Ruthless


1h 45m 1948

Brief Synopsis

Horace Vendig shows himself to the world as a rich philanthropist. In fact, the history of his rise from his unhappy broken home shows this to be far from the case. After being taken in by richer neighbours he started to exhibit an obsessive and selfish urge to make more and more money, loving and leaving women at will to further this end.

Film Details

Also Known As
Prelude to Night
Genre
Drama
Release Date
Apr 1948
Premiere Information
World Premiere in Chicago: 16 Apr 1948
Production Company
Producing Artists, Inc.
Distribution Company
Eagle-Lion Films, Inc.
Country
United States
Location
Santa Catalina Island, California, United States
Screenplay Information
Based on the novel Prelude to Night by Dayton Stoddart (New York, 1945).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 45m
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
9,430ft (12 reels)

Synopsis

Multi-millionaire Horace Woodruff Vendig hosts a large dinner party with representatives from the U.S. State Department and United Nations present. Also on the guest list are Vic Lambdin, Horace's boyhood friend and former business partner, and Vic's woman friend, pianist Mallory Flagg. During the party, Horace announces that he is establishing a peace foundation and intends to donate his estate and an endowment fund of twenty-five million dollars to the cause. Horace then meets with Vic and Mallory privately and is shocked by Mallory, who is a double for Martha Burnside, a woman with whom he was once in love. Horace then thinks about his childhood near Boston and the occasion when he, Vic and Martha were in a canoe together: After the canoe capsizes, Horace saves Martha from drowning. Horace's domineering mother, who is a piano teacher, is unimpressed when Martha's mother comes to thank Horace, as she feels that Mrs. Burnside, who is a local society woman, looks down on her. That night, Horace and Vic go to visit Horace's father Pete at the fish restaurant he owns. Pete has just won some money and gives his son, whom he sees very infrequently, money for clothes. When Horace returns home, he discovers his mother being courted by a suitor. Unhappy with his homelife, Horace contrives to make a permanent home with the Burnsides, who are willing to put him up in their coachhouse and support him out of gratitude for saving Martha's life. Years later, during Martha's eighteenth birthday party, Vic, who has been courting Martha, returns from Dartmouth College to find that she has lost interest in him and asks Horace to talk with her. Martha tells Horace that she is not going to marry Vic because she is in love with him. They tell Vic, who accepts the situation gracefully, but warns Horace never to do anything to hurt Martha. With her parents' approval, Martha and Horace become engaged and the ambitious Horace tells Burnside, whom he now calls "Dad," that he wants to leave the insurance company where he is working to attend Harvard. Although initially troubled by the additional costs, Burnside agrees to make that possible. The night before Horace is to leave for Harvard, he and Martha have a tryst. At Harvard, Horace cultivates a friendship with his wealthy classmate, Bradford Duane, and Bradford's sister Susan. After breaking a date with Martha, Horace visits the Duane home and meets Bradford's uncle, J. Norton Sims, an influential banker, and impresses him with his knowledge of current trends in the stock market. Sims offers Horace a post as assistant manager of his industrial securities division in New York and, when Horace abandons his studies at Harvard, he and Susan become secretly engaged. Horace goes to see Martha and, although she has something important to tell him, overwhelms her with the news that he is moving to New York and that she will not be part of his future plans. His reminiscences over, Horace dances with Mallory at the dinner party, and they and Vic encounter Buck and Christa Mansfield, two others who have figured prominently in Horace's dealings. Horace then recalls when Vic, a wealthy engineer, returned from South America and told him that Burnside had died and that Martha had disappeared. Horace tells Vic about his plan to take over a utilities empire controlled by Mansfield and convinces Vic to invest in a partnership to overthrow him, then uses Susan's family connections to get to banker Bruce McDonald. Vic views the proposed takeover as a way of breaking a monopoly and enabling poor people to become rich, but Horace is concerned only with personal wealth and power and convinces McDonald that his plan can work. Initially, Mansfield outsmarts Horace's attempts to take control of his empire, but Horace seduces Mansfield's young wife Christa and, by using information supplied by her, is able to engineer a takeover. After Susan discovers Horace and Christa together in a speakeasy, she breaks their engagement, after which Christa tells Mansfield that she is leaving him as he is now an old, defeated man. Later, Christa marries Horace while Mansfield sinks into ruin. Five years later, when Vic returns from a trip, he learns that Horace and Crista are about to be divorced and is is dismayed to find that McDonald has been waiting four days to see Horace about a five-million dollar loan to save his bank, which is in danger of failing because of Horace's machinations. As Vic and Horace argue about the loan, McDonald shoots and kills himself in the outer office. Vic tells Horace that he hates him and withdraws from their partnership. Back at the dinner party, Horace talks with Mallory, telling her that although they have just met, he loves her. Vic and Mallory prepare to leave, but Mallory wants to go to a nearby pier from which Horace is to leave to board his yacht for the start of a long voyage. Vic is concerned that Mallory may go with Horace, but she is simply curious about him. At the pier, as Vic condemns Horace's business practices and life-style, Mansfield appears and tries to strangle Horace. In the struggle, Mansfield pushes Vic, who falls to the level below and is knocked out. Mallory helps to revive Vic, but Mansfield and Horace then fall into the water and disappear beneath the surface.

Film Details

Also Known As
Prelude to Night
Genre
Drama
Release Date
Apr 1948
Premiere Information
World Premiere in Chicago: 16 Apr 1948
Production Company
Producing Artists, Inc.
Distribution Company
Eagle-Lion Films, Inc.
Country
United States
Location
Santa Catalina Island, California, United States
Screenplay Information
Based on the novel Prelude to Night by Dayton Stoddart (New York, 1945).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 45m
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
9,430ft (12 reels)

Quotes

Trivia

Notes

This film's working title was Prelude to Night. Although S. K. Lauren and Gordon Kahn were given credit for the screenplay when the film was initially released, the WGA restored blacklisted screenwriter Alvah Bessie's credit. WGA's official credits for the film now read: "Screenplay by Alvah Bessie and S. K. Lauren and Gordon Kahn. Based on the novel Prelude to Night by Dayton Stoddart." Some scenes were filmed on location on Catalina Island, CA.

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States 1983

Released in United States Spring April 3, 1948

Screenwriter Alvah Bessie was uncredited due to being blacklisted. His credit was restored in 1999.

Released in United States 1983 (Shown at FILMEX: Los Angeles International Film Exposition (A "B-Movie" Marathon) April 13 - May 1, 1983.)

Released in United States Spring April 3, 1948