ability and my ability to handle my financial affairs,” she stated. [45] Her former director could not agree more.

Political Consequences
While Judith Allen didn’t make the final cut in DeMille’s eyes, the boys’ political activities reenergized the filmic malaise. With Billy dead, Steve fights dirty, enlisting boys from other high schools, including Georgie (Onest Conley), a well-spoken African-American, and Morry, who wants to make amends. Their call signal is Yankee Doodle Dandy, a patriotic ditty Garrett does not recognize. “What’s that tune he’s whistling?” he demands at one point and an African-American shoeshine identifies it for him as “the national anthem.” Conversely, the older adults fail to channel to spirit of ’76. Steve’s parents beg him not to take a stance, but he hushes them with “it’s important!”

A bit more wary, Toledo suspects the kids are up to some mischief, but Morry dismisses Steve as trying to start a “youth in politics movement. You know, the lily element.” With a crack at straight-shooter Steve’s expense, Morry alludes that regular fellows stay out of politics. Not so. Steve and the gang kidnap Garrett in full moonlight. A woman passerby wonders at the going-ons, but Georgie laughs it off as a “high school fraternity initiation. Yes, ma’am!” The crowd accepts Garrett’s abduction as a childish prank. Georgie exits the picture whistling Yankee Doodle Dandy. Although he personated a shuffling shoeshine for the cause, his whistling the patriotic tune indicates he, too, shares agency as a political actor.

The youths in politics movement threatens to become a mob scene. As DeMille told inquiring reporters, Steve and his cohorts revived Roman-style justice. Steve strips the legal trappings, telling Garrett, “You’re gonna be really tried for murder. And there isn’t going to be any bail or habeas corpus.” The gangster has no right to an attorney; Steve declares, “We haven’t time for any rules of evidence! Besides, we want a conviction.” Despite this trumping of constitutional safeguards, the boys’ court swears Garrett upon a Bible (this is a DeMille picture, after all). Steve also keeps in mind outside consequences; when the kids threaten to hang Garrett, their leader cautions them to “use your heads. We’re not going to be murderers, too.”

Thus Garrett’s ordeal morphs into a show trial. The kids string him up over a pit of hungry rats to force a confession. “You’re lynching me!” he protests, but the boys pay no heed, lowering him in and the rodents start feasting. Several other boys also have sick expressions – they, too, learn a civics lesson not taught at school as they come of age. Garrett finally agrees under coercion. He takes the rap for Billy’s death and rats on his own boss: “The Little Fella. Not me! I don’t run this town!” Toledo and his gang bust in, thanks to Mosher betraying the boys, but Gay steals a jalopy from an elderly doctor to tip the cops and the policemen nab the baddies. The chief makes everything legal by deputizing the kids, and orders Garret to sign his confession before a judge. When Garrett protests this cruel and unusual punishment, the chief plays dumb, as he had throughout the picture: “What rats?” Armed with the law, Steve’s gang ignites a torchlight procession and they parade through town. Along the way, they sing Yankee Doodle Dandy alongside Oh! Susannah and Battle Hymn of the Republic. No more nursery rhymes for these kids who became political actors.


Meanwhile, the older generation senses a changing of the guard. The mayor sits up in bed, while political cronies hover about. They demand His Honor call the governor and the militia to save their necks should Garrett squeal. Although the film had focused on the deaths of an old man and a boy until now, DeMille hints the broader reaches of racketeering on civic discourse through these bought politicians. The mayor does nothing; he knows “there are more feet in the world than bullets.” He suspects Garrett “implicated everybody,” including the stooges around him. Since the teenagers will “all be voting in a couple of years,” by doing nothing he stays in the good side of the younger generation. The mayor turns over, switches off the lights, and bids his former constituency good-bye. He mutters, “Get the first good night’s sleep I’ve had in years,” which suggests his own helplessness before the Little Fellow.

On cue, cut to the Little Fellow. The script describes the gang lord as quite large: a “heavy-set, six-footer with a triple chin, and a gold watch chain the size of a small cable across his vest.” [46] But the final film negates this description of physical power and social stature for anonymity. Audiences see the Little Fellow sitting down, wearing a robe, back to the camera. Hardly imposing, the Little Fellow panics in his screen debut, telling his scantily-clad mother to charter the first boat sailing to Greece. The short scene adds little to the film – it doesn’t even place a face on the ultimate mastermind. DeMille might have intended an in-joke referring to Edward G. Robinson, the diminutive Caesar who had helped define the gangster genre in 1930. Robinson’s Little Giant (1933) a film about a gangster trying to go straight because the rackets are drying up, debuted earlier that year.

However, a darker reading concerning the Little Fellow’s true identity implicates the American people. The term “little fellow” was long in use as a euphemism for the common man. The faceless “Little Fellow” becomes just another guy, akin to the film’s adults, either helpless to instigate change, or, as Boy’s Week revealed of City Hall, give up when the going gets tough. The teenagers’ triumphal march to the courthouse rouses the citizenry from their slumber, but they stand on the sidelines watching the kids take over. Like the mayor, the townsfolk have no role in this day and age; only the youth, guided by a wizened director, can ensure justice. In doing so, DeMille lets the Little Fellow off the hook; unlike Garrett, the common man will not face a pit full of rats.

The civil servants display more appreciation, but allude to continuing troublesome times. The judge expresses the “gratitude of the court for these young men” for achieving where they failed. He also maintains a sense of decorum, telling the lads to get off the banister. While DeMille flashes this bit across the screen as a throwaway moment right before Gus walks free, it foreshadows the larger contention of youth and the law. The boys still obey the law; the judge’s power remains undiminished.

The final scene confirms the ambivalence about the effectiveness of youth-instigated reform in light of age-old government institutions. Morry, Steve, and Gay sit in Gay’s stolen roadster, listening to the radio. The announcer has nothing but fine things to say about them: “The next generation was giving racketeering a dose of ‘roughs on rats.’ A performance so full of the old courage that the rest of us have cynically lost, that it will go down in history, folks.” Steve delivers a modest assessment of their new-found status: “Baloney.” Morry has more pressing concerns: who will Gay choose as her beau?

Gay quips, “Well, they’re changing the law so fast that by the time I’m ready I’ll probably be able to marry both of you.”

Her risqué humor is lost on the elderly doctor, who spots Gay in his car and brings a police officer. The old fogey chastises Gay severely: “You young sinners! And I thought beer was going to put a stop to all this!” The doctor references prohibition’s gradual appeal: the Cullen-Harrison Act that year allowed for beer production. Roosevelt justified the amendment to stymie the black market on alcohol so the government could muscle in on the lucrative liquor trade. “I think this would be a good time for a beer,” the president had joked. [47]

DeMille did not share the sentiment, as he believed Roosevelt’s legalizing alcohol only forced gangsters like Garrett to move from bootlegging to the protection rackets. The doctor’s bitter comment suggests a disappointment in Repeal: not only has the government found a way to make crime pay, it also corrupted the kiddies. The cinematic lawman, as usual, turned a blind eye toward the real problems as he approaches the car thieves. “Can that noise,” he orders, silencing the radio announcing the Mayor’s plan to publicly thank Steve. The cop asks Gay: “Did you swipe this car?” When she answers in the affirmative, he snaps, “Then you’re all under arrest.” The young heroes are dumbfounded. Steve gestures to the radio helplessly; though he deemed it baloney, there was a truth in the airwaves the officer cannot and does not want to hear. Instead, he’s already writing Gay up. Yankee Doodle Dandy plays across the soundtrack. The End.

While the ending may come across as a gag to lighten the tension, critics did not think so. Despite early casting decisions to include comedians Vincent Barnett and Harry Green—albeit the latter wanted to defy type for tragedy, Motion Picture noted the film “packs a punch but sadly lacked humor.” [48] But a larger issue remains. DeMille shows the youngsters as not above the law – they will have to pay the price for grand theft auto. The police officer affirms the blindness and technicalities of the Law that allowed Garrett to achieve as much as he did. The Little Fellow flew the coop, but his presence lingers through this cop’s misplaced intentions. In the end, the court has done nothing to demonstrate it has changed. The soundtrack’s finale may be another call to arms for Uncle Sam’s nephews to ride into town. In the interim, they lived in a morally bankrupt day and age.

Obsolete Age
This Day and Age generated social ballyhoo but the buzz included some warning signs. Al Kaufman, Paramount executive, back from a Caribbean getaway, told The Hollywood Reporter “the best story of the Cuban Revolution” was free publicity, thanks to the U.S.-approved Fulgencio Batista revolution and the accompanying American movies. The first day he stepped in Havana, a bewildered Kaufman witnessed a parade with banners bearing “Paramount.” He learned “the revolutionists had taken time out from fighting to parade in honor of Paramount and its picture This Day and Age, which depicts youths taking over government.” [49] Other countries unintentionally publicized the film, albeit not in glowing terms: Denmark banned the film “because of its ‘Fascist tendencies.’ The committee holds the film is nothing but a glorification of Fascist methods.” [50] Dutch censors added they were “not pleased about the morality of the American films” and singled out This Day and Age as “revolutionary in tendency and youth is not taught to obey the laws.” [51] Finland, Latvia, Lithuania, and Trinidad also rejected the film, the last explaining, “The picture is of the gangster type.” [52] Censors in Ontario passed it, but only if Paramount agreed to insert an introductory and concluding title card stating, “The Story of ‘This Day and Age’ is wholly fiction, conceived by the author for entertainment purposes only.” [53]

More worrisome were reports from home. DeMille acknowledged “some critics thought that This Day and Age was Fascist because the youngsters did kidnap Charles Bickford and lower him slowly into a pit filled of very businesslike rats, in order to extract from him the confession which they then turned over to the lawful authorities.” The Production Code Administration, Hollywood’s censorship body, felt the same way, ordering Paramount to make clear the picture was “not a direct bid for open revolt and encouragement for high school pupils to disregard all the tenements of regularly constituted authorities and attempt the administration of government by violent means.” [54] DeMille redeemed the picture by showing the kids turning Garrett over to the Law. He elaborated, “It was not the intention, nor did it so result, that high school students all over America should tackle their local racketeers in the same way, letting rats nibble their toes. And the same critics, as is their wont, made no mention of the very sympathetic presentation of members of minority groups, Jews and Negroes, which was explicitly inserted into the story of This Day and Age.” [55] James Wingate, the Code’s chief censor, agreed, informing his boss Will Hayes the film had “some problems, but DeMille has handled the difficult elements [with the Chief deputizing the kids and] we do not believe it will be interpreted in any way as an attack on constitutional authority or a portrayal of lynch law.” He ended optimistically, noting, “The audience at the preview which we attended seemed to accept it in this spirit.” [56]

Wingate was wrong. Critics also drew parallels to real-life teenage vigilantism. On Sunday, November 26, 1933, a mob of angry citizens broke into the county jail in San Jose, California, and dragged out Thomas Harold Thurmond and John Maurice Holmes from their cell and hanged them. The duo had confessed to kidnapping, ransoming, and murdering Brooke Hart, a respectable youth prominent in the city’s social circles and a rising business administrator. [57] Film critic Philip K. Scheuer, noting “conspicuously present” youngsters, connected the lynching with Steve Smith and company. [58]

Scheuer drew parallels to youth run amok, at least in Hollywood. Fox Film executive Jesse Lasky hired two hundred “bona fide socialites” from Los Angeles for ten dollars each to act like “debs and stags” for his upcoming Coming-Out Party (1934). “They came. They jammed the parking spaces with their roadsters and limousines […] They were made-up and rushed onto the sound stages” chewing gum and taking over the set as the “debs and stags might be expected to behave in their natural habitat.” Alice-Leone Moats, a social worker, author of No Nice Girl Swears, and serving as “technical advisor” on youths in the film, was left dumbfounded at the defiance of her authority. [59]

While kids ran amok on the sound stages, government attitudes toward youths had changed. Despite the initial enthusiastic reviews and editorials to mob rule, Franklin Roosevelt rendered DeMille’s vision obsolete. As historian Kristie Lindenmyer observes, New Deal programs like the Civilian Conservation Corp brought youths into the system, rather than tear it down. “Beliefs among many Americans that disaffected young made contributions to rising crime rates, and concerns that they were vulnerable to revolutionary ideas contributed to the CCC’s initial popularity.” [60] Even if Roosevelt’s idealization of a typical American teenager didn’t match the reality, the screen visualized a more optimistic version of teen troubles. The strengthening of the Production Code to scrub the movies the same way Roosevelt cleaned up America ensured This Day and Age’s era officially ended in the summer of 1934.

As a result, This Day and Age didn’t spark any box offices fires. Rather. The New York Times conveyed Shirley Temple as Roosevelt’s New Deal for modern youth; the tot’s Little Miss Marker (1934) and her extreme opposite, the titillating Mae West’s I’m No Angel (1933) “were Paramount’s contribution to the wealth and happiness of American theatre men.” In the race for New Deal optimism, however, Temple’s sugary goodness outpaced Mae West’s racier vehicles. The newspaper noted, “A much longer list made the gentlemen at the box office sad.” Titles that “failed completely” included Mae West’s Belle of the Nineties (1934) – a death knell on her career – the Marx Brothers’ political merry-go-round Duck Soup (1933) and This Day and Age[61] As film historian Thomas Doherty points out, the Marx Brothers’ political satire flopped as moviegoers supported the New Deal. [62] Similarly, This Day and Age did not live up to expectations. In addition to a barebones profit, The Motion Picture Daily relayed the woes of one Philadelphia theater who reported, “This Day and Age crumbled in intake. Horse Feathers (1932) was brought back to finish the week, but also dropped after two days.” [63] The beleaguered showman tried to replace a political commentary with giggles, but Marx-style college humor, like their political satire, flopped in New Deal America.

Even the highly touted Gabriel Over the White House didn’t go over too well. The Hollywood Reporter glumly reported, “March brought along the picture that was just about forty-five days behind its proper date – Gabriel Over the White House – a great show. An inspiration of an idea. But the darned trouble was that a fellow like Hoover went out on March 4, a man named Roosevelt came in – and the psychology of a nation changed overnight. What a break!” [64] The Hollywood Reporter’s London office relayed a changed atmosphere. Critic Connery Chappell told of a prospective ticket buyer, observing the film posters, asking “I say, old man, who is this fellow Gabriel?” [65] Safely nestled in the Oval Office, Roosevelt stole the thunder from this heaven-sent savior.

With Shirley Temple stealing the box office from the high school set, studios also caught a whiff of Washington DC’s new political climate. In the following decade, the movies redirected Great Depression woes away from the teenage vigilantism and reform. Under the shield of a reinforced Production Code, the clean teens who followed Temple, led by Mickey Rooney, addressed small town troubles with barnyard make-believe. This show-within-a-show format stayed confined to the stage; once the kiddies’ song-and-dance routine ends, the status quo returns to normal. In Babes in Arms (1939), the implied titular rebellion centers on defying parental tyranny. The crime: “they think of us as infants and that’s plain humiliation!” [66] The kids throw a temper tantrum to show that they have grown up, initiating a bonfire in song. In its follow up, Babes on Broadway (1941), Rooney tells Judy Garland he prefers “fireside when the storm is due” – a clear reference to the President’s radio addresses. Garland tops him with “Franklin Roosevelt’s looks give me a thrill.” [67] In the subsequent world war against Nazism and then a cold war against communism, Hollywood championed the American Way – the troubling messages of This Day and Age fell into the dustbins of history.

One would like to think, after the camera stopped recording, Steve, Gay, and Morry cleared up the final reel’s misunderstanding. After all, these kids swept aside the rackets that, in DeMille’s mind, weighed down American justice for far too long. With vermin infesting every level of municipal government, DeMille had his boys fight dirty – a rat for a rat. For the director, Hammurabi’s law code still contained the essence of western civilization’s jurisprudence.

But the American people disagreed with DeMille’s answer to the Depression. Like Gabriel Over the White House, This Day and Age fizzled at the box office. Mrs. Eunice L. McClure, representing the General Federation of Women’s Club, reported her son liking the film, but another fifteen year-old boy complained, “You know the idea would be improbable and why couldn’t they have left the girl out of the story!” [68]   When Roosevelt entered office, he rendered these films irrelevant through a reaffirmation of the government’s link to the common man. “There is no ‘Gabriel over the White House.’ There is a human in it! Thank Providence,” one listener crowed after hearing a fireside chat, giving thanks for heavenly inaction. [69] Less concerned with the division between church and state, but equally grateful, another child of the Depression recalled, “We thought Roosevelt was a God.” [70] Roosevelt connected with the common man and provided him a stake in government, but he was no Little Fellow. The Production Code ensured youthful insurrection would not tarnish the silver screen for decades: Joseph Breen, Wingate’s successor of a beefed-up Production Code, refused to allow Paramount to reissue This Day and Age until it complied with Hollywood’s more sanitized image, including deleting Toledo’s preference for green olives. [71] Not until the mid 1950s, with the New Deal coalition fracturing in Washington and racial and social discontent on Main Street, did another youth-in-crisis erupt in the movies. Even then, these causeless rebels roaming wild over the American landscape dealt with family dysfunctions more than political revolution. Until then, Steve, Gay, Morry, and the day and age they represented, remained historical relics, entombed in reels of celluloid.


[1] Cecil B. DeMille, The Autobiography of Cecil B. DeMille, ed. Donald Hayne New York: Prentice-Hall, 1959, p. 326.
[2] Scott Eyman, Empire of Dreams: The Epic Life of Cecil B. DeMille, New York: Simon and Schuster, 2010, 302; Robert S. Birchard gives a more exact profit of $21,733.48 in Cecil B. DeMille’s Hollywood, Lexington: The University Press of Kentucky, 2004, p. 263.
[3] Eyman, p. 301.
[4] ‘Shadow Stage,’ Photoplay 44:5, October 1933, pp. 56-57; see also ‘The Picture Parade,’ Motion Picture 46:3, October 1933, p. 58.
[5] ‘The Movie Magazine’s Gallery of Stars’, The New Movie Magazine 8:3, September 1933, p. 20.
[6] ‘Shadow Stage,’ Photoplay 44:5, October 1933, pp. 56-57.
[7] W.R. Wilkerson, “ ‘Gabriel’ a Sensation,” The Hollywood Reporter 13:36, March 2, 1933, p. 1.
[8] Helen Gwynne, “Yesterday in New York,” The Hollywood Reporter, March 9, 1933, p. 3.
[9] Audiences Cheer Gabriel in NY,” The Hollywood Reporter, April 5, 1933, p. 1.
[10] ‘Gabriel Makes Noise,’ The Film Daily, April 3, 1933, p. 1.
[11]This Day and Age,’ Pressbook, August 1, 1933. Paramount Pictures press sheets, Margaret Herrick Library, Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS).
[12] Cecil B. DeMille, ‘Must Union Members Give Up Their American Rights?’ Readers Digest 47:279 (July 1945), p. 93.
[13] Quoted in Thomas Doherty, Pre-Code Hollywood: Sex, Immorality, and Insurrection in American Cinema, New York: Columbia University Press, 1999, p. 65.
[14] ‘Pictures and Players in Hollywood,’ The New York Times, June 11, 1933, X3.
[15] Quoted in Eyman, p. 302.
[16] Sara Hamilton, “The LAST of the Veteran Showmen,” Photoplay 44:5, October 1933, pp. 32-33, pp. 107-109. See also Ramon Romero, “Parade of the Cinderellas,” The New Movie Magazine, October 1933, pp. 34-35, pp. 88-92.
[17]This Day and Age,’ Pressbook, August 1, 1933. Paramount Pictures press sheets, AMPAS.
[18] “Pictures and Players in Hollywood,” The New York Times, June 11, 1933, X3.
[19] Frederick Lewis Allen, Only Yesterday: An Informal History of the 1920s, New York: Harper & Row, Publishers, 1931, p. 73.
[20] For the reception of the Payne Fund’s findings and popularity of Our Movie-Made Children, see Garth S. Jowett, Ian C. Jarvie, and Kathryn H. Fuller, Children and the Movies: Media Influence and the Payne Fund Controversy, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996.
[21] ‘Yesterday in New York,’ The Hollywood Reporter 12:37, January 4, 1933, p. 3.
[22] All film quotes come from This Day and Age, directed by Cecil B. DeMille, Los Angeles: Paramount Pictures, 1933 DVD.
[23] Bartlett Cormack, “This Day and Age: Final Shooting Script,” May 15, 1933, A-4. Paramount Pictures scripts, AMPAS.
[24] ‘DeMille Finds High School Generation Grown Mature,’ The Los Angeles Times, August 20, 1933, A3.
[25] See “Boy Orators to Speak,” The Los Angeles Times, January 29, 1932, 1; “Ephebians’ Cup Awarded Hahn,” The Los Angeles Times, December 17, 1931, A3.
[26] Birchard, p. 261.
[27] Grace Kingsley, “Hobnobbing in Hollywood,” The Los Angeles Times, May 27, 1933, A7.
[28] Pictures and Players in Hollywood,” The New York Times, June 11, 1933, X3; “51 of Paramount’s 65 Titles Announced for ’33-’34 Season,” The Film Daily, 62:74, June 22, 1933, 4; “Hollywood Day by Day,” The New Movie Magazine 8:3, September 1933, 13; “Carl York’s Monthly Broadcast from Hollywood,” Photoplay, 44:5, October 1933, 46, 84-88, 124; J. Eugene Chrisman, “Chips off the Old Block,” Screen Book 11:2 (September, 1933), 42.
[29]This Day and Age,’ Pressbook, August 1, 1933. Paramount Pictures press sheets, AMPAS.
[30] “New Pictures you should see,” The New Movie Magazine September 1933, p.109.
[31] Pictures and Players in Hollywood,” The New York Times, June 11, 1933, X3.
[32] Brochure, Ideal Theatre, Montrose, Pennsylvania, undated. Author’s collection.
[33] Donald Hayne, ed., The Autobiography of Cecil B DeMille (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1959), p. 48.
[34] Hamilton, p. 107.
[35] Robert Parrish, Growing up in Hollywood, New York: Harcourt, Brace, and Jovanovich, 1977, pp. 90-92. Parrish also recalls another moment when DeMille caught a young extra whispering to a companion during filming. When DeMille demanded she repeat her comments for the entire crew, she does so, calling the director a derogatory name for holding them over for lunch. Hamilton dates this scene taking place to Sign of the Cross rather than This Day and Age.
[36] ‘Coming and Going,’ The Film Daily 62:32, May 8, 1933, p. 4.
[37] Edwin Schallert, ‘New and Reviews of the Stage, Screen and Music,’ The Los Angeles Times, May 5, 1933, p. 11.
[38] Hilary Lynn, “I Know Women By their Eyes,” Photoplay 44:4 September 1933, 36-37, 99, quote on p. 36.
[39] Hilary Lynn, ‘I Know Women By their Eyes,’ Photoplay 44:4 September 1933, 36-37, 99, quote on 36. Similarly, extras included actor Adrian Samish. Motion Picture reported, “DeMille didn’t care much for ‘Samish’ as a glamorous screen name. So he decided to rename the lad.” Possibilities included Peter Adrian, Conrad Miles, Peter Doane, Peter Adams, and Richard Doane. “News and Gossip of the Studios,” Motion Picture, 46:1 (August 1934), pp. 39, 90, quote on 90.
[40] Judith Allen,” Movie Classic 5:5, January 1934, p. 36.
[41] Scott Eyman, Empire of Dreams: The Epic Life of Cecil B. DeMille, New York: Simon and Schuster, 2010, 300.
[42] Birchard, pp. 260-261.
[43] ‘Sonnenberg to Visit Reno,’ The Los Angeles Times, July 31, 1933, A1.
[44] ‘Happiness in Every Glass,’ The Los Angeles Times, April 28, 1935, 3; ‘Discloses Marital Rift,’ The Los Angeles Times, August 7, 1936, 8; Read Kendall, ‘Around and About in Hollywood,’ The Los Angeles Times, August 8, 1936, 7, described Allen as “the hard-luck-girl of the movies”; ‘Figures in New Hollywood Fight over Affections,’ The Los Angeles Times, October 1, 1937, 3, the newspaper called Allen a “sultry-eyed actress,” evidently she was no longer the innocent bundle of the modern set; ‘Doyle Tells of Love,’ The Los Angeles Times, October 2, 1937, 5; ‘Dodge Heiress Goes into Hiding,’ The Los Angeles Times, October 6, 1937, A22; ‘Invalidation of Balm Suit Sought by Dodge Heiress,’ The Los Angeles Times, October 24, 1937, A1; ‘Judith Allen Sues Anew,’ The Los Angeles Times, November 25, 1937, 8; ‘Dodge Suit Dismissed,’ The Los Angeles Times, May 3, 1938, A1.
[45] ‘Judith Allen, Screen Actress, Now Investment Counsellor,’ The Los Angeles Times, February 13, 1940, A3. By contrast, DeMille’s casting Richard Cromwell as Steve generated no buzz. The pressbook claimed DeMille simply employed his “numerology test” and learned Cromwell’s name indicated a “universal or magnetic personality” that produces “great scientists and brilliant artists, actors, singers, and musicians.” See ‘This Day and Age,’ Pressbook, August 1, 1933. Paramount Pictures press sheets, AMPAS.
[46] Bartlett Cormack, “This Day and Age: Final Shooting Script,” May 15, 1933, K-10. Paramount Pictures scripts, AMPAS.
[47] Quoted in Jean Edward Smith, FDR, New York: Random House, 2008, p. 316.
[48] ‘New DeMille Title,’ The Hollywood Reporter 14:41, May 5, 1933, p.7; ‘DeMille Signs Barnett,’ The Hollywood Reporter 14:49, May 15, 1933, p.3; ‘$1 a Week Tragedian,’ The Film Daily 62:38, May 15, 1933, p.7; James Edwin Reid, ‘Tip-Offs on the Talkies,’ Motion Picture 46:p.4 (November 1933), pp.78-79, quote on p.79.
[49] ‘Okay, Paramount!’ The Hollywood Reporter 19:35, February 22, 1934,p. 7.
[50] “Dutch Bar Film as Pro-Fascist,” The New York Times November 12, 1933, p. 3.
[51] “American Films Win Fight for Holland Favor,” The Los Angeles Times, March 14, 1934, p. 10.
[52]This Day and Age [Paramount 1933],’ Motion Picture Association of America. Production Code Administration records, AMPAS.
[53] Ibid.
[54] James Wingate to A.M. Botsford, Letter, May 11, 1933. “This Day and Age [Paramount 1933],” Motion Picture Association of America. Production Code Administration records, AMPAS.
[55] DeMille, p. 327.
[56] James Wingate to Will Hayes, Letter, May 13, 1933. “This Day and Age [Paramount 1933],” Motion Picture Association of America. Production Code Administration records, AMPAS.
[57] ‘Leslie Stuart Carter, “Last Lynching in California – 1933,’ The Los Angeles Times, December 4, 1983, p. 126.
[58] Philip K. Scheuer, ‘A Town Called Hollywood,’ The Los Angeles Times, December 3, 1933, A1.
[59] Ibid.
[60] Kristie Lindenmeyer, The Greatest Generation Grows Up: American Childhood in the 1930s, Chicago: Ivan R. Dee, 2005, p. 212.
[61] “Taking a Look at the Record,” The New York Times, November 25, 1934, X5.
[62] Doherty, p. 195.
[63] ‘Philadelphia Tips $12,000 to ‘Bowery’,’ Motion Picture Daily, October 24, 1933, p. 7.
[64] The Previewer, ‘Hindsight on Reviews,’ The Hollywood Reporter 18:42, January 2, 1934, p. 39.
[65] ‘London News Letter,’ The Hollywood Reporter 18:45, January 5, 1934, p. 6.
[66] Babes in Arms, directed by Busby Berkeley (Culver City: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1939), DVD.
[67] Babes on Broadway, directed by Busby Berkeley (Culver City: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1941), DVD. The Production Code Administration objected to one line “Ulysses Grant didn’t have a tomb” because “this jocular reference to a distinguished American hero would undoubtedly give widespread offense.” Reverence, not rebellion, became the norm for kid pictures. See Joseph Breen to Louis B. Mayer, Letter, April 14, 1941, “Babes on Broadway [MGM, 1940]” Motion Picture Association of America. Production Code Administration records, AMPAS.
[68] Eunice L. McClure to Allan Usher, Letter, August 30, 1933. “This Day and Age [Paramount 1933],” Motion Picture Association of America. Production Code Administration records, AMPAS.
[69] Quoted in Bruce Lenthall, Radio’s America: The Great Depression and the Rise of Modern Mass Culture (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2007), p. 95.
[70] Quoted in Lindenmeyer, p. 246.
[71] Joseph Breen to John Hammell, Letter, August 30, 1935. “This Day and Age [Paramount 1933],” Motion Picture Association of America. Production Code Administration records, AMPAS.

About the Author

Peter Lee

About the Author

Peter Lee

Peter W. Lee is a PhD candidate at Drew University, specializing in modern American cultural history and youth culture. His scholarship focuses on the visual arts. Among his publications are contributions to Americana: The Journal of American Culture, The Bright Lights Film Journal, Thymos: The Journal of Boyhood Studies, The Ages of Superman, Comic Books and the Cold War, Studies in Medievalism, and the Critical Surveys of Graphic Novels: Heroes and Superheroes reference set. His dissertation examines the construction of American boyhood in early Cold War films.View all posts by Peter Lee →