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William A. Seiter
Watered-down, lame and at times laughable remake of D.W. Griffith's 1920 epic has Rochelle Hudson playing Anna Moore, a woman who goes to live with a family in Maine and hiding a secret. The family son (Henry Fonda) eventually falls in love with Anna but she refuses to take his hand due to her secret but soon a nosy fool (Margaret Hamilton) finds out the truth. Before viewing the film I had heard a few quotes from director King and he didn't hide his feelings and admitted that this wasn't the greatest film out there. After viewing the movie I had to wonder if he even tried to come up with anything entertaining as this movie is a complete dud from the first scene to the last one. I was really shocked at how boring this movie was but then again it was produced after the pre-code era, which meant that a lot of the more frank situations and dialogue had to be cut. Another major problem are some of the performances, which range from bad to downright terrible. Hamilton will always be loved due to her role in THE WIZARD OF OZ but she's quite bad here. Just take a look at the scene towards the end when Anna is getting kicked out of the house and how over-the-top and silly Hamilton is. It seems like she's acting in a comedy because her performance is bound to get laughs from pretty much anyone who sees it. Another bad performance comes from Russell Simpson as the old-fashioned father and Edward Trevor isn't much better either. Hudson tries her hardest to recapture the spirit of Lillian Gish but doesn't even come close. Fonda comes out the best but even he has some rather bad moments including one inside the cabin towards the end of the movie when he hears about Anna being close to the frozen river. Anyone who has seen the Griffith version knows that the ending on the ice was the greatest thing about it. I'd say it's one of the greatest moments in film history so how does this remake hold up? Well, it certainly doesn't come close to the original film but it's got a few decent moments. How they have the characters jumping from one float to the other doesn't work and there's never any suspense but the scenes of the ice actually breaking does work. Another problem with the film is that it starts nearly where the 1920 version was already an hour in. We never get to know Anna, feel for Anna or hear any of her backstory until much later in the film and by then you're really bored with her and don't care anyways. I really wasn't sure what to expect from this movie but it's easy to see why it's pretty much been forgotten as it not only lacks when compared to Griffith's original film but it lacks pretty much to everything that was being made around this time.
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