This Day and Age (1933): DeMille’s Provocative, Pre-Code Racial Drama

Directed by showman maestro Cecil B. DeMille, This Day and Age is a provocative racial drama that could only be made during the pre-Code era.

During Boys’ Week at racially integrated North High School, students Steve Smith, Gus Ruffo and Billy Anderson are elected to hold the city offices of district attorney, judge and chief of police.

After Jewish tailor Herman (Harry Green) refuses to pay protection money to Louis Garrett (Charles Bickford), and Garrett’s gang bombs his store. Herman survives the blast, but he is later murdered by Garrett. Garrett, who has a good alibi, is acquitted of murder charges.

Steve is humiliated by his experience since he failed to prove Garrett’s guilt. Billy, Gus and Sam Weber decide to investigate for themselves and discover a cufflink at the murder scene.

They break into Garrett’s bedroom, but Garrett is tipped off by Morry Dover, a student competing with Steve for Gay Merrick’s attention.  Garrettt hen shoots Billy, killing him, and frames Gus for the murder and robbery.

After the funeral, Steve (Richard Cromwell) blames Gay Merrick (Judith Allen) for telling Dover about the plan to break into Garrett’s place, and he gathers the presidents from neighboring high schools to formulate a plan to arrest Garrett.

Steve captures Garrett and takes him to a local brickyard for a secret trial. In the meantime, Gay and Dover, in an attempt to redeem themselves, capture Toledo’s attentions, although Gay is forced to seduce him.

Garrett confesses after the students suspend him over a pit filled with rats, and the mob marches him to city hall, assisted by the police, to get a witnessed confession.

The “big” boss of Garrett’s protection racket leaves town. After eluding Toledo, Gay arrives to witness Garrett’s arrest. Garrett signs the confession, Gus is released, and Steve, Gay and Dover listen to a broadcast about themselves until a police officer arrests them for being in a stolen vehicle.