Working Man, The (1933): Adolfi’s Pre-Code Dramedy, Starring George Arliss and Bette Davis

John G. Adolfi directed The Working Man, a pre-Code dramedy, starring George Arliss and Bette Davis.

The Working Man

Bette Davis and George Arliss

Theodore Newton and Bette Davis

This was the second pairing of Arliss–already a Best Actor Oscar winner–and Davis, who had co-starred with him in The Man Who Played God the year before.

Maude T. Howell’s script is based on the story “The Adopted Father,” by Edgar Franklin.

John Reeves, a successful shoe manufacturer is annoyed with his conceited nephew and company manager Benjamin Burnett. He thinks they are losing ground to their longtime chief rival, headed by former best friend Tom Hartland.

The two men had a falling out due to their love for the same woman, who later married Hartland. Nevertheless, Reeves is saddened to learn of Hartland’s death.

When Benjamin claims that his uncle is getting senile, he heads off on a fishing vacation in Maine, leaving his nephew to deal with the business problem.

Reeves revitalizes the Hartland Shoe Company. Benjamin is puzzled, as Hartland’s methods seem similar to those of Reeves. When Pettison shows up in Benjamin’s office, looking for a job, he sees Jane. She begs him to keep her secret, but he tells Benjamin who she really is and lies, accusing her of spying on the company.

When Benjamin insists on meeting “John Walton,” Reeves has to reveal his true identity. Once Reeves informs his nephew that Jenny was not a spy, the young couple reconcile, and Reeves’ proposal for merging the two companies is accepted.


George Arliss as John Reeves
Bette Davis as Jenny Hartland, aka Jane Grey
Theodore Newton as Tommy Hartland
Hardie Albright as Benjamin Burnett
Gordon Westcott as Fred Pettison
J. Farrell MacDonald as Henry Davis


Produced by Jack L. Warner, Darryl F. Zanuck
Musical Supervision: Leo F. Forbstein

Directed by John G. Adolfi
Written by Charles Kenyon, Maude T. Howell, based on The Adopted Father, 1916 story in All-Story Weekly by Edgar Franklin
Cinematography: Sol Polito
Art Direction: Jack Okey
Costume Design: Orry-Kelly

Edited by George Amy, Warren Low

Produced and distributed by Warner Bros.

Release date: April 20, 1933

Running time:  78 minutes
Budget $193,000
Box office $822,000