Skyscraper Souls (1932)

You're not the boss of me.

Warren William as that rarest of all breeds: a power-hungry executive.

Now here’s a story line you’re not going to believe:

A prominent New York executive cares only for power and wealth, and will bulldoze over anyone to get it.

Yes, you’re probably right – a movie about a ruthless, back-stabbing capitalist is a bit of a stretch.

But seriously! We are amazed that Skyscraper Souls hasn’t undergone a revival in recent years. While watching this film, we recalled the names of several other New York executives who personally profited from the resources of others.

But never mind that. While Skyscraper Souls isn’t the first or last movie to examine corporate greed, we feel it’s one of the best.

Warren William is perfect as slimy David Dwight, a charming but cold-hearted son-of-a-gun who cheerfully steps over bodies as he manipulates control of a 100-storey skyscraper. (This fictional building would be waaay taller than the Empire State Building, completed in 1931.) William seems to relish the role and is so charismatic, you hate being almost sympathetic towards him.

This is not a feel-good movie, although the script is full of sharp, witty dialogue. For example, Dwight has an unexpected meeting with his estranged wife, who suddenly appears at his apartment.

Dwight: When did you arrive?

Wife: Last Friday.

Dwight: When do you leave?

Wife: Next Friday.

Dwight: And in the meantime?

Wife: Money.

Of course, it’s a bit much for Hollywood to be lecturing others on greed and immorality. But there is so much to admire (the excellent cast, the clever directing), that a person can overlook this, uh, “irony”.

If you ever have the chance to see this thought-provoking film, do so. You won’t regret it.

Starring Warren William, Maureen O’Sullivan and Anita Page. Written by Faith Baldwin (novel) and C. Gardner Sullivan (adaptation). Directed by Edgar Selwyn. MGM, 1932, 80 mins.

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