Heroes for Sale (1933)




Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

Heroes for Sale Photos

Movie Info

What isn't Heroes for Sale about? Within its 71-minute time frame, this film (co-written by "professional cynic" Wilson Mizner) tackles such issues as disenfranchised war veterans, misguided hero worship, drug addiction, the Depression, capitalism, labor relations and communism. Richard Barthelmess plays a wounded war hero whose hospital stay has turned him into a morphine junkie. He wanders from town to town looking for work during the Depression, only to be turned away with a "we've got our own to watch out for!" Eventually, Barthelmess befriends millionaire-in-the-making Robert H. Barrat, who has invented a revolutionary washing machine. Becoming Barrat's partner, Barthelmess attempts to quell a strike by workers who've been stirred up by Red agitators. With all this going on, Barthelmess still finds time to romance Loretta Young. Heroes for Sale is very much a product of its time, though its entertainment value has remained solid for well over six decades.
Classics , Drama
Directed By:
Written By:
In Theaters:
Warner Bros.


Richard Barthelmess
as Thomas 'Tom' Holmes
Loretta Young
as Ruth Loring Holmes
Aline MacMahon
as Mary Dennis
Gordon Westcott
as Roger Winston
Robert H. Barrat
as Max Brinker
Berton Churchill
as Mr. Winston
Grant Mitchell
as George W. Gibson
Robert McWade
as Dr. Briggs
Charley Grapewin
as Pa Dennis
George Pat Collins
as Head Striker
James Murray
as Blind Man
Edwin Maxwell
as President of the Laundry
Margaret Seddon
as Mrs. Holmes
Arthur Vinton
as Capt. Joyce
Douglas Dumbrille
as Chief Engineer
Charles Grapewin
as Pa Dennis
Milt Kibbee
as Teller
Lee Phelps
as Ed Brady
Milton Kibbee
as Teller
Guy Usher
as Constable
G. Pat Collins
as Head Striker
Robert Elliott
as 'Red' Squad Policeman
Frank Darien
as Hero Greeter
George Irving
as Lawyer
Tammany Young
as Drug Peddler
Hans Fuerberg
as Lefner
Show More Cast

Critic Reviews for Heroes for Sale

All Critics (8) | Top Critics (2)

Many a mystery is less bewildering than Heroes for Sale, which was not intended as a puzzler at all.

Full Review… | June 5, 2014
New York Times
Top Critic

This is also bracingly egalitarian, attacking the hypocrisy of communists and capitalists alike.

Full Review… | June 5, 2014
Chicago Reader
Top Critic

A hokey melodrama that is too far from reality to be enjoyed.

Full Review… | June 5, 2014
TV Guide

Not a gram of fat in Wellman's crazy, urgent, ribald Depression pamphlet

Full Review… | January 24, 2014

A Pre-Code Battle in Seattle... Heroes for Sale is not a perfect film, and not particularly interested in perfection, but really and truly, pretend this isn't a cliché: they don't make 'em like this anymore.

Full Review… | January 5, 2012
Nick's Flick Picks

An astonishment: a no-punches-pulled social history of America from World War I to 1933 that covers trench warfare, drug addiction, Communism, automation, labor riots, false imprisonment, xenophobia, bread lines and more.

Full Review… | February 17, 2011
Commercial Appeal (Memphis, TN)

Audience Reviews for Heroes for Sale


socialist depression era classic, also notable as the last hollywood film to reference drug use for more than 20 years, until preminger's 'man with the golden arm' in 1955. loses some impact with the studio mandated 'everything will be ok with fdr' propaganda ending

Stella Dallas
Stella Dallas

Super Reviewer

Within its 71-minute time frame, this film (co-written by "professional cynic" Wilson Mizner) tackles such issues as disenfranchised war veterans, misguided hero worship, drug addiction, the Depression, capitalism, labor relations and communism.

Greg Wood
Greg Wood

The consensual iconography within 1930s would be the conceits of endurance during the gritty Great Depression and the everlasting anticipation of Messiah - Roosevelt's New Deal, and such conceits are commonly seen in mass culture in this period . William A Wellman's pre-code depression social satire Heroes for Sale (1933) has followed this waiting-for-Messiah mindset, and this film is about a WWI veteran whose credit of bravery was stolen by his comrade, and he deteriorates into a dope-fiend due to the wound he receives during the war. The real hero of the state is not rewarded but rebuked for his severe sufferings. Later on, our rehabilitated hero accepts an anarchist philosopher's invention and applies it to the laundry factory he works for, and that has catapulted both of them into millionaires but also caused the loss of jobs for great many factory workers, who congregate as a mob to protest and damage the community properties. Therefore our guilt-stricken protagonist donates his entire fortune into charity funds for the un-employed meanwhile volunteers to be a drifter wandering around the American railways in a state of abjection. This film has tackled many controversial issues in 1930s, and it suggests the injustices from the state and the idle rich as well as the technophobia of the early stage of industrialization in which humans are made obsolete and going to be substituted with the machines. (This idea was even more famously discussed in Chaplin's Modern Time) Furthermore, it also projects a sense of disbelief over the leftist anarchism, which is doomed to be corrupted by the seductions of wealth and leisure in the capitalist society. Despite its stark comments upon many depression issues, the ending retreats into the pacifist depression-conceits: endure more and wait for the Messiah, and our honorable protagonist shall be the heroic figure of the American commoners, who just grind their teeth and cross their fingers at the hope for the better tomorrow. Even the movie selects the reactionary path at last, but it still relentlessly reveals its loss of faith over the state.

Veronique Kwak
Veronique Kwak

Super Reviewer

Discussion Forum

Discuss Heroes for Sale on our Movie forum!

News & Features