|Index||3 reviews in total|
I had low expectations for this one -- It looked like another garden
variety 'suffering mother' weeper. Indeed it was but it was a rather
well done 'suffering mother' weeper. May Robson, who has a history of
hit or miss projects, acquits herself well as the beleaguered mother in
question, Anna. She's got four grown kids: Murray, the eldest, is
hardworking and responsible. He and his fiancée Frances run a clothing
store to support the family. Dick, the aspiring actor, is immature,
selfish, and petulant. The third son Lewis is a socialist crank. And
the daughter Lily was seeing a local lawyer, but is away at school and
not responding to her boyfriend's letters.
This movie rises on the strength of good emotional performances from Robson as the eternally sacrificing mother and William Bakewell's turn as the frankly loathsome heel of a son, Dick. Robson can go from pathetic to raging in the blink of an eye, always authentic as the mother who loves and maybe loves too much. Bakewell's sniveling manipulator does a great job of making the audience hate him.
I won't spoil the story except to say that all three sons have lives that need attention from Anna and lead into conflict with one another. The writing that leaves the path to the outcome in doubt and taut pacing makes this one engaging. Final word: Dated, and with low production values, but worth seeking out.
Though STRANGERS ALL is a very much a product of the stage, based on a
play by Marie M. Bercovici, director Charles Vidor (no relation to King
Vidor) does a good job of transcending its origins by keeping things
moving at a brisk clip. The camera darts and circles around the
constantly bickering Carter family, headed by matriarch May Robson (in
a deceptively restrained and terrific performance) and blow-hard elder
son Preston Foster.
It would be misleading to merely label this film a "weepie", as it is far more reliant on broad comedy: James Bush's over-the-top portrayal as radical Communist son, Lewis, prefigures Preston Sturges (and it's an offensive characterization to be sure, but undeniably funny); the central financial dilemma in the film is played for laughs; third son Dicky (William Bakewell, in one of the film's lesser performances) is an absolutely pathetic ham actor. In fact, if there's any consistency to the characterizations, its that every member of the family is basically a loser - even mom, for all her wise observations, is quite naive. When the film attempts a melodramatic climax and more or less shuns the comedy, it's not as effective, but somehow it all works well enough.
Look fast for an unbelievably young Ward Bond as, well, "Ward" - a beleaguered assistant director on a film-within-the-film movie set (one of the movie's better sequences).
A widow, May Robson, has four adult children three sons and a daughter. The daughter is away at college but the three sons still live at home. Two of the sons are lazy deadbeats one a pseudo-Socialist and the other a wannabe actor with an unwarranted and bloated view of his own talent. Both are whiners and insufferable (but of course their mother still loves them). Preston Foster plays the only one in the household who has a job; he owns (but is in danger of losing) a small men's clothing store. He is in a chronic state of resentment at his brothers' sponging off him and has repeatedly postponed marrying his girlfriend because of the expense of supporting the rest of the family. The mother's job is to keep the bickering in the family to a minimum and to emotionally support all her children. She has a bit of money set aside and this becomes a new issue for the sons to fight about. The daughter returns home with her new husband (evidently she quit college) both of these characters seem happy and well adjusted which is refreshing. If there were a contest on "Most obnoxious screen character ever," Bakewell's wannabe actor would be a top contender. The reason to watch this movie is to see May Robson's performance she is good.
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