Beautiful young Virginian Jane steps down from her proper aristocratic upbrining when she marries down-to-earth surveyor Matt Howard. Matt joins the Colonial forces in their fight for ...
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Beautiful young Virginian Jane steps down from her proper aristocratic upbrining when she marries down-to-earth surveyor Matt Howard. Matt joins the Colonial forces in their fight for freedom against England. Matt will meet Jane's father in the battlefield. Written by
This film garnered Cary Grant among the worst critical reviews of his thirty-five year acting career. In general, neither audiences nor critics found much to praise about Grant's performance. Grant did not feel the sting of failure for very long, however. 1940 proved to be a busy year for the actor, and this was only one of four films he acted in that year. The other Grant films of 1940 included: His Girl Friday (1940), My Favorite Wife (1940), and The Philadelphia Story (1940). Those films were not only profitable, they charmed critics and audiences and have stood the test of time as prime examples of classic Hollywood comedies. See more »
There are several inconsistencies in the chronology of Matt Howard's life and the progression of the American Revolutionary milestones presented in the film. Matt's father is killed in the early years of the French and Indian War, which would place his death no earlier than 1754 (in fact, more likely no earlier than 1756). The film then shows a title card indicating that twelve years had passed, thus placing the timeline of the film in the mid- or late-1760s. Matt, however, learns of the recent passage of the Stamp Act and England's taxation measures toward the colonies. The Stamp Act was instituted in 1756, making it impossible for Matt's father to have died in the French and Indian War and for twelve years to have passed. As an adult, Matt then meets, courts, and marries Jane Peyton (presumably in 1766 or 1768 according to the date of his father's death) and moves to Western Virginia to homestead and father three children. Matt learns of the Boston Tea Party (December 1773) and the Intolerable Acts of 1774 near the time that his family visits the Peyton home in Virginia. At this time, Matt's three children are an unspecified age, but Peyton (the oldest) appears no more than four or five years of age, and James (the youngest) is just a baby. The male children, however, join their father in the Colonial Army. It is strongly inferred that the young men join Matt during the lean Winter of 1777-1778 and it is clear that they are seasoned soldiers by the Battle of Yorktown (1781). The film depicts the sons as teenagers, slightly under the age of eighteen when they join their father and presumably older than eighteen by the Battle of Yorktown. However, using news of the Boston Massacre, Boston Tea Party, and Intolerable Acts as points of reference, the oldest boy would have been no older than eleven and the youngest no older than nine by the date of the Battle of Yorktown (presumably they would have been even younger unless Jane conceived each child almost immediately after giving birth.) In short, throughout much of the movie, the Howards' family history does not match the chronology of the political and military events depicted in the film. See more »
(ca. 1755) (uncredited)
Traditional music of English origin
In the score during a war scene See more »
Movies about the American Revolution for some reason have never succeeded as well as those about the Civil War. My guess is that the best of them is Drums Along the Mohawk and that was about one of the more obscure theaters of that war.
Like Gone With the Wind, the Howards of Virginia is taken from a rather sprawling novel. But Gone With the Wind was very faithful to the original and managed to hold interest even given its length. The Howards of Virginia is a condensed version of the novel and some of the characterization has been sacrificed in the screen translation.
Nevertheless it's a good story about a fictional Matt Howard from his days as a youth hearing the news about his father's death with Braddock's army in the French and Indian War to just before the Siege at Yorktown. Of course growing up with Thomas Jefferson, it's not surprising that Howard develops the opinions he does.
Cary Grant is cast against type as Matt Howard. Takes a bit of getting used to in buckskins, but I like his characterization. In point of fact if you want to see the real Cary Grant on screen look at None, But the Lone Heart, Gunga Din, or Sylvia Scarlett. That's where you see the real Archie Leach. Cary Grant was the best role Cary Grant ever played.
If The Howards of Virginia were made 10 years later, Burt Lancaster would have been spot-on in terms of casting.
Martha Scott is fine as the Tory girl that Cary Grant woos and wins. It's quite a culture shock for her coming to the mostly unsettled Shenandoah valley among Grant's frontier friends and neighbors, but her best scenes in the film are at that point.
Of course I think both Grant and Scott are acted off the screen when Cedric Hardwicke is on. As Scott's older brother Fleetwood Payton, Hardwicke is easily the best in the film. He's a privileged Virginia aristocrat and loyalist supporter of the crown. He's an aristocratic snob to be sure, but he's also a tender and loving brother to Martha Scott. Hardwicke managed to capture all the elements in Fleetwood Payton well as well as his losing his mind as his well ordered aristocratic world tumbles down about him.
Richard Carlson is very much what I picture as the young Thomas Jefferson, full of new ideas and quite the rebel against his own class. Of course Patrick Henry and George Washington make their appearances as well in colonial Virginia. My guess is that in the book a whole lot of familiar names made it there, but were not in the screenplay.
This is not the American Revolution's Gone With the Wind, but taken on its own terms The Howards of Virginia is good entertainment and does capture some of the motivating spirit behind the Virginia patriots and tories.
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