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I caught this gem early one morning, after waking up early unable to fall back asleep. How fortunate, White Banners is a movie I had never heard or knew about. I really did not expect much. Was I surprised how quickly I was drawn into this wonderful light drama. Wonderfully written and directed. The casting superb in all choices and Fay Bainter was simply magnificent and unforgettable. Truly a most memorable and haunting performance. Claude Rains, always great, gives a spunky and marvelously slightly eccentric touch to his masterful performance. Cooper and Granville are great together. Kay Johnson (Madam Satan) what a surprise! Very nice subdued performance. I was really glad to have discovered this forgotten classic. As wonderful as A Wonderful Life. I highly recommend making time to catch this, it's worth every minute of it's 92 minutes; wish it was longer.
Just happened to wake up very early this morning and stumbled upon "White Banners" on Turner Classic Movies. What a nice little film. Fay Bainter, normally known for her outstanding support of many a fine lead actor, is given a chance to shine in a more substantial and pivotal role. Claude Rains turns in his usual fine performance and there is fine work from young actors Bonita Granville and Jackie Cooper. In lesser hands this film could easily lapse into a puddle of maudlin sap, but these fine performers truly elevate this moving and interesting story. The film is based on a Lloyd C. Douglas short story. Douglas was also the author of "Magnificient Obsession" and "The Robe. Would love to see this one on DVD someday. Until then, I'll be watching TCM's schedule for it. A film not to be missed!
It's nice to see FAY BAINTER in a starring role opposite CLAUDE RAINS.
Bainter has the sort of role you might expect BARBARA STANWYCK to do in
one of her "Stella Dallas" moods about a mother whose love for her son
has to be from afar until she comes to live in a household where she's
able to be a part of his life again.
And thanks to a good script, there's no settling for a happy ending. Having satisfied herself that he's on the right path, she leaves him thinking that his adopted mother was his real mom and she walks off into the wintry landscape just as she drifted into the household at the beginning.
It's a warm story, full of Lloyd C. Douglas touches (he wrote the original Cosmopolitan magazine story) and it's nicely played by a cast that includes JACKIE COOPER (the boy inventor with the likable personality), BONITA GRANVILLE (his love interest in a puppy love sort of way), and JAMES STEPHENSON as Cooper's father who has a reunion with the son given up for adoption years ago, but keeps the secret from him.
Of course the flaws are there, as they are in any story of this kind penned by Mr. Douglas. The sentiment is poured on pretty thick at times, the speeches seem like pearls of wisdom coming from characters who always know exactly what to say in any sort of predicament, and Bainter's character, in particular, is a bit too noble and self-sacrificing to be really believable.
But she gives the role her personal warmth, dignity and intelligence in this story of a struggling inventor (Raines) who gets a lot of his inspiration from a woman with a penchant for helping others.
Summing up: A little known film, dated now, but still has some interesting things to say. The 1909 era is nicely evoked and the patent process for new inventions is something rarely dealt with in stories of this kind.
Trivia note: FAY BAINTER had two Best Actress nominations in 1938: one for JEZEBEL (she won Best Supporting Actress) and the other for Best Actress in WHITE BANNERS.
Today on Turner Classic Movies I watched a tribute to Jackie Cooper on
his birthday. After seeing Jackie play children who always had some
kind of drama going on in his characters lives and crying all the time,
it was nice to see him as a nice young man who grew from being immature
and selfish to mature, unselfish, and grateful.
In many of Jackie Cooper's films he played characters who were much younger than his actual age (ex: O'Shaunessy's Boy (1935), in real life he was about 12 or 13, but in the film, he is playing someone who is about 10 or 11, same in Dinky and in Tough Guy (1936), he was really 13 or 14, but in the film he is probably between the ages of 9-11). So, in White Banners it was nice seeing him someone his own age and he gave a touching and challenging performance. I also must commend Fay Bainter (1938 Academy Award nominee Best Actress (Banners) and supporting actress (Jezebel)), for she gave an excellent performance as a mother who sacrifices the best for her child. Also the rest of the cast was great. An excellent film!
It starts out like the original Imitation of Life where Louise Beavers
shows up at Claudette Colbert's house looking for a job, but in this
case it's Fay Bainter trying to sell her apple peelers on a cold,
windy, snowy day in dreary Indiana. The film is very realistic in its
portrayal of the weather, making you feel cold and depressed. When the
lady of the house invites her in to get warm and Hannah sees the
disorder in the kitchen, she(like Louise Beavers) sees a perfect
opportunity to get a job with room and board.
Offering to save the family money (she sees immediately they are struggling), they take her offer and come to love her like family. She comes up with ideas like selling their old useless furniture for cash, gives Claude Rains a spot in the basement to work in peace on his experiments (he is a professor by day and an inventor by night). She is wise and has the instinct to know when something is going to go wrong trying to save the family whatever heartache she can.
When Jackie Cooper (spoiled rich boy) takes a job as Rains assistant, it is the beginning of his life changing him into a fine young man. Only by accident does he cause Rains harm thru an error of judgment. But justice prevails, as Hannah tells Rains to turn the other cheek and go on.
Hannah stumbling upon this house at a time when they are in need of help provides her the opportunity to get what she came for. That being said - all is well at the end. When you see her walking off in the snowy storm, the same way she came in, one cannot help but feel sorry for her - hoping that she would turn around and stay, but doing so would cause her too much pain. Like some of the other poster's, I taped this out of curiosity, and wound glued for the entire film. Definitely a keeper.
We know the author; Lloyd C. Douglas, from whose book this film was made, from his novels of the human heart. In Magnificent Obsession, a novel presented on film, in 1935 and 1954, we are shown the power of the silent benefactor, and the strength that issues to the donor. In The Robe, we are shown the meaning of Christ Consciousness.
Here, in White Banners, Douglas takes us into the power of pure faith, and the power that comes from abandonment to Divine Providence, the most salient and basic teaching of all of the world's major religions.
This 1938 drama from the Lloyd C. Douglas novel, directed by Edmund Goulding, stars one of the most respected character actors of his time, Claude Rains, whom we remember most from his wonderful role in Casablanca. Rains was one of the most chameleon-like actors of his time, able to bury himself completely into his roles, much like Edward G. Robinson and Paul Muni and the few great actors of today's American films, such as Dustin Hoffman, Kevin Spacey and Edward Norton. Here, the enchanting story is engrossing but in light of the movie's fulfilling message, both inspiring and eloquent, not as important. It is the rare literature of film, such as this, that entertains while helping us grow and replace fear with love, the only true power in the world.
WHITE BANNERS has a couple of very odd but satisfying plots running
through the film. The first involves Fay Bainter who plays a woman who
just moves in with a family and becomes the perfect housekeeper--in
many ways a lot like an earlier incarnation of Mary Poppins! However,
her hidden agenda and why she works for mere "peanuts" is interesting
and unfolds throughout the film. The "why" exactly isn't all that hard
to predict--there are lots of pretty obvious clues thrown out to the
audience. The second plot, and this IS an odd one, is about Rains and
Cooper working together to try to create the first home electric
refrigerator and sell the idea. While this may sound dull, I actually
liked this--it reminded me a lot of movies like YOUNG TOM EDISON.
This is not exactly a perfect movie, but I enjoyed it and appreciate how the studio at least tried something different. Plus, some of the performances were very good. Claude Rains was his usual wonderful self, but I also appreciate the teen parts played by Jackie Cooper and Bonita Granville--Bonita was bouncy like a teen and it was nice to see Jackie doing a more mature role than what he'd been previously doing for MGM when he was a bit younger. Also, Fay Bainter was generally excellent, but there were a few times when her character seemed a bit "sappy" and too good to be true. The bottom line is that this is an excellent movie and a good one for old movie buffs who want a change of pace.
A true tear jerker...finally saw today on TCM / Oscar nominated Fay Bainter was excellent in the role of Hannah... dated in style & content but so moving...cant help but shed a tear... cast is top notch incl Jackie Cooper & Claude Rains...its a hidden classic... comb of Imitation of Life/ Stella Dallas of that genre... watch it! worth it I believe Fay Bainter was possibly the first actress to be nominated in 2 categories in same yr. best actress/Banners & best supt actress Jezebel (for which she won) since, Jessica Lange, Sigourney Weaver, & this yr. Julianne Moore have rivaled that honor... Bainter was wonderful!!
An excellent version of the popular Lloyd Douglas novel which had its world premiere in Douglas' home town of Columbia City, Indiana in 1938 The picture is one of the most heartwarming of the era and is very deftly directed and acted.There are plenty of opportunities for the picture to become mawkish, but it never does. It stars Fay Bainter in a role that would garner her an Academy Award nomination for best actress (she won best supporting that year for JEZEBEL). Claude Rains, her costar, is as impressive as ever and the other members of the cast are all top-flight. It was especially good to see Kay Johnson again. Jackie Cooper and Bonita Granville were very winning teenagers. And last, let us not omit Max Steiner's rich score.
I was very happy to discover White Banners for the first time yesterday
evening on TCM. Several reviewers here said it was "dated." Some said
"dull" or slow-paced. Too bad! I thought it was first rate and not only
because of it's superb cast. I would in fact call it "classic"with a
message of timeless significance.
It shows very sadly how much ground we've lost as a society that the character of Hannah Parmalee masterfully played with quiet, subtle restraint by Fay Bainter is regarded by some modern observers as priggish, preachy, sappy and too good to be true. That's how cynical we've become in the face of nobility these days. Unselfishness and refined sensibilities are regarded as "sappy."
The story is intensely Christian in tone, because it centers on the tremendous strength and power one gains from considering the needs and feelings of others before one's own. What we are supposed to glean from the story is the idea that by not fighting for our rights and not demanding justice for ourselves we can win a reward much greater than the one we originally sought. Doing the right thing and not taking the paths of least resistance transcends grief, gives added strength and often leads to greater heights than one ever dreamed of reaching.
There is a sweetness and yes a naiveté in this story that is frankly refreshing. The lush romantic musical score written by the same composer who did Gone With The WInd provides a beautiful, perfectly realized, expressive accompaniment to every scene. Music of this high quality gives added dignity and significance to the film elevating it almost to the status of art.
In this noisy age of unbridled vulgarity, cheap sensationalism, excessive noise, and dissolute, despairing characters acting brutal, selfish, inconsiderate, exploitative and callous towards one another the QUIETUDE and profound depth of feeling in this movie is balm for the soul.
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