Cast & Crew
Because he is unable to say no to his loving but extravagant wife Dorothy, John Day, an employee of a building and loan company, has fallen into deep debt. Consequently, while celebrating his birthday with friends, John is arrested for embezzlement and is taken to the county jail. After her request for a bail loan is turned down by a number of her friends, Dorothy seeks help from George Hollins, a prosperous businessman. Hollins, who has long lusted after Dorothy, agrees to help John by paying for his legal services, but quietly orders the lawyer to try the case in a manner that will assure John a jail sentence. After John is sentenced to a two-year jail term, Dorothy vows to visit him every day and is, at first, faithful to her pledge. Eventually, however, Dorothy's financial situation becomes desperate, and she returns to Hollins for help in finding a job. Although Dorothy has no clerical skills, Hollins insists that she take a job in his office, an offer that evokes the jealousy of his former lover, Kate Lovett, the head of his secretarial pool. As Dorothy increasingly is distracted by the amorous attentions of Hollins, her visits to John decrease. Only Mamie, the Days's devoted maid, maintains her loyalty to John and tries in vain to keep Dorothy "honest." While Dorothy dates Hollins, Mamie arranges for John to view his two young children from his jail cell window. Thrilled by the sight of his children, John makes excuses for Dorothy's absence and maintains to Hart, his fellow convict, his wife's unflagging fidelity. Kate, however, is less sure of Dorothy and finally accuses Hollins of shameless adultery. After Hollins angrily fires her, Kate swears revenge and storms from the office in a fury. That night, Kate sneaks into Hollins' apartment and overhears Dorothy and he pledging their mutual love. Incensed with jealousy, Kate confronts the couple at gunpoint and coldly shoots and kills her rival. Hollins assumes the blame for the killing and ends up in the same jail as John. When John's convict friend Harry, who, like John, has read about Dorothy's murder in the newspapers, realizes that Hollins has been assigned to his cell, he beats him unconscious. To be near Hollins, who has been transferred to the jail hospital and has been warned by Hart not to squeal on Harry, John feigns illness. On the hospital's rooftop, John sneaks up to an unsuspecting Hollins and begins to fight him. During the melee, Hart comes on the rooftop and, seeing John in mortal danger, pushes Hollins over the edge. Hart assumes responsibility for Hollins' death, and John eventually is released. After John is happily reunited with his children and Mamie in the country, Mamie accepts the proposal of Jerry, a milkman who has longed loved her.
Clarence H. Wilson
Day of Reckoning
Based on a novel by Morris Lavine, this Depression-era drama was built around the hardships faced by families who were forced to survive on lower incomes -- a common problem of the day. Dix plays John Day, who is accused of using company money to pay bills run up by his spendthrift wife, Dorothy (Madge Evans). After he is imprisoned, George Hollins (Conway Tearle), a conniving businessman, moves in on Dorothy. This leads the businessman's jilted girlfriend (Isabel Jewell, later to play Emmy Slattery in Gone with the Wind, 1939) to shoot Dorothy. When Hollins takes the rap and is sent to the same prison as Day, the two men face a day of reckoning that only one will survive.
Prominent in supporting roles are Una Merkel as the Days' helpful Southern maid and Stuart Erwin as the milkman who seeks her hand. Charming little scene-stealer Spanky McFarland of Our Gang fame appears as one of the Days' two children.
Coming so early in the history of sound movies, Day of Reckoning has unusually fluid direction by Charles Brabin, who shot many scenes on location around Los Angeles, including the climactic fight high above the city's streets.
In the 1940s, after a declining career that included many "B" features, Dix again abandoned his stalwart image to take on neurotic and even psychopathic roles -- most memorably that of the obsessive-compulsive captain in The Ghost Ship (1943). The actor, who died in 1949, also faced acting challenges by playing both heroes and villains in Columbia's low-budget The Whistler mystery series (1944-47).
Producer: Lucien Hubbard
Director: Charles Brabin
Screenplay: Eve Greene, Zelda Sears, from novel by Morris Lavine
Cinematography: Ted Tetzlaff
Art Direction: Eddie Imazu
Original Music: William Axt (uncredited)
Editing: Adrienne Fazan
Cast: Richard Dix (John Day), Madge Evans (Dorothy Day), Conway Tearle (George Hollins), Una Merkel (Mamie), Stuart Erwin (Jerry), George Spanky McFarland (Johnny Day), Isabel Jewell (Kate Lovett).
by Roger Fristoe
Day of Reckoning
The working titles of this film were Forever Faithful and Hall of Justice. Hollywood Reporter reviewed the picture as Forever Faithful. According to Hollywood Reporter news items, Richard Boleslavsky was first hired to direct the production, then was replaced by Russell Mack so that Boleslavsky could direct M-G-M's Hollywood Party. Charles Brabin took over direction after Mack was reassigned to another picture. Hollywood Reporter news items announced that M-G-M wanted Richard Barthelmess for the film's lead but felt his salary demands were too high. Although a Hollywood Reporter news item announced Genevieve Tobin as a featured player, that actress probably did not appear in the picture. Modern sources note that the film was shot in two weeks, an unusually brief time for an M-G-M production. Day of Reckoning was the only film that Richard Dix made at the studio.