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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 <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Eugene O'Neill's gentle comedy about an American family living in a small town in 1906 shows us that our problems haven't changed, only the way we deal with them.
The story centers on Richard (Eric Linden) as he's about to graduate from high school. His summer is spent courting Muriel (Cecelia Parker) and planning to go to Yale in the fall. But he's restless without knowing why. His older brother (Frank Albertson) treats him like a kid, and his father (Lionel Barrymore) is having business troubles. And then there's drunken Uncle Sid (Wallace Beery) who breezes in and out of the house.
The mother (Spring Byington) is busy with the younger children (Mickey Rooney, Bonita Granville) and the spinster aunt (Aline MacMahon). Feeling alienated and alone, Richard goes to town with a friend (Edward Nugent) and gets mixed up with a woman from another city (Helen Flint) who's passing through town. Richard has his rite of passage and learns something important about himself.
Linden is excellent as the callow youth caught between adolescence and adulthood. His bravado shows itself in spouting poetry and speeches from plays. He's all talk. Beery gets top billing because of his box-office pull but plays a supporting role here. He's quite good as the boozy uncle who's sort of courting MacMahon (always good). Barrymore, Byington, Granville, Rooney, and Parker are solid.
But it's Helen Flint as Belle who nearly steals the film as the fast-talking city woman. She's excellent.
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