19 user 7 critic

The Howards of Virginia (1940)

Approved | | Drama, History, War | 19 September 1940 (USA)
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 ... See full summary »



(screen play), (novel)

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Nominated for 2 Oscars. See more awards »
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Cast overview, first billed only:
Jane Peyton-Howard
Fleetwood Peyton (as Sir Cedric Hardwicke)
Alan Marshal ...
Roger Peyton
Captain Jabez Allen
Tom Norton
Elisabeth Risdon ...
Aunt Clarissa (as Elizabeth Risdon)
Mrs. Norton
James Howard at 16 (as Richard Alden)
Phil Taylor ...
Peyton Howard at 18
Mary Howard at 17
Libby Taylor ...
Richard Gaines ...


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 Anonymous

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


The Vivid Drama Of A Nation's Birth !


Drama | History | War


Approved | See all certifications »




Release Date:

19 September 1940 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Pasión de libertad  »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Mirrophonic Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Film debut of James Westerfield. See more »


During a scene where Matt Howard (Cary Grant) is in his room shaving, with shaving soap on his face, and having a conversation with Thomas Jefferson (Richard Carlson) - A knock on the door is heard - Fleetwood Peyton (Sir Cedric Hardwicke) enters, Matt Howard turns to Fleetwood and the shaving soap has disappeared from his face. See more »


Drink to Me Only with Thine Eyes
(1616) (uncredited)
Music by R. Melish (1780 ?)
Played in the score at the wedding
See more »

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User Reviews

Not a documentary, but much more realism than Hollywood can capture today
4 July 2009 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

Sad that so many Cary Grant fans had their bubbles burst. It certainly was strange to see him play such a character, but did anyone have any problems with the actors who played the other backwoodsmen? Grant could not have played his dapper persona while being from the Shenandoah Valley, especially in scenes with those crude and embarrassing frontiersmen and women. They must have been extras. I doubt if that kind of acting is taught at UCLA or Princeton.

One reviewer was critical of the director because the irony of Matthew Howard turning into a kind of Fleetwood Peyton was not portrayed. But from early on in the movie, Tom Jefferson and Matt Howard thought it would be grand to develop the 1,000 acres in the Shenandoah Valley into a PLANTATION. That was the American Dream, to achieve success through hard work. Then it meant that the most successful planter had slaves and went to Congress. But Matt Howard didn't want to run at first, and when pressed said he would go if only to improve the roads and bridges and repeal the Stamp Act. He had no thoughts of aristocratic power unlike Fleetwood.

Anyone see John Wayne in The Searchers? Early in the film he wanted to murder his niece Natalie Wood because she was kidnapped and lived with the Redskins. He too was playing a character from an earlier time when there were other mores.

Talk about provincialism! It's thriving even today.

Collectivism versus individualism is being played out today on these movie reviews. Am I being too critical to suggest that those who are most critical of this move are doing so on political rather than on artistic grounds?

July 4, 2009

I watched the film again this year on TV. It's becoming an Independence Day (don't call it the 4th of July) classic, something like Jimmy Stewart's the 25th of December classic, "It's a Wonderful Life."

I can't answer all the other reviewers individually here. Basically, I suspect that the "Cary Grant as Matt Howard" detractors are either in love with the suave Cary Grant or are against the political principles of Matt Howard. His performance in the beginning as a backwoodsman was energetic and realistic. He pulled no punches. The depiction of his friends as toothless and illiterate, and his love and respect for them was outstanding. His speechifying at the conclusion, espousing the distinctly American virtues of freedom, self-reliance and industriousness, sounded heartfelt.

I don't know what Cary Grant felt later about the film, but the film is essential now both as a political debate and a period piece.

Read the reviews at the Cary Grant web site: some of them written when the film came out in 1940 when we were allied with England in WW II. Think about today's political climate, what with tea-partyers (the original Boston Tea party was referred to in the movie) and the current debate on levels of taxation and government controls (the Stamp Act was also a plot element in the movie).

Also, in case there's some doubt, Cary Grant wasn't always perfectly elegant. Early in his career he played a heavy. "In a string of films he had supporting parts, including the heavy who nearly destroys Marlene Dietrich in Blonde Venus 1932) and Mae West's foil in She Done Him Wrong (1933) and I'm No Angel (1933)."

Later in his career, after he had established his elegant style, he played in a couple less-than-exemplary roles, costarring with Jayne Mansfield in 1957 in "Kiss Them for Me" and playing a heartless swindler and a Cockney in 1943 in "Mr Lucky."

I don't see why he can't play against type in this patriotic film. Maybe he was still trying to establish his bona fides as an actor, or he could have believed in the principles of Matt Howard.

In support of the second theory, Cary Grant became an American citizen on June 26th, 1942. Might not he actually believed the lines he was reading because that is what they were teaching our naturalized citizens in those days?

July 4, 2010

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