Early 1905, French governess Emilie Gallatin (Ingrid Bergman) is hired to care of a luxurious family mansion and the four sons of wealthy Adam Stoddard (Warner Baxter) and his wife, Molly Stoddard (Fay Wray). Things couldn't be more perfect, until in 1907, first Molly dies, and then the stock market crashes, wiping out the Soddard's fortune. Emilie is forced to go back home to France. The parting is difficult, for the teenager boys - Jack Stoddard (Billy Ray), David Stoddard (Steven Muller), Chris Stoddard (Wallace Chadwell), and Phillip Stoddard (Bobby Walberg) - had grown to depend on Emilie more after the loss of their mother, and Emilie had fallen in love with Adam. Seven years later, just before the beginning of World War I, the family's fortunes have improved, and Adam insists with Emilie to return and stay on as part of the family - preserving her from the foreseeable fates of war. The four boys are adults, and they all serve in various branches of the military - Jack Stoddard (... Written by
I just saw Adam Had Four Sons for the first time and the thing that struck me was that I believe that the model used was Theodore Roosevelt and his four sons. They were approximately the same ages as the four boys in this film. Warner Baxter in his portrayal of Adam Stoddard talked about the same values and family tradition that you would have heard from our 26th president without some of the more boisterous aspects of TR's character.
Like TR all of the Stoddard sons serve in World War I, in this case though the youngest only loses an eye instead of being killed.
But what if a female minx gets into this all male household and disrupts things? That's Susan Hayward's job here. In one of her earliest prominent roles, Hayward is a flirtatious amoral girl who marries one son, has an affair with another, and starts making a play for the third. It's an early forerunner of the kind of a part that later brought her an Oscar in I Want to Live.
I suppose that with as powerful a model of decorum as Theodore Roosevelt was and Warner Baxter portrays, everyone is afraid to tell Father what's going on. The sons and also their governess Ingrid Bergman. Here's where the plot gets a little silly. Bergman is introduced to us as a governess hired by Baxter and wife Fay Wray for their kids. Wray dies and Baxter suffers some financial reversals in business. Bergman has to be let go. She goes back to France and years later comes back to the family when the kids are grown up.
I'm sorry, but I can't believe the kids need a governess now. Hayward is quite right when she confronts her that it wasn't the kids who brought her back. In the normal course of things, Bergman would have gotten on with her life.
One of the previous reviewers said that a quarter to a third of the film I have was edited out. Possibly that could be the reason for the many plot holes we have.
It's too bad that Ingrid and Susan could not have done another film together in the Fifties when Hayward was at her heights and Bergman had just made a comeback.
Susan Hayward is the main reason to see Adam Had Four Sons. And I'm willing to believe that a good deal of Ingrid was left on the cutting room floor.
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