The widow Wilson and her daughter Mary have just learned that old Mr. Middleton, who held the mortgage on their home, has passed away. They are now visited by Middleton's lawyer, Cribbs, ...
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Robert Z. Leonard,
W.S. Van Dyke
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Peggy Ann Garner,
The widow Wilson and her daughter Mary have just learned that old Mr. Middleton, who held the mortgage on their home, has passed away. They are now visited by Middleton's lawyer, Cribbs, who informs them that Middleton's son and heir Edward plans to foreclose and take possession of their home. When Mary goes to plead with Edward, she soon discovers that it is really the unscrupulous Cribbs who wants to drive them out of their home. When Mary and Edward become engaged to be married, it looks as if all is well. But the calculating Cribbs has a new plan, which begins with luring young Edward into a lifestyle of drinking and dissipation. Written by
Hollywood movies killed the type of melodramatic social message play that was popular in American theater at the turn of the 20th century. In the teens and twenties, it had both copied it and satirized it to the point that it lost its audience. It simply could not be appreciated by a more sophisticated audience weened on sophisticated Hollywood productions.
It would seem that 1940 would be too late to be satirizing a style of theater and acting that had gone out of style 15 or 20 years before. Still, the majority of Americans past 30 had grown up with such fare and could appreciate the satire. Today, of course, this style of theater and acting is unknown except for the theater and film buffs. 21st Century audiences can only find this film a bit boring and very bizarre.
There are three ethereal performances in this movie - Anita Louise, Margaret Hamilton and Richard Cromwell look like they are in a trance. Joyce Compton is also hilariously effective as a deranged woman. Billie Gilbert and Hugh Herbert do their typically funny bits.
Like me, most people who watch this movie will probably do so to see Buster Keaton. One has to feel a bit disappointed that Keaton just delivers his lines, but hardly does anything really Keatonesque. Yet the whole film, because it was directed by Keaton's friend, Eddie Cline, has a Keatonesque quality to it.
It is hard to imagine the style of acting portrayed in this movie being a real and popular style. The actors seem to avoid all facial expression after reciting their lines. Yet this was considered good acting before the Stanislavsky Method revolutionized theater at the dawn of the 20th century.
This movie should be especially studied by actors and directors for its record of a long gone acting style. It may not be as funny as it once was, but it is more fascinating with the passage of time.
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