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Daughters Courageous is actually the second of a four-movie soap series
produced by Warner Brothers and all directed by Michael Curtiz. Curtiz,
a Hungarian immigrant, was best known for his direction of the early
Errol Flynn swashbucklers that graced the silver screen from 1935 to
1941. At any rate, Daughters Courageous employs the same cast of
characters from the first and last two movies, Priscilla Lane, Rosemary
Lane, Lola Lane, and Gale Page play the sisters. Claude Rains, in this
particular movie, plays the father who left home nineteen years before.
Dick Foran and Frank McHugh play supporting roles as boyfriends and
then there's Jeffrey Lynne who broke into films only two years before
in a Warner's short feature.
The success of Four Daughters the previous year (it had been nominated for several Oscars) prompted Warner Brothers to do a sequel. The only problem they had was that their new sensation, John Garfield, was written off the script of Four Daughters (in that film he had committed suicide from an automobile crash). So, Warners was in a quandary about how to bring Garfield back to life! The problem was solved when Daughters Courageous went into production. It was actually the same cast as Four Daughters, but they portrayed a different family that was vacationing at the beach. Faye Bainter played a single parent (a daring role in 1939 during the Production Code era) supporting her four daughters with the income she makes through her dress designing business. Garfield plays a neer-do-well who has no future. He captures the heart of the youngest sister, Priscilla Lane and the romance goes as far as an elopement attempt (Lane eloped with Garfield in the first film too).
The film is brilliantly directed and flows along steadily from beginning to end. In my opinion, it is the best of the four films made by Warners. Four Daughters is available on VHS. However, this film is not. If you have the chance to see this film on TCM, make sure to copy it on VHS or DVD.
This is an odd digression from the series begun with "Four Daughters."
Claude Rains has left the Lane sisters and their mother. She is about
to remarry. John Garfield reappears and Pricilla Lane is drawn to his
I found the mother, Fay Bainter, the most poignant player. Bainter is always touching. She is given many close-ups -- which allow us to see her beautiful eyes. They are amazingly warm. I have a similar fondness for Bealah Bondi. She isn't in this -- but May Robson, another real charmer is. She plays the family housekeeper.
Bainter's beau is played beautifully by the versatile Donald Crisp. He gives a fine performance as a stuffy but goodhearted man.
And of course there is Rains. I suppose he was too major a star to be called a character actor. But was he a romantic lead? He was extraordinarily versatile and seemingly incapable of turning in a bad performance.
I must disagree with the previous comment. This is not merely a rehash of "The Four Daughters"! While I enjoyed the former very much, I find the dialogue in "Daughters Courageous" much snappier and the characters more believable. From idyllic upstate New York, to an almost seamy California bordertown, there is a world of difference here! I suppose Garfield is an acquired taste, but I find him compelling as the Mexican layabout (maybe because I'm a layabout myself). In addition, this film gets more milage out of the luminous Priscilla Lane than the other films (she is clearly THE female star of this film). She and Garfield made a great pair, for further evidence see "Dust Be My Destiny".
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This is a an enjoyable, though somewhat dated film, enlivened by the
masterful presence of Claude Rains. He completely steals the film, even
when surrounded by a solid supporting cast including Bainter and Frank
McHugh. But the production code of the era demanded that any character
who was "morally tainted" would be made to pay for it eventually in the
movie. Warners made no exception here, even though the ending is
plausible and frankly, ludicrous.
The plot can be swiftly summarized: Claude Rains suffers from wanderlust and abandons his wife and four daughters. He wanders the globe for 19 years and then returns to his family. Bainter is all set to marry the insipid, puffy Donald Crisp and the daughters hate their wayward father. However, within a week, Rains' legendary charm wins over the whole family, including his ex-wife. It's just absurd to think that Bainter would marry Donald Crisp when Claude Rains, oozing charm from every pore, is sleeping on the sofa downstairs. In any normal normal, Bainter would throw herself in Rains' arms and remain there for all eternity. Watch the last 20 minutes of this soaper and gag at Warners attempt to teach moral lessons.
Despite the ridiculously contrived ending, most of the movie is quite enjoyable and worth a watch.
This is the first of the "Four Daughters" series that I've ever seen, or was even aware of. Judging by this film, it's a wonder that they don't have a better reputation than they do. This movie is very engaging and entertaining throughout. The story may be a little too by-the-numbers, but the likability of the three Lane sisters plus one helps to overcome that mild complaint easily. The dialog is as snappy as that of a contemporary sitcom and the direction is fresh and forward-looking for a film over sixty years old. Claude Rains shines in his role. This also marks the first time I've understood why John Garfield commands the devoted following he has. "Daughters Courageous" should be enjoyed by anyone who likes the older Hollywood films and will likely appeal to a significant percentage of younger viewers if they give it a chance.
With John Garfield making a sensational debut in Four Daughters with an
Oscar nomination there was quite the demand for a sequel. But sad to
say Garfield died in Four Daughters.
Jack Warner remedied that with acquiring a play by Dorothy Bennett that ran 247 performances during the 1935 season on Broadway called Fly Away Home. It's the story of a family on the eve of the matriarch's second marriage to a respectable businessman. Out of the blue comes the first husband who left years ago and would like to reclaim his place as head of the family. He starts working a charm offensive to do just that.
Nearly the whole cast of Four Daughters slip into parts that were rewritten for them as the Masters family in Fly Away Home is not all girls. The Lane Sisters and Gale Page are the daughters again and Fay Bainter is their mother and Donald Crisp the businessman she is scheduled to marry. Bainter and Crisp are new to the ensemble.
Claude Rains is the patriarch, not the music master of Four Daughters, but the confirmed vagabond who left his family. He finds a kindred soul in John Garfield who has sparked an interest from Priscilla Lane away from playwright Jeffrey Lynn and toward himself.
If you know what happened in Four Daughters you know what happens here in terms of the pairing ups.
Rains is the best one in this cast by far. You'd go just about anywhere and do anything for him, he's got such charm and apparent knowledge of the world. In the end though he realizes he can be a bad influence as well as a good one.
The same standard for Four Daughters is maintained for Daughter's Courageous.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Clearly, this B picture was designed to appeal to MGM's younger
audience of the time. In it, four "of age" sisters (played by the 3
Lane Sisters and Gale Page) are living with their mother (the venerable
Fay Bainter). Mom is engaged to be married to a local businessman
(another venerable character actor -- Donald Crisp) when all of a
sudden husband # 1 (the also venerable Cluade Rains) reappears after
having deserted the family twenty years earlier. Meanwhile, one
daughter falls in love with a drifter-type -- John Garfield. And then
the family -- and the movie -- get into trouble as the script attempts
to rehabilitate Claude Rains and put a positive face on John Garfield.
But how exactly do you rehabilitate a father that deserts his family
for two decades and a drifter with an attitude against society? In my
view, despite whatever qualities they may have, you don't.
And then, just when you think things are going to go in the wrong direction, the key characters step up and take responsibility for their actions. Rains and Garfield leaves town, Bainter marries Crisp, and normality returns.
Not surprisingly, the finest acting in the film is by Fay Bainter, who never failed to please in any film she ever appeared in. Donald Crisp deftly plays the slightly out-of-place new husband-to-be; and likewise...how often did Crisp ever disappoint in a film? Claude Rains is excellent as the father, but he shouldn't make his character too sympathetic, and he doesn't. May Robson is funny and excellent as the housekeeper.
You'll enjoy this film, although it may not be one for your DVD collection.
This is more of a reworking of the previous big hit Four Daughters than
an actual remake. Not as good as the original film it is still
entertaining and helped by the addition of old pros Donald Crisp and
the great Fay Bainter fresh off her Oscar win for Jezebel.
Garfield just as he did in the original film jumps off the screen with a charisma and sexuality the other performers just can't match. He and Claude Rains, whose character from the first film undergoes the greatest change, strike up a good rapport as two wandering spirits.
The entire cast from the first film is back in this with May Robson pushed into the background unfortunately and all the girls having less defined personalities. Priscilla still gets the featured spot and interacts well with John Garfield but the others are background dressing more or less. The one thing this has in its favor over the original is the lack of emphasis on both Jeffrey Lynn and that blank slate Dick Foran since both are such vapid screen presences that any spotlighting of them is wasted film.
This merely acceptable movie depicts the kind of moral and social values Hollywood was encouraging during the aftermath of the depression. The "Daughters" series had better production values and less clowning than the Andy Hardy ones. But Daughters Courageous manages to present the family values as terrible dull. As dull as the daughters' beaux. The picture itself is nothing. The four daughters are as interchangeable as the pieces of an Erector set. The only positive features are John Garfield and Claude Rains. Garfield caused the picture to be made, and repeated unashamedly his character of Four Daughters, with less redeeming features. His performance had the high standard to be expected of him. But the real star of the picture is Rains. His part is not very well written; the Epsteins and Michael Curtiz forgot to explain him and his motivations. But what an actor! He gives life to the picture, makes you love one of the most despicable characters in movie history, and you go all the way with him even if you know that he is poison to the whole life of his former wife and former(?) daughters. One cannot root for the sort of dull life Fay Bainter, Donald Crisp, the daughters and the daughters' beaux embodiy. But you cannot root either for the kind of social irresponsibility Rains and Garfield represent. But, anyhow, the picture is very entertaining and Priscilla Lane was adorable.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Perhaps the oddest fact about this movie is that it's an
alternate-world sequel: An entirely new plot has been constructed
around the same six basic characters from "Four Daughters" (1938). But
while that movie was nominated for several Oscars, and was remade in
1954 as "Young at Heart" (Doris Day, Frank Sinatra), this sequel is so
lame it made me reconsider the original, not to its advantage.
Claude Rains, Fay Bainter, and Donald Crisp were capable of saving just about any film, but even though they ganged up on this one, it was hopeless, not least because the movie's arteries are again clogged with the frothy Lane sisters and three feeble counterparts (Dick Foran, Frank McHugh, Jeffrey Lynn).
In the thankless role of a father who returns years after deserting wife (Bainter) and their frothy daughters, Papa Rains is so charming that he manages to make believable their ludicrously swift forgiveness of him. But Mama and her goody-eight-shoes girls would forgive him, or anyone, of anything. Every character in the movie is wearisomely benevolent. Even the bad boys Rains and John Garfield have hearts of gold.
Well, maybe not gold, since metals don't break as easily as these hearts. When blonde daughter (Priscilla L.) falls for Garfield, Mama convinces Papa that the only decent thing for him to do is: First, send boyfriend Garfield packing; and second, abandon his family again. Huh?? After they've just welcomed Papa back and forgiven him?? But guess what? Papa Rains does it, and so does Garfield, dumping Blondie without so much as slap on her bum.
Unhappy ending? Clearly it's not meant to be. Marriage is supposed to be the happy ending, right? And we're buried in nuptials or the promise thereof: Blondie winds up with one of the milksops (I don't even remember which one). Mama Bainter and fiancée Crisp tie a pretty frayed knot. The only fun pair-up, though, is hardly a nuptial, and hardly admirable in the real world: Bad Boys Rains and Garfield wind up together at the train station, setting off as con men teamed up to rip off the world. (They start with a bookish fellow traveler-- he's wearing glasses-- who nevertheless believes he's buying a whale tooth from Moby Dick. Hollywood never misses a chance to dis' book smarts and respect street smarts.)
So the film ends with Garfield and Rains eloping. And why not? They're the most romantic couple in the whole movie.
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