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A German immigrant to a small American town is a widower with four children and a barber. He has saved enough money to invest in a partnership in a savings-and-loan company with a friend. But a son has been stricken with tuberculosis, and the investment money goes to pay for the son's treatment in Arizona. The man continues to be a barber. Twenty years later, the wastrel son of the now-rich man who was to have been his partner, falls in love with the barber's daughter. Written by
Les Adams <firstname.lastname@example.org>
THE SINS OF THE CHILDREN cause their father grief, but he never stops loving them.
Despite its slightly lurid title, this film is all about love. Full of small moments beautifully played, it gives a portrait of an American family over a series of several years, held together through times of tribulation by a proud papa who adores his family unstintingly. This is a 'feel good film' in the best sense of the phrase and perfect to enjoy at the Christmas Holidays. It is a shame that this little gem has become so obscure.
As Adolf Wagenkampf, immigrant German barber, Louis Mann is nothing short of magnificent, giving one of the first great performances of the sound era. Showing enormous confidence in front of the camera, Mann steals the show with his mannerisms and accent, his pliable face registering every triumph or tragedy, every hope or defeat, which comes his way. Mann's beautiful soul is authentic, his talent undeniable. Unfortunately, this was to be virtually his only film. Louis Mann died in February of 1931, at the age of 65.
A very fine cast supports Mann throughout: Clara Blandick as his gentle wife; Francis X. Bushman Jr as the doctor son ashamed of his family name; Elliott Nugent as the inventor son, whose unwise impulse costs his father dearly; pretty Leila Hyams as the headstrong youngest daughter; and James Dolan as the obnoxious son-in-law.
(It was actor Nugent, playing the part of the youngest Wagenkampf son, who was largely responsible for both the original story and dialogue for the film. It's success is his, as well.)
In one of his earliest roles, Robert Montgomery scores as the local cad who compromises Hyams; Robert W. Wade is his heartless father, the richest man in Harristown. Henry Armetta is excellent as Tony, the exuberant and intensely loyal Italian barber who works for Mann. Mary Doran is the feisty new manicurist and Dell Henderson is the town's genial sheriff.
Movie mavens will recognize an uncredited Jackie Searl playing Montgomery as a child.
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