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J. Farrell MacDonald
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Lewis D. Collins
For all of the poor product quality of the film as produced and preserved all these years, "Harmony Lane" has some redeeming aspects that make it worth seeing and keeping. The short list of viewers and commentors have noted the flaws of production. Even for 1935, the producers gave too little care to the technical quality of the film. But one can overlook that with the stellar performance by Douglass Montgomery of composer and song writer Stephen Foster. And, with the number of his memorable songs that are performed so very well in the film.
Foster's life was one of heartbreak and despair. He lost the love of his youth to another man. His family disliked his musical interests and played down his musical talent. His later marriage failed. His wife was a conniving, jealous and bitter woman who preferred social position and fine things in life to family and her husband's talent and interests. All of this was portrayed, more or less, with very good acting by the entire cast. Montgomery especially portrayed the emotional turmoil of Foster very well.
One other small item I found of particular interest was a day Foster spent with his former fiancé and her husband when they came to visit him in New York. They went to the Barnum American Museum, and the scenes showed some interesting displays or characters as the threesome strolled through the museum. Remember the time that this film covered was the mid-19th century. It was during that time, 1841 to 1865, that P.T. Barnum's famous five-story museum on Broadway was a major attraction. It had strange acts as well as educational exhibits. Barnum would include some of the strange and unusual attractions in his equally famous circus which came later.
But our interest here is the visit to the museum in this film, produced in 1935. The old American Museum burned down in 1865. While there may have been a few people alive in 1935 who remembered the museum when they were children 70 years before, the inclusion of a set for scenes in the old museum showed public interest and awareness yet for the former attraction. And, I doubt there have been many other movies, if any, that included scenes showing P.T. Barnum's famous tourist attraction. I'm not aware of any such films anyway.
Other films have been made about Stephen Foster, but I'm not comparing this one with others. This film can stand on its own, as a fine portrayal of the beloved Foster. The singing of several of his songs makes the film worthwhile as well. A remastered and cleaned up copy would make this fine historical film one of wider appeal to more people.
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