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David Harum (1934 film)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

David Harum
Theatrical release poster
Directed byJames Cruze
Screenplay byWalter Woods
Story byEdward Noyes Westcott
StarringWill Rogers
Louise Dresser
Evelyn Venable
Kent Taylor
Stepin Fetchit
Noah Beery, Sr.
Roger Imhof
CinematographyHal Mohr
Edited byJack Murray
Music byDavid Buttolph
Distributed byFox Film Corporation
Release date
  • March 3, 1934 (1934-03-03)
Running time
83 minutes
CountryUnited States

David Harum is a 1934 American comedy film directed by James Cruze and written by Walter Woods. The film stars Will Rogers, Louise Dresser, Evelyn Venable, Kent Taylor, Stepin Fetchit, Noah Beery, Sr. and Roger Imhof. The film was released on March 3, 1934, by Fox Film Corporation.[1][2][3]

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The film is set during the Panic of 1893.

In the first scene, David Harum, a banker from the small town of Homeville, is visiting aristocratic General Woolsey in New York City. The general recommends John Lennox for employment at Harum's bank. The general also asks Harum to 'give his opinion' on a horse. Harum offers $100 to buy the horse and the General immediately and gleefully says 'Sold!' which makes Harum realizes he has been taken. The General cheerfully explains that the horse is a balker, that is, it will unexpectedly balk when pulling a carriage. This is the General's revenge for a previous horse deal when Harum had gotten the advantage. The general offers to buy the horse back for $50 but Harum decides to keep the horse. The general 'throws in' Swiftly, the black groom of the horse played by Stepin Fetchit.

Ann Madison, from an aristocratic family appears. Her family spends summers in Homeville where Harum taught her how to ride and the two have a close, friendly relationship.

Harum sells the balky horse to Deacon Perkins, thus getting his revenge for having been out traded by the Deacon into getting a blind horse earlier.

When John Lennox arrives in town from New York to start working for David, he immediately makes a good impression on both David and Ann Madison.

Ann decides she wants to get Lennox to propose to her, but David explains that a woman in New York rejected him because he was poor. Harum buys back the balking horse from Deacon Perkins, and hitches it to a carriage just so he can suggest that John Lennox will give Ann a ride home from Church, knowing that the horse will balk along the way and give the couple a chance to get better acquainted. Ann is aware of the ruse, which works and the couple make the first tentative steps towards what Ann hopes will be a courtship.

Ann is so grateful to David that she buys the horse from him.

The budding romance is threatened when Lennox thinks Ann was tricked into a bad deal in buying the horse. Ann is offended that he does not realize that she bought the horse out of gratitude for helping along their romance. This rift is not permanent, but there is still the problem that Lennox will not marry a woman if he cannot support her.

Ann discovers that the horse does not balk when he is sung to. At the end of the film, the horse is entered into a harness race, with David Harum riding against Deacon Perkins and his horse. Harum has persuaded Lennox to bet his entire savings on the horse. If it wins, Lennox will have enough money to feel that he can take a wife.

The film reaches a comical conclusion as David and Ann struggle to provide the right singing and music to keep the horse from balking during the race.

The running gag of the film is in all the bargaining, mostly over horses, and mostly between Harum and Deacon Perkins, in which each party tries to get the best bargain possible, often feigning lack of interest or reluctance to get the other party to sweeten the deal. Some of the methods might be considered unethical, but it is excused because both parties indulge in the same practices, and both know such practices are to be expected, and for the most part, the 'horse trading' seems to be done for the fun of it as much as anything else.

For modern audiences, a controversial aspect of the film is the character Sylvester Swiftly, the groom for the horse who gets 'thrown in' as part of the deal every time the horse is sold or traded. Swiftly is played by black actor Stepin Fetchit and exemplifies the persona which Stepin Fetchit had developed as a listless, shuffling character constantly whining and mumbling under his breath. This persona has received a lot of criticism over the years as a negative racial stereotype. At the end of the film though, Swiftly shows an exuberance and energy in stark contrast to his usual diffident demeanor as he watches the race on which he has placed his own bet.



The film was one of Fox's biggest hits of the year.[4]


  1. ^ Hall, Mordaunt (1934-03-02). "Movie Review – David Harum – THE SCREEN; Will Rogers, Evelyn Venable and Charles Middleton in a Film of That Old Favorite, 'David Harum.'". New York Times. Retrieved 2015-10-16.
  2. ^ "David Harum (1934) – Overview". Retrieved 2015-10-16.
  3. ^ "David Harum". Retrieved 2015-10-16.
  4. ^ D. W. (Nov 25, 1934). "TAKING A LOOK AT THE RECORD". New York Times. ProQuest 101193306.

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This page was last edited on 7 December 2023, at 09:08
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