Cast & Crew
Jim Gladden, a construction site foreman, is partially responsible for the accidental death of one of his workers, Fred Smith, and makes good on Fred's deathbed request to go to Scotch Valley and take care of his surviving wife and children. When Jim arrives in the small town, he is told that there are two Fred Smith families in Scotch Valley, the rich Smiths and the poor Smiths. Jim assumes that the Smiths he is looking for are the poor ones, and is directed to a house where four children live in poverty. In the absence of her recently deceased mother and deserting father, Sally, the oldest child, has taken over the responsibilities of rearing the other three children. Initially, Sally mistrusts Jim's intrusion, but later realizes his good intentions and accepts his help. Wanting to find food for the children, Jim asks about their neighbors, and Pete, the oldest boy, informs Jim that one neighbor, Sam Pelgram, once beat him and later cut off their water supply. Jim, unable to believe that any man could be so cruel, goes to see Pelgram for himself and discovers that Pete's description is accurate. After failing to reason with mean-spirited Pelgram, Jim tries to reason with his wife, but soon realizes that she is only interested in seducing him. Jim seeks the legal help of William J. Hansen to begin adoption procedures and, in town, meets Olive Smith, an attractive young woman to whom he is instantly attracted. Sally soon becomes jealous of Jim and Olive's relationship and competes with Olive for his attention. Meanwhile, Pelgram organizes a group of local men to run Jim out of town by abducting and whipping him. Jim survives the ordeal and later discovers that Pelgram wants the Smith ranch because he has found oil on it. At the guardianship hearings, Mrs. Pelgram testifies against Jim's character by fabricating a story about how he made sexual advances toward her. The judge, however, is convinced of Jim's suitability as a parent and grants him custody of the children. Returning to the Smith ranch, Jim and the children are shocked to see their father, who has just been released from San Quentin. Smith announces that, just moments before, he sold the ranch to Pelgram. When Smith learns about the oil on the land, he welches on his deal with Pelgram, and Pelgram kills him. Pelgram is then arrested and led away to prison. Despite his realization that he has been living with the wrong Smith family all along, Jim decides to remain with his newly adopted family.
Working titles for this picture were Scotch Valley and Bachelor Affairs. The Mildred Cram novel on which the film was based first appeared serially in American Magazine May-October 1927. According to the Twentieth Century-Fox Produced Scripts Collection at the UCLA Theater Arts Library, Fox purchased the film rights to Cram's novel for $5,000. The story file also contains an early treatment of the film, in which it was suggested that Helen Mack be cast in the part of "Sally" if her performance in While Paris Sleeps (see below) was a success. Janet Gaynor was also named as a possible candidate for the part. A November 19, 1931 draft of the script credited Don Marquis with the dialogue and continuity, and a tentative script, dated December 29, 1931, listed John Seitz as the cameraman, Albert Protzman as the sound man and Gordon Wiles as the art director. Although the tentative script also listed actors Tommy Conlon (Pete Smith), William Pawley (Sam Pelgram), Minna Gombell (Lottie Pelgram) and Elda Vokel (Olive Smith) in the cast, all but William Pawley were replaced by the time of production. According to information contained in the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library, the "graphic" depiction of "Jim" being beaten was deleted by censors in New York, Alberta, Ontario and elsewhere.