The Match King is about a man named Paul Krall (Warren William). Paul is a Swedish immigrant living and working as a janitor in the Midwestern United States. Paul is not an honest man. He has another man fired so he could get someone else a job. That someone else happens to be the husband of a girl he has been sneaking around with.
One day Paul receives a letter from his uncle who owns a match factory back in Sweden. The uncle needs help with his factory and business. Paul decides to go back home. He makes the girl he has been seeing think she is coming with him but he plans on leaving her behind.
At the factory Paul suggests a merger between his company and another one. He tells someone from the bank that he has vast holdings in America that he can repay the loan with. The story about the holdings is a lie but Paul is very confident he can have the company making money. Over some time the factory becomes successful. Paul wants to buy up all the match factories in the country. He really wants money and power above everything else.
When the company becomes powerful and successful Paul comes up with the idea to play people’s superstitions by advertising it is bad luck to use one match to light three cigarettes so people will buy their own matches. Paul wants to buy into the Polish match business. He uses a woman named Sonia as blackmail. He has no fully become an immoral businessman who knows information on all the important people in Europe. He tells someone he does not even like matches and uses a lighter to light his own cigarettes. The company corners the match market in Germany. Paul now has a monopoly on matches in Europe.
While Paul is out with a woman in Paris he sees a beautiful woman named Marta (Lili Damita) walk into the nightclub. He is completely taken with her the moment she walked in. The next day he sends Marta a diamond bracelet with a note to meet him for dinner at seven o’clock. Marta never shows and at ten o’clock she sends a messenger over with the bracelet. Marta had the messenger deliver the bracelet at that time and also had the hotel operator at the hotel she was staying at tell Paul she was on her way when in reality she had left hours before. Paul eventually finds Marta at a hotel in the mountains.
Marta keeps herself in her room because she is mad at Paul when he shows up. She listens to a record over and over by a violinist. That night the violinist was supposed to be playing in Berlin. When her record stops she hears the violinist playing outside her room. Paul arranged for the violinist to come play for her.
Paul is creating problems by taking out loans to take other factories over. Once again he is not worried. Even though the company is successful his finances are never very good. By this time Paul has become extremely corrupt and willing to do anything to make money. He hears about a scientist who has created a match that can be struck over and over again. To bring this new scientist on board at the company he has the current scientist sent to the asylum on false charges of insanity. Paul meets with a man to obtain fake money so he can make an expensive deal. He does not let the man go he kills him so no word of their deal will ever be known.
Paul meets with Marta in New York City after a few years of not seeing her. He wants to marry her but she has fallen in love with the violinist while she was waiting for Paul to return.
The bankers come to see Paul. They know what he has done. Paul cannot live with himself for all he has done in his life. He kills himself before he can be arrested.
The Match King does not have a very happy ending nor is it a very cheerful film. It was not bad at all even though it was a moral lesson in how creed for money and power can corrupt a person. The main character is an ass and a sleaze yet I liked him. Maybe I liked him because Warren William is just awesome and I love seeing him in a film no matter how bad he is. Lili Damita was barely in the film. Warner Bros. probably had no clue what to do with her at this point in her career and just decided to stick her in this or they just wanted another name in it. Whatever the case may be I felt bad Damita had such a small insignificant role. The Match King, as I said, was good but it is not a film that I highly suggest seeing. I can only suggest watching The Match King if you like Pre-Codes or Warren William.