One Third of a Nation

The misery of slum life is exposed in this long-lost classic.
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Format:  DVD-R
item number:  ALP 7698D
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DVD-R Details

  • Run Time: 1 hours, 16 minutes
  • Video: Black & White
  • Encoding: Region 0 (Worldwide)
  • Released: September 1, 2015
  • Originally Released: 1939
  • Label: Alpha Video

Performers, Cast and Crew:

Starring , , &
Directed by

Description by

The misery of slum life is exposed in this long-lost classic, rarely seen since it shocked moviegoers in 1939. A fire strikes the run-down tenement building where Mary Rogers lives with her younger brother, Joey. The boy is seriously injured, but wealthy passerby Peter Cortlant makes sure he gets to the hospital in time to save his life. The millionaire is shocked to discover that he is actually the owner of the Rogers' apartment building, and therefore responsible for the poor conditions that led to the boy's injury. He vows to make things right, while at the same time romancing the headstrong Mary. But young Joey, now on crutches and ignorant of Cortlant's good intentions, is determined to burn down the building that made him a cripple.

OneThird of a Nation began as an off-Broadway play produced as part of the Works Progress Administration. It quickly became a sensation, playing to capacity houses, with Eleanor Roosevelt attending a performance. Despite the controversial subject matter, a film version was soon in the works, and filmed at the Eastern Service Studios in Astoria, New York. Acclaimed actress Sylvia Sidney was enlisted to star, based on her roles in similar urban melodramas such as Street Scene (1931), Fury (1936), and Dead End (1937). Handsome leading man Leif Erikson was borrowed from New York's Group Theatre; he later appeared in classics like Show Boat (1951), Invaders from Mars (1953) and On the Waterfront (1954). One Third of a Nation is also notable as famed director Sidney Lumet's first and only appearance as an actor in a feature film. Eighteen years later he would direct 12 Angry Men (1957), beginning a career as one of Hollywood's most celebrated and influential filmmakers. His masterworks include Serpico (1973), Dog Day Afternoon (1975), Network (1976) and The Verdict (1982). (His father, Baruch Lumet, also appears in One Third of a Nation.) The film was delayed from its initial December 23, 1938 release due to violations of the Production Code Authority, but perhaps because of the original play's government sponsorship, a number of shocking scenes were left in the final cut. The title is a quote Franklin Delano Roosevelt's second inaugural address: "...I see one third of a nation ill-housed, ill-clad, ill-nourished..."


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Product Info

  • Sales Rank: 26,343
  • UPC: 089218769893
  • Shipping Weight: 0.25/lbs (approx)
  • International Shipping: 1 item

Film Collectors & Archivists: Alpha Video is actively looking for rare and unusual pre-1943 motion pictures, in good condition, from Monogram, PRC, Tiffany, Chesterfield, and other independent studios for release on DVD. We are also interested in TV shows from the early 1950s. Share your passion for films with a large audience. Let us know what you have.
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