Second Looks: Skyscraper Souls (1932)

The Dwight Building is an architectural marvel, one hundred stories tall and crafted with utmost elegance. David Dwight (Warren William), banker, owns the structure… but he may not remain owner for long, when bank examiners begin questioning the loan David made to himself to gain ownership.skysc2

The ruthless David will stop at nothing to keep the magnificent tower in his possession. He’s not only a ruthless businessman, but also a womanizer, carrying on complicated relationships with his advisor/confidant Sarah (Verree Teasdale), Sarah’s secretary Lynn (Maureen O’Sullvian), and wife Ella (Hedda Hopper) alongside all of his professional dramas.

Mergers, insider stock trading and a whole lot of personal drama ensue as David masterminds himself into the highest position of power.

Edgar Selwyn directs 1932’s Skyscraper Souls, which I’m taking a “second look” at today.

This film’s source material, Skyscraper by Faith Baldwin, is one of my favorite novels from the Femme Fatales series of pulp re-prints. I first watched the adaptation on TCM during a SUTS day dedicated to Warren William. I decided to revisit it when TCM ran it in September as a part of the pre-code Friday Night Spotlights.

There are a few major differences between book and film, though they’ve already been pointed out at length by other reviewers. (Cliff Aliperti’s piece does a good job of breaking the differences down.) Having not re-read the novel recently (as I had done the first time I watched the film), I decided to take a second look at Skyscraper Souls without the source material fresh in my mind.

This film is perfectly cast. There isn’t a bad performer in the bunch. There could be no better Dwight than Warren William, master of the “love him and love to hate him,” ultra-smarmy character.

(Image via Cinema Fanatic)

(Image via Cinema Fanatic)

The personal and professional dramas of the characters are woven together quite well, with the big merger making up a much larger portion of the story than in the novel. The other major subplot is the Lynn/Tom romance (which I love, with Tom trying so hard to impress Lynn in the beginning). There is somewhat of a balance struck between these two plots, and they’re very closely connected.

This is one of those cases in which I’ll always love the book more than the film. Since I consider it a favorite, it’d be hard for any adaptation to measure up. However, Skyscraper Souls is a solid adaptation and a very enjoyable pre-code film.

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