I like this movie. It covers territory most '30s films stayed away from (the effects of a divorce and remarriage on two young brothers) and it holds your interest to the end.
Jackie Cooper is the attention-needing younger brother who dislikes his new, emotionally detached step-father (who can blame him?) and feels betrayed by his emotionally weak mother (again...). They don't even tell Cooper they're getting married until the deed is done, the weasels! His older brother, played just adequately by Maurice Murphy, is gone for half the picture and sidetracked by the girl next door in the other half, so he's not much help, either.
The lone parental figure Cooper can rely on (to the extent that the law will allow it) is his biological father, played by Lewis Stone. He's cool. In his very first scene he finds a skull in the ground - it doesn't get any cooler than that! Their scenes together are wonderful, two consummate professionals of very different age, playing off each other with a casual ease.
Alas, this story is determined to have Cooper embrace his new lot in life, so a melodramatic climax is contrived wherein the step-father (Conrad Nagel), a family doctor, saves the life of Cooper's brother and proves himself worthy of Cooper's acceptance.
That ending's wack. I'd rather see a movie where Lewis Stone and Jackie Cooper rage against the social order! There needed to be a high-octane sequel, directed by Quentin Tarantino or Jean-Luc Godard. I'd pay to watch that.
Divorce in the Family is not available on DVD or VHS, but has been broadcast on Turner Classic Movies.