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Young idealist Richard Miller is selected as valedictorian for his New England high school commencement class of 1906 and intends to inject modern anti-capitalistic ideas into his speech. His father, Nat Miller, accidentally learns of it and interrupts Richard's speech before he can make a fool of himself. The small town later celebrates the Fourth of July with customary fireworks, picnics and the like, with Richard spending time with his girl, Muriel McComber, who promises she will allow him to kiss her one day. When Richard sends poems of love to Muriel, quoting the likes of Omar Khayyám and Swinburne, her father prevents her from ever seeing him again and forces her to write a letter denouncing him. Heartbroken, Richard drowns his sorrow in a local bar, drinking and smoking with a vamp called Belle, and comes home drunk. Alcoholic uncle Sid, who is used to the effects of liquor, nurses Richard back to sobriety, but Richard still must face the uncertain punishment of his father as ... Written by
Arthur Hausner <email@example.com>
This film is a veritable treasure for those who appreciate small-town Americana at the turn of the century. Set in New England in 1906, we see the plethora of events typical of the era: the high school graduation with individual seniors singing, reciting poetry and the valedictorian speech; the Fourth of July celebration with fireworks and picnics; the careful relationships between the young boys and girls; the close-knit family life with a sister and brother of the parents living with them. I thoroughly enjoyed Clarence Brown's depiction of this lost innocent era, which produced a warm glow within me as I watched. There are very few belly laughs - one I remember was when the protagonist Eric Linden says to his not-so-clever girl (Cecilia Parker) "I was born 100 years before my time" and she responds "I was born 10 days before mine." But I found myself smiling often at the goings on. Eric Linden carries the film beautifully.
The rest of the cast is superb: Lionel Barrymore and Spring Byington as Linden's parents; Mickey Rooney and Bonita Granville as his younger siblings; Aline MacMahon as Byinton's spinster sister and Wallace Beery as Barrymore's alcoholic brother. But I was particularly impressed with Helen Flint playing the vamp who Linden gets involved with when he was drowning his sorrows. The title, by the way, is a line from the poem "The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám."
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