Depression Era story set in London has department store owner (Lewis Stone) facing bankruptcy while his family fritters away money. A long-standing employee (Lionel Barrymore) gets fired ... See full summary »
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Robert Z. Leonard
Depression Era story set in London has department store owner (Lewis Stone) facing bankruptcy while his family fritters away money. A long-standing employee (Lionel Barrymore) gets fired but finds new life in a home-based bakery. The owner's wife (Benita Hume) can't face life without money, so she runs off with another man. The tables turn, however, when a last-minute reprieve saves the store and a new relationship is forged between the men. Written by
Despite my summary I liked this film quite a bit. The actors were all very good, their character portrayals genuine and believable. Nothing else could be expected of the Americans, Lionel Barrymore and Lewis Stone, both or whom were first rate thespians. Of the British actors I am familiar with only three, Benita Hume, Phillips Holmes and Colin Clive and they all acquitted themselves well, especially Clive in a role quite unlike his portrayal of Dr. Frankestein. Overall all actors were very good as was the script if somewhat stagy.
My criticism is directed at the outcome, already criticized by others but for the wrong reasons in my opinion. Many felt its optimism misplaced and unrealistic. I for one don't think so. Call me altruistic but I believe the human race as a whole or as individuals really do excel when faced with adversity. We have an innate ability to be creative when we need it the most. Evolution itself proves that, and perhaps that is why we have it in us.
The missed opportunity has to do with the resolution itself. The emphasis was on the individuals and their ability to find solutions and shape the future. This is where the film shows its American roots. We are a nation of individualists, every one of us a king, master of our own domain and ruler of our destiny. And yet throughout the film I couldn't help but wonder what would have happened had management gathered the work force and collectively addressed the issues facing the business. Service (the Lewis Stone character) felt paternalistic toward his employees and I guess that is commendable but it would have been so much better if he had treated them as partners rather than children. His employees had an equal stake, perhaps even a bigger one because they didn't have the option of being bought out and living out their lives in comfort.
So this is where "Looking Forward" fails. It starts out as a quasi propaganda film when considering the quotations at the beginning and end and the reference to FDR. I wonder where our country would be today if during the Depression the emphasis had been placed on collective action instead. We might have a better sense of our neighbors' plight and a greater willingness to help them out.
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