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Thursday, July 10, 2008


John Ford acolytes overrate this title about an obstinate widow (Henrietta Crosman) who sends her only son off to WWI to keep him from marrying the ‘wrong’ girl.’ It’s fascinating to see the warring influences of F. W. Murnau & D. W. Griffith fighting for the great director’s soul (the film is physically stunning with a shockingly blunt death scene in the war trenches), but the inconsistencies in story construction & acting end up begging rather then earning our response. The third act feels entirely contrived. It all might have worked better with an actress less stage-oriented than Henrietta Crosman in the lead. She’s far more comfortable as matriarch of the Barrymore/Drew clan in George Cukor’s THE ROYAL FAMILY OF BROADWAY/’30. (As a pipe smoking mom who is also taking the 'pilgrimage' to honor lost sons, Lucille LaVerne shows just what Ford hoped to get out of Crosman.) Watch for a European village set that’s left over from Ford’s WWI silent ‘mother-love’ epic (FOUR SONS/'28) and enjoy the acting of a cute kid named Jay Ward who grew up to create Rocky & Bullwinkle.

NOTE: Although it’s relatively stagebound & not currently on DVD, try to see John Cromwell’s THE SILVER CORD (from the same year; w/ Irene Dunne, Joel McCrea, Frances Dee, Eric Linden & Laura Hope Crews all giving peak perfs) for a far stronger take on the dangers of ‘Mother-Love.’

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