Wellman’s pessimistic 1933 film presents the story of Tom Holmes (Richard Barthelmess), a soldier whose heroism on the battlefield is credited to a well-to-do friend. Returning from war, Tom becomes addicted to morphine, kicks it, and goes through a series of successes followed by quick setbacks. Cynical nearly to a fault, Heroes for Sale is perhaps one of the most indicting films of the Great Depression, skewering the failure of both nationalist and socialist ideology when pitted against the suffering of the masses waiting in breadlines for their next meal (the film’s most famous line of dialogue is “it’s the end of America.”). “The New Deal finale in the rain cannot wash away the downpour that floods what is not a Warner Brothers ‘Americanism story’ but an anti-Americanism story.”—Thomas Doherty, Pre-Code Hollywood.
35mm print preserved by the Library of Congress.