In Burgendorf, Bavaria, Mother Bernle has four sons. Franz is in the army, Johann works at the forge, Andreas tends the sheep. Joseph is riding a hay wagon with a pretty girl when some of the hay falls off, landing on the fearsome Maj. Von Stomm. Joseph gets a slap from the major... The jovial postman has brought a letter from America. Joseph has the offer of a job in the States. But getting there is so expensive... It's Mother Bernle's birthday and most of the town gathers for the dancing. Mother gives Joseph the money she has secreted away. He leaves for the USA... It is "Der Tag", The Day when war is declared. Franz and Johann are excited about their new uniforms. But America is still neutral. Joseph runs the German-American Delicatessen with his new wife Annabelle. The reports of the first German battles with the Russians are good. So why does the postman carry a black-edged letter for Mother Bernle? When America does enter the war, Joseph enlists and meets his friend, the iceman ... Written by
When the cruel Major gets off the train with his monocle, there is a close-up of a reaction shot of another man with a monocle wearing a helmet, yet that man was not in the previous master shot, a real editing faux pas which disorients the observer. Mistakes like this show that often in the Twenties, the director had no input into the editing process, even a master auteur like John Ford. See more »
In the New York City sequences, which take place immediately after World War I (1919-1920), all of the women's fashions are strictly in the style of 1928, and all of the automobiles are of late 1920's design. See more »
[Hearing a voice groaning in German out in no-man's land]
Hey, Dutch, what's that guy yellin' out there?
Joseph - Her Son:
The poor devil's calling 'Mutterchen' - it means 'little mother.'
In Germany, at the dawn of World War I, widow Margaret Mann (as Frau Bernle) is blessed with "Four Sons" - strapping soldier Francis X. Bushman Jr. (as Franz), dreamy rustic James Hall (as Joseph), handsome metalworker Charles Morton (as Johann), and fair-haired shepherd George Meeker (as Andreas). And, she makes the best honey-cakes in Bavaria. With one son serving the Fatherland, and two more about to join him on the battlefield, Ms. Mann arranges for adventurous Mr. Hall to emigrate to democratic America. There, he opens a delicatessen and marries sweet, beautiful June Collyer (as Annabelle). Eventually, the Great War results in multiple brother tragedies, testing old mother Mann's ability to count her blessings.
The last years of the "silent film" era produced an avalanche of stunning motion pictures; in hindsight, you wonder if the "talkie" might have prevented the silent from advancing even beyond its late 1920s peak. "Four Sons" is another artful example, with John Ford and his picturesque cameramen, George Schneiderman and Charles C. Clarke, directing under the influence of F.W. Murnau - the combination produced a winning film, full of memorable scenes and images. Ford's best symbolic double whammy has two white birds flying to heaven, followed by postman Albert Gran hurling stoning the church's reflection. The restored print looks lovely, but lacks the original's innovative "synchronized sound effects" track, which will hopefully turn up somewhere.
The film won the "Best Picture" of 1928 medal from "Photoplay" and placed #4 on the annual "Film Daily" honor roll.
********* Four Sons (2/13/28) John Ford ~ Margaret Mann, James Hall, George Meeker, Charles Morton
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