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Can't Get Enough Pre-Codes
Maleejandra28 May 2006
Man's Castle is a wonderful example of a Pre-Code film. It involves realistic events with truly enjoyable and imperfect characters. Spencer Tracy plays Bill, a free soul without a dime in his pocket. He makes a living doing odd jobs and traveling to a new city when he gets bored of his surroundings. One night, he meets Trina, a beauty by any standards who is cold and alone. She has refused to resort to prostitution so she has not eaten for several days, but the two take very well to each other and form a relationship. His free spirit tempts him to leave her, so life is rocky, but there is a true spark between the two, even if they live in a shack by the river.

Tracy is one of the great actors of the silver screen. His characters are amazing and relatable. We can see his thoughts on his face, making him easy to identify with, even if we believe he is behaving badly. Young is great in pre-code films. Her character is very sweet but far from perfect, making her all the more likable.

Pre-code elements include skinny dipping, pregnancy before marriage, and crime.
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A Borzage Classic (spoiler!)
Kalaman30 April 2004
Warning: Spoilers
"Man's Castle" is one of the most important American films of the 1930s. As Andrew Sarris has noted, it's one of the few films that was able to capture the emotional nuances of the Depression. Borzage's sweet, ethereal love story concerns a tough-guy Bill (Spencer Tracy) and penniless girl Trina (Loretta Young) who are incurably optimistic lovers. They setup house together in a squalid shanty town. Their romance transcends, in Borzage's spiritual vision, the Depression and worst possible squalor. Borzage typically championed the proletariat no better than in this film with the tease of material success at the very beginning of the film with Tracy's self-indulgent character and then challenge to the audience to accept a different set of circumstances. What impressed me the most about "Man's Castle" was Loretta Young. She actually became that character Trina. Her devotion and innocence are heartbreaking. Not to mention she carries Bill's unborn baby, and it would be a crime if he doesn't return the love she expresses to him. Bill loves Trina but he does it in a tough or bullying manner that almost becomes annoying. One of the most moving moments in the film occurs when he buys her a stove that she always wanted to get. She couldn't believe it and falls down on his knees and cries. Bill cannot help but moved by what he did. Despite his tough mannerisms, he ultimately succumbs to Trina's fragility, as they ride the freight train at the end, transcending the Depression and its harshness.
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A delightful forgotten classic.
mark.waltz31 August 2001
Warning: Spoilers
Although this rarely seen film is not available on video, and has not been shown on cable that I am aware of, it is a classic which deserves the light of day. Spencer Tracy, before his MGM years and major stardom, was teamed with Loretta Young, one of the major stars of the early 30's, and sparks were united.

Tracy is a rough and tough shanty town character who takes in down on her luck Young. Slightly mistreating her, Tracy is on the verge of leaving her when she drops a bombshell that will change their lives. Also around are Marjorie Rambeau as a drunken neighbor with a heart of gold (and giving a very sensitive performance), Glenda Farrell as a singer who turns Tracy's head, and Walter Connelly as another neighbor who becomes a father-like figure to the two.

The camera work and settings are rough and gritty, almost like a Warner Brothers film. However, this was made at Columbia, then a second-rate "B" studio which was most known at the time for its string of films directed by Frank Capra (usually starring Barbara Stanwyck). It is short and sweet (66 minutes according to Leonard Maltin), and very moving. I agree with Maltin's comment that Tracy's character was a bit much to take at times, but it is evident that he hides many facets behind his hard exterior. The story is very close to the play "Lilliom" (Tracy finding spiritual guidance after a failed payroll robbery), and ironically Tracy's character's name is Bill, changed to Billy for the musical "Carousel".

Young, never one of my favorites, was at her best in the early 30's before she became too "lady-like". Even though her character is sweet and vulnerable, she is far more realistic than she got in her more esteemed years after winning the Oscar for "The Farmer's Daughter". Farrell is fine in her few scenes, but has little to do. It's a shame that this very talented lady never rose above the line of secondary roles or leads in "B" features. If "A Man's Castle" makes its way onto cable (or with some miracle, home video), I highly recommend it to film students and historians.
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One of the essential Depression dramas
lqualls-dchin29 May 2005
Unfortunately, this film has long been unavailable (as other posters have noted), but this is one of the essential dramas of the Great Depression, a lyrical and touching drama of love set in a shanty-town. It features performances by Spencer Tracy and Loretta Young that are just about the finest of their careers, and it's a surpassing example of how the director, Frank Borzage, was able to create an almost fairy-tale aura around elements of poverty, crime, and horrendous social inequity, which just proves that how truly romantic and spiritual his talents were. This film shows how love survives amidst squalor and desperate need, and it is totally life-affirming. This is a real masterpiece of the period, and is a movie that deserves to be more widely known.
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Young and Spencer star in the finest film of the pre-code era
Greta-Garbo31 July 2007
It's a shame this movie is so hard to get your hands on in the US. I found it through a rare video dealer, and it was certainly worth it. This is, without a doubt, the best film made during the pre-code era, and the finest film of the 1930s. Masterful director Frank Borzage made wonderful films about the Depression, and with MAN'S CASTLE he created a fairy tale amidst the hardships of the era.

Loretta Young and Spencer Tracy have a wonderful chemistry between them, and they help make this movie a wonderful romance. Young's Trina is sweet and hopeful, while Tracy's Bill is gruff and closed-off. The dynamic between the character creates one of the most difficult, but in the end rewarding relationships on film.

MAN'S CASTLE is the most soft-focus pre-code film I've seen. Borzage uses the hazy and dreamy technique to turn the squatter's village where Bill and Trina live into a palace. The hardships of the Depression are never ignored, in fact they're integral to the film. But as Borzage crafts the film as a soft focus fairy tale, the love between the characters makes the situation seem less harsh. It makes the film warm and affectionate.

MAN'S CASTLE is the crowning achievement of the pre-code era. If only more people could see it.
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Damn, Loretta was good when she really tried
marcslope3 September 2008
I generally find Loretta Young hard to take, too concerned with her looks and too ladylike in all the wrong ways. But in this lyrical Frank Borzage romance, and even though she's playing a low-self-esteem patsy who puts up with entirely too much bullying from paramour Spencer Tracy, she's direct and honest and irresistible. It's an odd little movie, played mostly in a one-room shack in a Hooverville, unusually up-front about the Depression yet romantic and idealized. Tracy, playing a blustery, hard-to-take "regular guy" who would be an awful chauvinist and bully by today's standards, softens his character's hard edge and almost makes him appealing. There's good supporting work from Marjorie Rambeau and Glenda Farrell (who never got as far as she should have), and Jo Swerling's screenplay is modest and efficient. But the real heroes are Borzage, who always liked to dramatize true love in lyrical close-up, and Young. You sort of want to slap her and tell her character to wise up, she's too good for this guy, but she's so dewy and persuasive, you contentedly watch their story play out to a satisfying conclusion.
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"No female has to starve in a town like this."
Irie21226 September 2009
As other reviewers have noted, this is an unjustly neglected Depression-era film. Directed by Frank Borzage (two Oscars) and written by Jo Swerling (Leave Her to Heaven, The Westerner, Lifeboat, etc.), it is a tough-minded, well-structured and -realized move about denizens of a New York City shantytown. They're grifters, beggars, and women forced into prostitution, but they're a community of people both good and bad, with loyalties as complex as any group's.

Perhaps primary among this movie's many admirable qualities is the contrast between Spencer Tracy's character, Bill, and Loretta Young's Trina. He tough-talking, physically aggressive, and evidently fearless-- but Bill is not the character who gives this film its steely sense of survival. While he blusters, Trina actually hangs tough (if that term can be applied to a character so ladylike). Her devotion to him is obvious, and complete. When she becomes pregnant, she says she will raise it herself if he wants to leave. Such is the dignity of Loretta Young's performance (at age 20) as a very simple, even simple-minded character, that she seems neither weak or dependent, but rather a woman who recognizes happiness when she finds it, and love, and who has learned the hard way that it's worth holding on to because it doesn't come around often, and what's rare is precious.
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Spencer & Loretta Make This Interesting
ccthemovieman-16 November 2009
This is very dated, but that's part of the charm with this 1933 movie. You can say the same for most Pre-Code films; they're just different, and usually in an interesting way.

It was the short running time, the great acting of Spencer Tracy and the beautiful face and sweetness of Loretta Young's character which kept me watching and enjoying this stagy-but-intriguing film.

You'd be hard-pressed to find a nicer girl than "Trinna," played by the 20-year-old Young who was already into making her 50th movie! (She started acting as a small child. That, and the fact they made movies quickly back in the old days.) The camera, although in soft focus throughout much of the film, zoomed in on Loretta's face and eyes many times and I was mesmerized by her beauty.

Playing a crotchety man with a cynical outlook on life, Tracy's "Bill" slowly transformed into a loving man, thanks to Trinna. Spencer delivered his lines here with such naturalness that you hardly knew he was acting.

Although they have small roles, supporting actors Walter Connolly, Marjorie Rambeau, Arthur Hohl and Glenda Farrell leave lasting impressions long after viewing this 75-minute film. I was particularly fascinated with Connolly's role as the minister/father figure of the camp.

The story is a little far-fetched but - hey - that's the movies. This story is about two lonely Great Depression victims trying to survive in a "Hooverville"-type camp and it winds up to be a very touching tale.
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Luminous, a must-see
Sleepy-179 January 2001
I haven't seen this for years, but I remember both Spencer and Loretta being as hot as a pistol, brimming with talent and longing. Interesting pre-code depiction of tramp-town down by the river. There's a sparkling scene of Spencer working as a sandwich-board man. Great photography which shows the influence of Murnau's Sunrise.
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Depression Era Melodrama
nomoons1115 November 2012
I'd never even remotely heard of this one when I came upon it. This one seems similar to My Man Godfrey. The big difference being the comedy part that this one doesn't have.

A poor and hungry Loretta Young sits next to a poor but content Spencer Tracy on a park bench. He finds out she's starving and takes her in and shows her the ropes around his home in a shanty town. Even though life is tough in the depression he makes it easy on her and always seems to put her mind at ease when food and money are low. He's always taking one odd job after another. Eventually he falls in love with her but he's not a guy who likes to hold on to things or to be tied down. He's always ready to move on. Problem is though, he never does. The trials and tribulations of a poor couple during the midst of the depression is the basic premise for the rest of the film. How to get money and living around a few characters in the same situation they live in. Trying to make the right moral decisions and doing the right thing.

This one is worth a watch because Spencer Tracy makes any film he does very watchable. He's basically the same in all films but he, like Clark Gable, could play every different role the same and you still wanna watch it. Loretta Young is as beautiful as she always was and plays the poor little starving but thankful girl just right. Grab this one and watch a tiny glimpse of what the depression was like at the time this was made. After this, try Meet John Doe and see a better film on a similar topic.
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My first Borzage
bob99827 December 2015
My parents lived through the depression, and they would have found themselves right at home in the world of Man's Castle. Bill's roughness is entirely appropriate for the times, given that he must live by his wits in a difficult world. Trina's sweetness seems a bit unreal, given the cynicism of our times, but I believed in it because Loretta Young gives a very natural and moving performance. She was only 20 and acts like a much more experienced performer.

The romanticism of the movie is wonderful to see. Borzage--whose work I'd never seen before--believes in what he's doing and makes us believe in it too. Roosevelt is fresh in the White House and there is a spirit of hope and renewal in the country. I could criticize the editing for being a little too abrupt (cutting the film down to fit the B part of a double-bill), as an example the scene with Bill and Fay in her rooms, but that doesn't detract from my admiration.
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Good Romantic Stuff
galileosmith-563-32938617 January 2013
Warning: Spoilers
I saw this film on TCM the other evening and I really liked it. I think I particularly enjoyed Loretta Young's character. Anyway, the acting is that pre-Method type of acting that was pretty much the standard in films before 1950. For modern, young audiences it might take a little adjustment. It's like riding in a classic car; you don't do it for the luxury or to get some place in a hurry, but just to enjoy it.

It is a pre-code film so the two lead characters were seen actually living together, and pawing each other. Then, before the wedding of the two, the female character announces that she is pregnant. It presents Tracy's character with a dilemma; does he do what his gut wants him to do, or does he do what his heart wants him to do.

Despite the old-fashion acting, I thought that Tracy and Young showed a lot of chemistry together. I actually became a bit mesmerized by the two's performances.
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a strange love story in the dream factory
miroslava stern27 October 2001
I have seen this film recently during a retrospective of Borzage´s filmography. It´s a film situated in that strange period of time before "Hays code" when american movies could tell stories who break (explicitly) the conservative rules of the "classic Hollywood moral". Like in other films of Borzage (The seventh heaven, bad girl...) love faces poverty and survives because of his almost "magic" nature. But what makes this film more remarkable than others from Borzage is the complexity of Spencer Tracy´s role. He is full of passion for life but also fears "everybody´s life". When he meets Loretta Young has to face a new situation than creates an earthquake of contradictions. I was very surprised with this role and it explains why this movie had so many problems in his time. In the end, a very nice surprise
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Shanty town romance during Depression stars a luminous Loretta Young...
Doylenf25 September 2009
SPENCER TRACY plays a rough and tumble character in a role that was tailor made for Clark Gable. Somehow, his chemistry with LORETTA YOUNG is not quite what it should be. She, however, gives a very sensitive performance as the lovely girl attracted to him despite his arrogant behavior. This is the weakness of the story. If played by a charmer like Clark Gable, Loretta's yen for Tracy would be more understandable. As it is, he plays a real scoundrel without any attempt to soften his character for the sake of romance. He's sometimes so despicable that he alienates the viewer from sympathizing with him.

But it's Loretta Young who holds the film together, even though her character often seems naive and foolish to stay with Tracy. MARJORIE RAMBEAU is effective in a good supporting role as a woman with backbone who helps Tracy and Young when he has to flee the authorities. WALTER CONNOLLY, as a man Tracy attempts to rob, is also fine.

The film looks as though it was bathed in soft focus, perhaps to make the tone of the love story less gritty than it would have looked if filmed realistically. Whatever, Loretta Young has never looked more beautiful. Her costuming belies the fact that she's a Depression era heroine. Another unrealistic touch by director Frank Borzage, who has chosen to tell the story as if it were a fairy tale Depression story.
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A Man's Home Is His Castle even in Hooverville
bkoganbing25 September 2009
Man's Castle is set in one of those jerry built settlements on vacant land and parks that during these times were called 'Hoovervilles' named after our unfortunate 31st president who got stuck with The Great Depression occurring in his administration. The proposition of this film is that a man's home is still his castle even when it's just a shack in a Hooverville.

Spencer Tracy has such a shack and truth be told this guy even in good times would not be working all that much. But in a part very typical for Tracy before he was cast as a priest in San Francisco, the start of a slew of classic roles, he's playing a tough good natured mug who takes in Loretta Young.

One of the things about Man's Castle is that it shows the effects of the Depression on women as well as men. Women had some additional strains put on them, if men had trouble finding work, women had it twice as hard. And they were sexually harassed and some resorted to prostitution just for a square meal. Spence takes Loretta Young in who's facing those kind of problems and makes no demands on her in his castle. Pretty soon though they're in love, though Tracy is not the kind to settle down.

The love scenes had some extra zing to them because Tracy and Young were having a torrid affair during the shooting of Man's Castle. And both were Catholic and married and in those days that was an insuperable barrier to marriage. Both Tracy and Young took the Catholic faith quite seriously.

Also in the cast are Walter Connolly as a kind of father figure for the whole camp, Marjorie Rambeau who's been through all the pitfalls Young might encounter and tries to steer her clear and Arthur Hohl, a really loathsome creep who has his eye on Young as well. Hohl brings the plot of Man's Castle to its climax through his scheming.

Man's Castle is grim look at the Great Depression, not the usual movie escapist fare for those trying to avoid that kind of reality in their entertainment.
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Love amidst poverty
TheLittleSongbird13 August 2018
Yet another film recommended in the "recommended for you" section, and interest was immediately high. Being someone who likes Spencer Tracy in many things and that 'Man's Castle' was a relatively early role for him and a largely forgotten film. Was also interested in seeing a young Loretta Young in a period where her acting for most people here seemed to appeal more than her later roles.

'Man's Castle' is a very intriguing and to me pretty impressive film. Not perfect (one can see why it won't work for some) or an all-time classic and all have done better work, but it has a lot of great things and charms and deserves to be seen more. 'Man's Castle' has a theme of love amidst and against poverty, very much relevant then in 1933 and still something that can be related to today in having to overcome love in face of adversity and dire circumstances, so it was a film that wasn't hard to relate to.

It is a shame that despite lovely photography, 'Man's Castle' is visually quite primitive. With a shantytown setting that doesn't look authentic at all and instead looking studio-bound on a modest at best budget and the miniature use looks pretty phoney.

At times too, the character of Bill can be hard to take with it being overdone.

However, the two leads are wonderful, with Tracy at his aggressively passionate and Young giving one of her most charming and winsome performances. Their chemistry is unlikely at first but is suitably complex and has passion. There is fine support from Glenda Farrell, Marjorie Rambeau and Walter Connolly.

Frank Borzage, a sensitive and deserving-of-more-credit director, directs sensitively as ever, the film is scripted thoughtfully and with emotional impact and the story always engage and is both charming and moving. Sentimentality doesn't get too much generally or get too hard to stomach to me, though the ending goes a little overboard.

On the whole, very well done and well worth seeing. 8/10 Bethany Cox
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This film set back women's rights at least 50 years!!
MartinHafer11 March 2010
Warning: Spoilers
Wow. Watching this film today, you can't help but be appalled by the writing of this film. Spencer Tracy and Loretta Young play a couple who, in modern times, might be featured on "The Jerry Springer Show"--as they have a sick and abusive relationship...and inexplicably, the writers appear to be endorsing it!

The film begins with a hungry and homeless Loretta being shown the ropes by the poor but very resourceful Spencer Tracy. He shows her how by conniving you can do very well with little money and takes her home to his shack to stay. It's never clear whether or not they marry--and considering it's a Pre-Code film, you can assume they aren't even though they are cohabiting. Their relationship is very strange...and rather sick. While you can see that Tracy cares about her by his actions, he is verbally abusive and a total jerk---and Young comes running back for more like some sort of dog. He calls her "skinny" or "ugly" and these are, in a sick way, his way of using endearments! Later, when he starts fooling around with another woman (Glenda Farrell), she tells her friend that if that's what he wants, it's okay with her!!! It sure smacks of a sado-masochistic relationship and you can't help but feel a bit horrified. Sure, he doesn't hit her but the relationship is very abusive. To show how sick it is, when Young gets pregnant, she tells him "'s your baby and it's mine, but you don't need to worry, I'll take all the blame for it"!! Yikes! Doesn't this all seem a bit like looking through a peephole into a sick and dysfunctional home?! Later, in a case of art imitating life, Tracy proves what sort of man he is and disappears. After all, he can't be burdened with a baby--even if it's his. But, he changes his mind and decides to return home. Wow...that's bit of him! And, when he returns, he's nasty and acts like IF he stays, he isn't obligated to care for the kid!! And, she tells him he's "a free as a bird"! Wow, I was almost in tears at this tender moment...NOT! Soon, this crazy pair are married...and, naturally, Young is depressed because he seems to be staying as long as it suits him--not because of any love or sense of responsibility. So how can you salvage anything with this sort of sick characters? What would you do? Well, as for the writers, they have Tracy soon commit a robbery to help pay for the brat! The romantic aspects of the film are underwhelming to say the least! During the robbery, Tracy behaves like a chump--doing almost nothing to take precautions not to get caught--like he was secretly hoping to get sent to prison. And, to show what sort of nice guy he is, the guy he tries to rob is one of his best friends.

While there's more to the film, the bottom line is that Tracy is a jerk and Young is an idiot in the film. Despite both being very good actors, there's absolutely no way they could make anything of this crap the writers produced. Nice music, nice sets, good acting...and a script that is 100% poo. How the film is currently rated 7.4 is beyond me and I wonder how anyone can ignore the pure awfulness of the characters. A horrible misfire that somehow didn't destroy the careers of those involved.

Oh, and if you wonder if Loretta EVER gets a backbone in this film or plays a person who is the least bit strong, the answer is NO! By the end, she's learned nothing and hasn't changed one whit for the better.

They sure don't make films like they used to...and in this case...thank God!
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In the Shanty in Old Shanty Town
lugonian31 July 2012
MAN'S CASTLE (Columbia, 1933), directed by Frank Borzage, is not so much about a British king and his royal subjects, but a Depression-era story of survival and one man who's castle happens to be the great outdoors in a shanty community. Starring future Academy Award winners Spencer Tracy and Loretta Young in their only pairing together, and direction by two-time award winning Borzage, it's very much pre-code movie with enough material not commonly found in motion pictures after the production code was fully enforced by 1934.

Set in New York City, the story opens in Central Park where Bill (Spencer Tracy), dressed in top hat and tuxedo, is feeding popcorn to the pigeons. Seated next to him on the bench is Trina (Loretta Young), homeless, hungry and desperate. At first he takes her for a panhandler, but believing her story that she hasn't eaten in two days, treats her to a meal in an nearby expensive restaurant. As much as Bill appears to be a man of wealth, he's just as broke as Trina. Due to his self confidence, he talks his way out of paying the check to the manager (Harvey Clark). Later that night, Bill takes Trina to his place of residence, a "Park Avenue" section along the East River called Shanty Town, where the homeless victims of the Depression are gathered together in run down shacks, including Ira (Walter Connolly), a churchless preacher who quotes scriptures from the Bible; Flossie (Marjorie Rambeau), an argumentative drunk; and Bragg (Arthur Hohl), a man not to be trusted, all close friends of Bill's. Through the course of time, Trina, having moved in with Bill, keeps house for him while he acquires various lines of work to support himself, and when not working odd jobs, finds time playing baseball with the neighborhood kids. Helping Bragg with one of his assignments as process server, Bill succeeds in where others have failed - that of personally handling a subpoena to entertainer, Fay LaRue (Glenda Farrell) and facing up to several of her tough thug bodyguards. Because Bill is having an affair with Fay (who likes his nerve), Bragg tries to step in on Trina, now pregnant with Bill's baby. When Bill learns he's about to become a father, he's faced with a decision to either catch the next train out of town or join forces with Bragg on a job that could get them in trouble with the law.

This seldom revived love story is one from the time capsule, capturing, in a reality sense, the hardships and struggles of the Great Depression. Borzage offers some reflection of the times as the camera focuses on Bill and Trina walking down Broadway with movie marque titles of the day visible in background, namely George Raft and Sylvia Sidney starring PICK UP (Paramount, 1933). As for the script, it portrays Tracy as tough, irresponsible and confident in a physical sense. He charms women with his dynamic personality but in reality is unable to face up to any responsibility. When asked what he does for a living, he responds, "I LIVE!" When not working, he's out playing baseball with the neighborhood kids. Almost immediately, Bill makes Trina his own. The very night of their initial union, they end up skinny dipping in the East River, a scene that certainly raised a few eyebrows way back when. As much as Bill doesn't waste any time, neither does Trina. At first she's shy and lacks confidence, but loses all fears once she's in the company with Bill. Like Trina, Fay (Glenda Farrell) becomes attracted to Bill, admiring his big shot personality. Farrell's Fay sings one song titled, "Surprise." No doubt, she gets one from Bill. Other noteworthy support goes to Arthur Hohl as Tracy's underhanded friend; Connolly the middle-aged preaching night watchman. and Dickie Moore briefly seen as the crippled boy with leg in brace who gets an autographed baseball from Bill. Existing still photos of Helen MacKeller indicate her withdraw from production and substituted by character actress, Marjorie Rambeau, whose mannerisms and performance reminds any film buf of Gladys George.

Not televised in the New York City area since the 1960s, MAN's CASTLE seemed destined to never be seen again. Aside from revival movie houses in the 1970s, cable television helped bring films such as this back to life again. One of its earliest known broadcasts was on Wometo Home Theater in 1985, followed by other cable channels before turning up on Turner Classic Movies on August 31, 2008, during its "Summer Under the Stars" presentation and 24-hour salute to Spencer Tracy. For a 1933 film, circulating prints to MAN'S CASTLE are from latter 1930s reissues, substituting a 1940s Columbia logo over the pre-1936 style trademark of woman holding a lighted torch in dark background. Often labeled at 76 minutes, TCM print is a few minutes shorter.

While no castle is evident, a story of a man named Bill and a girl named Trina (along with impressive close-up shots of Loretta Young's youthful beauty), is all that's needed for a simple story about simple folks. (***)
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"Rain is good. It makes a man grow."
grizzledgeezer30 April 2016
Warning: Spoilers
"Man's Castle" is one of those films that ought to be better known.

Bill (Spencer Tracy) is a restless unemployed man who rides the rails whenever he feels the world closing in on him. He helps a homeless woman (Loretta Young) who says she's strong enough to accept his walking out at any time.

As he becomes increasingly attached, he shows his commitment by buying her a proper stove to cook on, and rejecting the advances of a wealthy singer. She submits to his (unseen) advances and becomes pregnant. ("Man's Castle" was made in 1933, a year before the Code began to be strictly enforced.)

The performances are uniformly good-to-excellent, especially Tracy's and Walter Connolly's (a once-minister working as a night watchman). Frank Borzage's direction is spot-on.

If nothing else, "Man's Castle" is a model of good storytelling -- moderately complex characters (the principals, anyway) of varying points of view; strong conflicts; "show us, don't tell us"; the characters in bad situations so we learn who they really are -- you know the rest.

Everything is solid until the last five minutes, when it all collapses in a flood of melodramatic sentimentality that wipes out the (sort-of) plausible story that came before. Instead of Bill taking his lumps, he and Trina hop a freight into an unknown future they're certain will turn out "happily ever after". Why? They have each other, and an unborn baby. As awful as this is, it cannot completely undo the good impression made by the rest of the film.

I watched "Man's Castle" the morning of 4/30/2016 on getTV. At 78 minutes, it appears to be the complete version, not the censored 66-minute version released in 1938.

Strongly recommended.
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Castle on the Hudson
wes-connors15 September 2011
Wearing a tuxedo during the Depression, smoking Spencer Tracy (as Bill) picks up starving Loretta Young (as Trina) while feeding popcorn to some curiously adorned pigeons in Central Park. He turns out to be poor, also, and was only dressed as an advertising street-walker. They go skinny-dipping in the Hudson River and shack up in New York City's "Hooterville". Ms. Young becomes thoroughly domesticated; she cooks, irons, and decorates Mr. Tracy's shanty with fancy curtains. Tracy treats Young badly in the shack and sees other women on the side, like sexy singer Glenda Farrell (as Fay La Rue)...

At home, Young resists skuzzy neighbor Arthur Hohl (as Bragg) and befriends boozy Marjorie Rambeau (as Flossie). They add danger to our drama. Babe Ruth fan Dickie Moore (as Joey) and a reverend Walter Connolly (as Ira) are also in the cast. Tracy and Young connected in real life, too. Indeed irresistible, Young weathers the Depression looking never less than perfect in cinematographer Joseph August's soft focus. Director Frank Borzage's "fairy tale" romance is lauded in some quarters, not mine. There are some good production values, and Mr. Hohl contributes a good supporting performance.

***** Man's Castle (10/27/33) Frank Borzage ~ Spencer Tracy, Loretta Young, Arthur Hohl, Marjorie Rambeau
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Excellent pre-code Great Depression film that focuses on the poor folk
vincentlynch-moonoi2 October 2012
Warning: Spoilers
The film begins with a woman (the beautiful Loretta Young) who is starving because this is at the height of the Great Depression. She meets up with a man who looks rich (Spencer Tracy), in a park. He takes her to an expensive restaurant for dinner. But, it turns out he is just as poor as she is. After bilking the restaurant out of dinner, they return to his shack down along the river, and she stays the night (this is pre-code), falls deeply in love with him, but does so with a great deal of stress because she realizes that while he loves her, he is also a man who has a strong bent toward being free. And that is the crux of the film, and the first reason I give this film bonus points -- I know the feeling. I have been in two relationships where my partner wanted to be free almost as much as he wanted to be in a relationship. And, it was a constant struggle for both of us. So, in that sense, this is a really "real" dilemma for both characters.

The other reason this film earns some bonus points is that it is at least a bit unique. Stop and think of what group of people are usually portrayed in Depression-era films -- it's usually gangsters or high society people. In contrast, in this film the people depicted are primarily honest people living in the slums of the Depression.

Now, the film loses a few points, too. For one thing, some of the transitions between shots from different angles are very sloppy. But, this was only 1932, so I can let that slide...a bit.

Spencer Tracy's acting here (he's one of my two favorite actors) is very good, considering this is early on in his career. You begin to see elements of the Tracy we came to know throughout his film career. Loretta Young is not only beautiful, but perfect in this role. I have mixed feelings about Marjorie Rambeau's portrayal of an alcoholic, though her part is central to the plot. Walter Connolly is very good here, though I noted his poor teeth, and found that distracting. This role is a bit different for him, so it's nice to see him in something this is not a comedy.

And one of the joys of this film is that it's pre-code, but not in your face about it. As Tracy says early in the film, "No female has to starve in a town like this." And then there's the nude swimming scene...although, trust me, you won't see anything. And the fact that Young becomes pregnant later in the film. And of course, all this was filmed at a point when the real Tracy and the real Young were having a torrid affair.

Although I won't put this film up to an "8", it is darned good and well-worth watching. You're likely to learn something about the Great Depression, to boot.
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Interesting Depression-Era Romantic Drama.
rmax3048231 October 2012
Warning: Spoilers
Nothing much new about the romantic stuff. Spencer Tracy takes Loretta Young into his shack, neither of them having anything resembling other resources. Tracy finds an older blond who is willing to keep him in food and clothes, but then Loretta Young has to go and spring it on Tracy that she's preggers. It puts Tracy in a quandary. He likes to think of himself as a free man, a drifter who rides the rails at will. He tries to pull off a robbery after marrying Young, with the intention of leaving the boodle with her and taking off on his own. But they are in love and he winds up taking her with him. Last scene: the married pair lying together on the straw of an empty box car rattling through the night.

It sounded so dull at first that I thought for a moment box cars were forming on my retina. However, the film is saved by its ethnographic perspective and by the earnest performances. You just have to swallow the love story which, by the way, isn't entirely boring.

The movie was released in 1933, meaning it was shot in 1932 and written a bit earlier. That was pre-code and in the depths of the Great Depression. (If it weren't pre-code, you wouldn't have Loretta Young getting pregnant and planning to have a bastard child.) But what a glimpse of life at the bottom when no one had any work. Tracy's Hooverville shack somewhere in New York City is made out of garbage. Cardboard, corrugated iron, no stove, discarded automobile doors, and other junk, a divine assembly of bricolage. And, boy, does Loretta Young dress it up and turn it into a home. Women are always doing things like that. They just can't leave a man alone to live like a billy goat. Anyway, it illustrates some of the stresses associated with utter poverty.

The performances are fine too. Many actors seemed to follow a similar trajectory -- small parts in clumsy early movies (Bogart, Cary Grant) -- but Tracy came straight from Broadway and brought with him the persona that would last him throughout his career. He was tough, restrained, practical. Loretta Young -- I never realized how many movies she made in the 30s when she was young. She began at the age of 15 with a major part in one of Lon Chaney's silents. She's powerful pretty in an innocent and slightly chubby way. She can fix up the hovel I live in any time.
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Very Surprising Then - And Now
sammysdad978 August 2011
Any fan of either Spencer Tracy or Loretta Young should watch this movie when the opportunity presents itself. (It is currently in rotation on Antenna TV which is broadcast ((not cable)) in most major markets.) I particularly enjoyed the opening dinner date between the two and how Tracy "pays" for it. The real worth of this movie is its depiction of the time (early Depression) and the values of the time in which it was made. 1933 was, indeed, a very different world and a character like Tracy's and his attitude towards women was not that uncommon then. (Probably not that uncommon now, but an attitude only allowed to be expressed in the action genre.) Young plays a smitten young woman of 19 who may indeed be an "idiot" to use one other reviewer's less than charitable description of her, but that type of young "idiot"ic and naive woman is very much with us today and putting up with far worse from their men than anything Tracy dished out in this film. (Many of today's reputedly liberated young women will by the CDs with the most misogynistic lyrics which make up so much of what passes for modern music and call themselves the most vile and basest of names. There is no way Loretta Young's character in this movie would do that. Needless to say a woman clinging to an abusive man is a recognizable type in any era - as is an abusive man.) To my eye, Tracy's character was "abusive" only because he wanted to drive her away as he saw (correctly) that she would be able to tame him if given the chance. The only thing that truly surprised me was the out-of-wedlock pregnancy - mention of which was never made in films of that time, except for this one. And to see the very devout Tracy and Young in those roles in light of what came later for both of them personally was very surprising.

Frankly I think that sums up this film for me - very surprising. The setting surprises. Ditto for the characters. The screenplay works well enough to bring out the world in which Bill & Trina, and Ira & Flossie and all the rest find themselves, and how they attempt to deal with it and to find what happiness they can.
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Rough Love Story
Michael_Elliott30 September 2009
Man's Castle (1933)

*** (out of 4)

A rather bizarre love story from Borzage set during the Depression-era as two different people are brought together through being poor. Spencer Tracy plays a hot tempered man who has the charm to live a good life but instead plays it day to day just making what he has to. He takes in a poor woman (Loretta Young) and they hit it off well even though he mistreats her and she might want something out of him that he'd never be able to give. If the term love story makes you want to pass this film up then you might want to think again because this isn't the tear jerker that would have women lining up buying tickets. Instead, this is a pretty mean spirited pre-code that has all sorts of stuff from premarital sex to abused women to suffering because of being poor and even a brief mention of an abortion. Did I mention that Tracy and Young go skinny dipping early in the movie? At the heart of the film is a love story but we've got so much other stuff going on that you might lose site of that. For starters, Tracy's character is one of the biggest S.O.B's you'll likely see in a film from this era. He's incredibly mean and often takes it out on Young who doesn't mind getting insulted or being left behind when he's out with other women. I think a lot of people are going to be turned off because of how mean he is but I guess this is a part of the "moral" in the film. Tracy delivers another fine performance and I think the reason I personally didn't hate his character more is because of how good the actor was. He certainly pulls off the meanness without any trouble but at the same time you can just look at him and know there's something under that toughness. Young, perhaps my favorite actress, also delivers another winning performance. She's very believable in the abused woman role even though you want to ask her why she's with the jerk. The film has a message about a lot of issues and this is another reason why it remains rather fresh today especially since we're going through another hard time with people without jobs and unable to eat. The speech Tracy's character gives to a restaurant early on is something that would probably get a standing ovation today.
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