The Match King

For the businessman nicknamed the "Match King", see Ivar Kreuger.
The Match King

Movie poster
Directed by William Keighley
Howard Bretherton
Produced by Hal B. Wallis
Written by Houston Branch
Sidney Sutherland
Starring Warren William
Lili Damita
Glenda Farrell
Juliette Compton
Music by W. Franke Harling
Bernhard Kaun
Cinematography Robert Kurrle
Edited by Jack Killifer
Distributed by Warner Bros.
Release dates
  • December 31, 1932 (1932-12-31)
Running time
79 min.
Country United States
Language English
Budget $165,000[1]

The Match King is a 1932 American Pre-Code drama film made by First National Pictures, directed by William Keighley and Howard Bretherton. The film starred Warren William and Lili Damita, and follows the rise and fall of Swedish safety match tycoon Ivar Kreuger. Based on the novel by Einar Thorvaldson, the film was released in December 31, 1932.[2]


Though a lowly Chicago street cleaner, Swedish immigrant Paul Kroll (Warren William) is ambitious and unscrupulous. When a fellow employee is fired (due to one of Kroll's schemes), Kroll convinces his foreman (John Wray) to keep him on the payroll (officially at least) so they can split his salary. Soon there are eight "phantom" workers, and Kroll and his partner have amassed $460. However, Kroll has been romancing his partner's wife, Babe (Glenda Farrell), behind his back.

Meanwhile, he has also been lying to the people of his hometown, telling them what a successful businessman he has become. As a result, when the local match factory is in trouble, his uncle begs him to return and save it. Kroll gets Babe to withdraw the money he has stolen, deceiving her into thinking they are running away together, then leaves her behind as he sails away to Sweden.

Back home, he cons the local bank into giving him a loan to buy a second match factory so he can merge them. Only his friend Erik Borg (Hardie Albright) knows the truth about Kroll's "success", so Kroll recruits him as his all-too-trusting second in command in his expanding business. Eventually, Kroll owns all of the match factories in Sweden. However, his ambitions do not stop there. Using information he obtains from beautiful, well-placed women he has charmed, he gains official match monopolies in first Poland, then Germany and other countries by offering loans to cash-strapped governments and bribes to corrupt officials.

One day, while dining with Ilse Wagner (Claire Dodd), one of his conquests, he is dazzled by the beauty of star actress Marta Molnar (Lili Damita). Despite her initial rebuffs, he goes to great lengths to win her heart, even hiring a celebrated "gypsy violinist" to serenade her. So enamored is he that he dangerously neglects his business, financed by an ever-growing series of loans.

However, he reluctantly returns his attention to his company. One of his agents discovers an eccentric recluse named Christian Hobe (an uncredited Harry Beresford) has invented an everlasting match, so Kroll has him locked away as a madman.

When the stock market crashes, Kroll can no longer obtain a bank loan. In desperation, he buys $50 million in fake Italian bonds from forger Scarlatti (Harold Huber), whom he then dumps in the middle of a lake to drown. With the bonds as collateral, he obtains a $40 million loan from an American bank. Then he thinks of retiring. He asks Marta to marry him, only to discover that, in his frequent absences, she has fallen in love with Trino, the gypsy violinist. Much worse, his forgeries are detected, and his American loan is canceled. Kroll shoots himself on the balcony and his body tumbles into the gutter, where he started.


Film still with Damita and William


A print of the film is held at the Library of Congress.[3]

See also


  1. "The Match King: Detail View". American Film Institute. Archived from the original on November 11, 2014. Retrieved November 11, 2014.
  2. The AFI Catalog of Feature Films:The Match King
  3. Catalog of Holdings The American Film Institute Collection and The United Artists Collection at The Library of Congress pg. 113 c.1978 by The American Film Institute
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