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Father Is a Prince (1940)

Approved | | Comedy, Drama | 18 November 1940 (USA)
Carpet-sweeper manufacturer John Bower has no patience with inefficiency, lawyers, or vacuum cleaners. He's a bit of a skinflint, too. His family thinks he works too hard. He feels inferior... See full summary »


(as Noel Smith)


(screen play), (from a play by) (as Sophie Kerr Underwood) | 1 more credit »


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Complete credited cast:
Nana Bryant ...
Susan Bower
Dr. Mark Stone
Gary Lee
Jan Clayton ...
Connie Bower
Tess Haley
Billy Dawson ...
Tommy Bower
Richard Clayton ...
Junior Bower
John Ridgely ...
Income Tax Investigator
Vera Lewis ...
Ben Haley
Mr. Lee
Mary Currier ...
Mrs. Lee
Frank Orth ...
Drugstore Proprieter


Carpet-sweeper manufacturer John Bower has no patience with inefficiency, lawyers, or vacuum cleaners. He's a bit of a skinflint, too. His family thinks he works too hard. He feels inferior for not having gone to college, so now he doesn't want his children going, either. His daughter Connie is afraid to break the news of her engagement to Gary Lee, especially since not only is Gary a lawyer and a college grad, but his father owns a vacuum-cleaner company, too. Written by Jim Beaver <jumblejim@prodigy.net>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Comedy | Drama


Approved | See all certifications »




Release Date:

18 November 1940 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Big-Hearted Herbert  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(RCA Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?


The play opened in New York City, New York, USA on 1 January 1934 and ran for 154 performances. In the opening night cast were Guy D'Ennery, George Lessey, J.C. Nugent and Elisabeth Risdon. See more »


Version of Big Hearted Herbert (1934) See more »

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User Reviews

Excellent domestic drama--Unpretentious and deeply moving.
12 August 2002 | by (New York City, USA) – See all my reviews

What superficially appears to be just another Warner Bros. programmer of 1940 turns out to be something quite else--a brooding and deeply touching drama depicting the flaws chipping away at the supposedly "perfect small-town American family." Beginning as breezy comedy about a selfish, skinflint father (Grant Mitchell) domineering his wife (Nana Bryant) and children (two young sons and a vibrant teenaged daughter), the film gradually shifts into a dark, psychological character study when said daughter (the lustrous Jan Clayton, in an early film role) returns home from a short vacation with her handsome fiancé (George Reeves) in tow. The pair plan to marry quickly, and father acts just as quickly to break up their wedding, completely oblivious to the toll his cruel, egomaniacal behavior has taken on his long-suffering wife, now afflicted by fatigue, and soon, much worse. Father is the owner of an outdated carpet-sweeper company, while his future son-in-law's father runs a prosperous vacuum-cleaner business. In an amazingly swift 57 minutes, this little-known gem (TCM unearthed it a few days ago) offers more rewards than you'll find in highly-heralded films twice its length--and budget. The young romantic leads are portrayed with considerable warmth and intelligence by two future TV-stars of the 1950s'--Jan Clayton (Jeff's mother on "Lassie") and George Reeves (yes, Superman himself!). But the two major revelations are the duet/dual of two first-rate character actors, usually relegated to supporting roles, finally allowed to shine in the spotlight. Grant Withers makes the transition from a belligerent, skinflint nightmare of a patriarch into a caring man who sees the error of his ways (before it's too late) with remarkable, nuanced understatement. But it is the glorious Nana Bryant, as the psychologically abused wife but concerned and devoted mother, who truly shines. Overlooked for generally forgotten performances in a number of films (good and mediocre alike), here Ms. Bryant comes to the forefront as the browbeaten victim of a tyrannical husband who finally erupts with a long-suppressed bitterness and battered strength that is genuinely heartbreaking and should have warranted at least an Oscar nomination. Unfortunately, in 1940, "Father is a Prince" (based on a play I would indeed love to see or read) was thoughtlessly tossed away by Warner Bros. as a routine bottom-of-the-double-bill filler. A shame this first-rate film and its superb cast were ignored in its time. Catch it the next time it shows up on TCM, and you're in for a film to be cherished. The honesty of the humor, emotions, sadness (and nearly tragic ending) it evokes are as timeless today as 62 years ago.

The title, of course, is bleakly sardonic: Father is indeed a Prince (in the last few minutes, that is)), but Nana Bryant's portrayal of Mother is what gives this heartwarming, ultimately unsettling film its lasting resonance.

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