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Wednesday, May 7, 2014

THE GREEN YEARS (1946)

M-G-M split the difference on two coming-of-age classics, HOW GREEN WAS MY VALLEY/’41 and THE CORN IS GREEN/’45, co-opting the color GREEN in the title as they grabbed plot points and moved signposts from Wales to Scotland for this very sentimental education. A. J. Cronin’s novel might be prequel to THE CITADEL/’39, his better known country doctor/big city story.* And under director Victor Saville, it comes out as pretty sticky stuff. The first half works well enough as young Dean Stockwell, an orphaned lad with a scientific bent, is taken in by his eccentric relatives. Alas, he grows up into the pleasant, but hopelessly bland Tom Drake (Judy Garland’s ‘Boy Next Door’ from MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS/’44) and moons over an even blander ingenue, Beverly Tyler. Neither really survived the star push.** Instead, the film is taken over by the bickering family, especially Charles Coburn’s Great-Grandfather who lays on the darling-old-man shtick with a trowel. He also inherited Bert Lahr’s Cowardly Lion hairstylist. Yikes!

DOUBLE-BILL: *King Vidor's uneven film adaptation of THE CITADEL is at its considerable best in the first half when anarchist doctor Ralph Richardson shares screen time with idealist doctor Robert Donat.

SCREWY THOUGHT OF THE DAY: **Was this film developed for rising star Robert Walker? Under M-G-M contract at the time and on track for bigger things, he certainly makes a better match with Dean Stockwell as his younger self.

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