Man of Iron (1935) - Plot Summary Poster



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  • Steel mill foreman Chris Bennett (Barton MacLane) is well-liked by his men. His rapport with them leads to his promotion to general manager, and then vice-president, over Ed Tanahill (John Eldredge), cousin of Harrison Balding (Joseph King), the mill's owner.

    Bitter about being passed over, Tanahill and his secretary, Vida (Mary Astor), plot to keep Chris from interacting directly with the workers. With Tanahill's encouragement, Chris spends his time golfing and monitoring progress on the construction of his expensive new house. His old friends in the mill feel abandoned. Only Tom Martin (Joseph Crehan) is sure that Chris is still on their side.

    Chris's wife Bessie Bessie (Dorothy Peterson) is also unhappy about the change in their life. She misses her old friends and begs Chris to return to his former job. When Balding takes a vacation, leaving Chris in charge, things completely fall apart at the mill. The men are angry that they must work overtime for no extra money to repair a mistake that Chris failed to catch. But Chris knows only what Tanahill tells him, or fails to tell him, and Tanahill successfully creates a toxic relationship between Bennett and the factory workers.

    After the job is finished, the workers ask to go back on regular time, but Tanahill lies and tells the workers that Chris has ordered the new hours to continue indefinitely. The men become agitated and walk out, then when the gates are locked behind them they view that as further evidence that they are being abused, and they begin throwing rocks and breaking windows. Tanahill calls the police.

    Chris is pulled away from a housewarming party at his new home and he arrives at the mill to confront the men. He tells them he didn't post the order about continuing indefinitely with the work schedule. They think he's lying and goad him into coming out from behind the gate. Chris goes outside the gate and warns the men to quit protesting or the police may hurt some of them. They don't listen and Chris is forced to defend himself when several of them attack him. He's knocked unconscious before the police arrive and disperse the mob.

    As Bennett is revived inside the Mill office, the boiler mechanic, Collins (John Qualen), asked him to confirm what he knew about the problems in the mill, and what orders he'd issued. When it's apparent that Tanahill was at the heart of creating an atmosphere of miscommunication and mistrust, Collins punches out Tanahill, and tells the others assembled, "let that be a lesson to you guys, to punch the right man the next time."

    Chris learned his lessons well and he returns to work closely with the men in the mill, becoming the manager everyone thought and hoped he'd be.

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