Cast & Crew
Pike Peters, a nouveau riche Oklahoma oil man, is uncomfortable with his family's new luxurious life style and has an especial dislike for the many guests that attend his wife's parties and the uppity servants attending him. His one source of happiness is his son Ross's engagement to Julia Pearson, a pleasant girl of simple tastes. When Julia decides to postpone the wedding and break their engagement because her father has gone bankrupt, wealthy and spoiled Jackie Harper attempts to capture Ross for herself. Julia asks to work as Pike's secretary and he is delighted. Failures of businesses in which Pike had invested lead him joyfully to fire his servants and approach Hank Cameron, head of the local bank, for a loan. Concerned that Pike would not be a good investment because of his family's extravagant spending, Cameron accepts Pike's luncheon invitation so that he can observe his family's lifestyle. When she learns about the invitation, Idy, Pike's wife, rehires the servants and prepares an extravagant lunch to show up Cameron's wife, who earlier snubbed her. Cameron subsequently refuses the loan, and Pike goes to Chicago to attempt to get help from bankers there. He runs into his old pal, the former Grand Duke Michael of Russia, who has just started work as a doorman of an exclusive hotel. Pike tries to help him park a car and, unfamiliar with the gear shift, crashes it into scaffolding which causes a shower of bricks to fall on the car. Mike is discharged, and the woman who owns the car vows revenge. After failing to get a loan, Pike brings Mike home. To show off her titled guest, Idy gives a lavish reception; however, the woman who vowed revenge in Chicago turns out to be Mrs. Cameron's sister, Mrs. Phillips, and she tells everyone that Mike was a doorman. When Pike learns that Ross has agreed to marry Jackie so that her father will help Pike get out of his financial straits, he abruptly ends the party and angrily calls his guests parasites and then admonishes Ross. Idy, greatly embarrassed, vows never to speak to Pike again, but Julia says she is proud of him. A week later, Ross and Julia, now married, visit Pike and Mike, who live together in the modest home in which Pike and his family lived before they became wealthy. Idy comes for the wedding supper, but will not speak to Pike; however, he involves her in an argument, and soon her anger dispels. Pike predicts that they will get rich again in a few years and then will have to go through the same thing again.
Down to Earth (1932)
1932 was also the year that the film studios began to feel the economic reality of the Great Depression as ticket sales plummeted due to the popularity of radio, which was free after the initial purchase, and the censor boards demands that sex and violence be cleaned up; changes that led to the Production Code being adopted in 1934. Something else which may seem familiar to modern audiences was the public souring on extravagant stars. Like the "celebrities" of the early 2000s with their $1000 handbags, the economic boom of the 1920s created larger-than-life movie stars with expensive homes, clothes and cars. By the early 1930s people out of work and losing their homes began to turn against what they saw as obscenely rich and wasteful behavior by celebrities. This shift in public opinion was reflected at the box-office and it was the more "down to Earth" performers like the homely and elderly Marie Dressler who saw their popularity soar. In 1934, the year before his death in an Alaskan plane crash, Will Rogers was the nation's top box-office attraction.
Rogers' relaxed and unpretentious personality was no act. In February 1932, UCLA professor and historian Will Durant was to lecture at an auditorium in Santa Monica, California and Rogers invited Durant to have dinner at his ranch before the talk. As Rogers' children were away, and his wife recovering from an appendectomy, the dinner was a small one. The guests were just Rogers, Durant, Charlie Chaplin and Chaplin's girlfriend (later wife) Paulette Goddard. Durant later recalled in a letter to his wife Ariel, "Will Rogers sent a nifty Cadillac Roadster for me and after a 50 minute ride I found myself in his immense ranch - an expanse of farmland, grazing pasture, polo field, golf links, bridle paths, barns, garages and a rustic home. He was in his stables when I arrived and greeted me, out of overalls, boots, leather jacket, bronze wrinkled face, and tousled gray hair, with the broadest wholesomest grin in the world. He looks like a cowboy, but has the nerves and mental activity of an artist." During dinner, Rogers began to talk about his newest project at Fox, Down to Earth. Chaplin, never one to miss an opportunity to brainstorm, leapt to his feet and began to give Rogers ideas on how to play certain scenes, and to invent bits of comedic "business" for Rogers to use. Durant was fascinated by how Chaplin was able to make Down to Earth come alive before his eyes. Unfortunately, Chaplin did not appear in Down to Earth and it was not a success at the box-office. Rogers was happy to appear in the film because it gave his friend Croy a good salary, but he wasn't happy with the script. For the rest of his career, he would stick to what he called "tested material" - scripts based on previously successful sources.
Mordaunt Hall in his review for The New York Times, also noted the script's weakness. "Down to Earth was written by Homer Croy, who was also responsible for They Had to See Paris, and the dialogue was contributed by Edwin Burke, who did his share toward making Bad Girl  amusing. In this present picture, however, Mr. Burke's lines lack the keenness of Mr. Rogers's other productions, but on the whole the picture succeeds in being a mildly merry hot-weather entertainment....Mr. Rogers fortifies his part by his drawl and his amusing demeanor. Matty Kemp is quite good as Ross and Irene Rich is attractive in the exaggerated role of Mrs. Pike Peters. Brandon Hurst is effective as the butler and Mary Carlisle is acceptable as a reckless girl of wealth."
Director: David Butler
Screenplay: Edwin J. Burke, Homer Croy
Cinematography: Ernest Palmer
Cast: Will Rogers (Pike Peters), Dorothy Jordan (Julia Pearson), Irene Rich (Idy Peters), Mary Carlisle (Jackie Harper), Harvey Clark (Cameron), Brandon Hurst (Jeffrey, the Butler), Matty Kemp (Ross Peters), Henry Kolker (Randolph), Theodore Lodi (Grand Duke Michael), Louise Mackintosh (Mrs. Phillips), Clarence Wilson (Ed Eggers).
by Lorraine LoBianco
Balio, Tino Grand Design: Hollywood as a Modern Business Enterprise 1930-1939
Hall, Mordaunt "Down to Earth: A Comedy of Butlers and Bankrupts", New York Times 2 Sep 32
Rogers, Will and Gragert, Steven K. The Papers of Will Rogers: The Final Years, August 1928 - August 1935
Yagoda, Ben Will Rogers: A Biography
Down to Earth (1932)
This film was a sequel to Will Rogers' first talking picture, the 1929 Fox film They Had to See Paris, in which he, Irene Rich and Theodore Lodi played the same roles as in this film (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1921-30; F2.5616). In the Twentieth Century-Fox Produced Scripts Collection at the UCLA Theater Arts Library, Homer Croy notes that in the earlier film, the love story revolved around Opal, the Peters' daughter, while in this film, Opal and her husband Clark have gone to live in another town, and the love story concerns the son Ross. According to a pressbook for the film, Theodore Lodi, whose full name was Theodore Lodjinski, was a general of the Imperial Russian Army before the revolution. The pressbook also states that the film finished five days under schedule, and that Rogers wrote personal checks to technicians and staff assistants to make up for their lost salaries because of the early finish. In the film, Will Rogers whistles the song "Jubilo," a song that he sang repeatedly in the later 1932 Fox film, Too Busy to Work (see below). Other films with the same title made by Paramount in 1917 and Columbia in 1947 have no connection with this film.