Always in My Heart (1942)
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The story has more holes in it than 10 pounds of swiss cheese. The ages of the kids makes no sense with the father spending 13 years in prison and having a daughter (Warren) who is much older than 13. As for Warren's singing, unfortunately they have her doing a more operatic squealing than singing.
I do like the orchestra touches and a lot of the other music. The cast acting is solid, and get my sentiment as this script had to be laughable even when it was made. One of the few Broadway successes that totally missed as a film. Some of the orchestra music is great.
Why the father does not anyone to know who he is is a little muddled here. The play must have been plotted better. An enjoyable mess but a mess just the same.
What are the fabulous Kay Francis and Walter Huston doing in this B-movie? Warners should have made them the focus of the story, rather than the kids. Francis is so warm and loving and likable - a mother unlike any I've ever known in real life. And it's no contest between the grizzled Huston and his rich rival for Francis hand in marriage. One has star power and the other does not.
Although I'm certain home life in real American homes was not as warm and cozy as in Francis home, I liked it in the same way I like Judge Hardy's happy home. But I wonder, was it realistic that in 1942 a man would walk through an open door into a strangers living room and be welcomed by a teenage girl who is alone and practicing her high notes at the piano? If so, life in America has certainly changed in the last 70 years. But seeing how life was in the Hollywood version of the good old days is one of the major pleasures to be had from watching old movies.
The better part of the movie is nothing more than musical "filler" with the caterwauling daughter played by ingenue, Gloria Warren, either endlessly practicing her scales or launching into some totally forgettable song.
Also, much screen time is devoted to the bratty antics of what must be the most annoying child star in the history of movies, Patty Hale.
Then Huston receives a sudden pardon...
In the higher octaves, this film can cause mental anguish. But the title song is catchy; "Always in My Heart" became a big sheet music and record hit in 1942. There is good support from Warren's cute teenage brother Frankie Thomas (as Martin "Marty" Scott), their blustery maid Una O'Connor (as Angie) and her pert preteen Patti Hale (as Booley). Huston's competition is wealthy Sidney Blackmer (as Philip Ames), while sexy Armida (as Lolita) causes trouble for young Thomas. Interesting to note Montgomery Clift played the part in Thomas Mitchell's 1935 Broadway comedy, then titled "Fly Away Home". Director Joseph "Jo" Graham does well with the street scenes, especially a rousing variation of the title that likely sent harmonica sales rising.
****** Always in My Heart (3/14/42) Jo Graham ~ Gloria Warren, Kay Francis, Walter Huston, Frankie Thomas
What's good here? Well, Walter Huston is the real attraction here. What a gem of an actor he was! Here he is an ex-con at a time when that didn't have quite the stigma it has nowadays. I also enjoyed the slice of Americana displayed here.
And, Kay Francis, a very fine, but often forgotten actress today, portrays Huston's wife who is about to get remarried, thinking Huston will never get out of prison.
Sidney Blackmer, a very pleasant character actor, is the new husband-to-be.
And, the almost perpetual maid -- Una O'Connor -- a hoot in any film is here. You also get to see John Hamilton who later was Perry White in the "Superman" television series. As an extra treat, there's an early performance of Borrah Minevitch and His Harmonica Rascals, which more viewers will recognize from their appearances on television in the 1950s after they morphed into being Johnny Puleo & The Harmonicats (with Puleo being remembered as a dwarf).
The title song is a great ballad covered by many vocalists over the years.
What's bad here? The operatic singing of the daughter (played by Gloria Warren). It's not bad, but so out of style today that you just wanna say, "SHUT UP!" And finally she did just that in her fairly short film career!
The climax of the film seems a bit overdramtic, although it does work in the story. Maybe just overdone a tad.
If there's a real problem with this film it's that it is, sometimes, a bit corny and sentimental. But, what's wrong with that. That's how life is sometimes.
For Huston's performance alone I'd give this film a "7".
The ending of the movie is inevitable, and it is inevitable from the early prison scene between Kay Francis and Walter Huston. There is not even a mildly divergent sub-plot to move things along except for the perfunctory story concerning Frankie Thomas and his girlfriend. I kept expecting some unexpected plot points to develop around Sydney Blackmer, but none did.
However....Kay Francis and Walter Huston are very appealing and very charming. Their roles were hardly a stretch for either one of them, but they are worth watching. They make the whole thing, as tired and pointless as it is, watchable and even - almost - enjoyable. But not quite. I will watch anything with Kay Francis in it; no one else, ever, conveyed warmth and generosity as she did. This movie, sad to say given its limitations, is one of her better Warner Brothers films. She's terrific; her movies were not.
During the interim before it reached the screen the film that became known as Always In My Heart was adapted for the wartime present. It also became a musical of sorts with one original song written for it, You're Always In My Heart and some classical and standard pop songs filling out the score. Because it was a musical the emphasis went away from the son and father to the daughter and father with Gloria Warren who Jack Warner was obviously building up to be his answer to Universal's Deanna Durbin. Warren sang pretty, but never quite made it as a second Durbin.
Walter Huston is the father of Frankie Thomas and Gloria Warren who was in jail for about 15 years and was pardoned. During that time he divorced their mother Kay Francis at his insistence. He figured he was going to be in jail for life as that was the sentence meted out to him for a homicide of a business partner who doubledealed him. The kids were told he died and Francis is now ready to marry the stuffy, but rich Sidney Blackmer.
Stopping by the house and not meeting Francis, Huston ingratiates himself with Warren when he tunes her piano and in that displays the musical knowledge and gift he's passed on to Warren. They develop a relationship of sorts as Huston decides to hang around see his kids for a few days before exiting their lives.
Thomas is getting his hormones in an uproar over the sexy Amida on this California coast town, but she's only using him to make her boy friend Anthony Caruso jealous. He's in need of some fatherly advice even if he doesn't know it's his father. As for Warren she likes singing with the poor fisher folk living on the wharves with their harmonica band led by Borrah Minevitch. Blackmer does not approve of her associating with the lower classes.
Towards the downside of her career, Kay Francis gradually transitioned into mother roles, if the film had been done at MGM, Greer Garson might have been cast. She and Huston do well together in their joint scenes.
The title song for Always In My Heart received an Academy Award nomination as the Best Song, the only nomination the film received. But this was the year of White Christmas and no other song was going to win the Oscar that year.
Certain things in the film tell me that the original play was a great deal more serious. The changes were made in keeping with wartime years as Gloria Warren the Harmonica Rascals led by Borrah Minevitch were aiming at both a USO show and a big radio contract. Of course Warren is also aiming to study seriously as well.
The changes leave Always In My Heart quite a hybrid film, not quite drama and not quite comedy. Still it's a pleasant enough film with the cast doing very well by their roles.
Unknown to all but Kay is the fact that her dead husband isn't dead after all but is in prison. Since he was sentenced to prison for life, they both decided to tell the children he was dead and Kay was encouraged repeatedly by her husband (Walter Huston) to remarry. Huston is not your typical Hollywood prisoner, as he's a model of decency and eventually the state decides to pardon him just before Francis' wedding to her stuffy but rich boyfriend. However, Huston does NOT want to return to their lives, as he feels they have a right to continue as they are--he just doesn't want to upset their lives. But, he's also curious how his children have become so he secretly checks up on them with no intentions of letting them know who he really is. Of course, this plan has complications--otherwise, there wouldn't be much of a movie!
The plot of ALWAYS IN MY HEART isn't believable but despite this, the story is quite entertaining and watchable. However, Warner Brothers' latest singing discovery, Gloria Warren, made the movie tough going. That's because her style of singing was akin to Jeanette MacDonald combined with a banshee!! One reviewer called it "screeching" and this isn't far from the truth!! I can see why this young prodigy only made a few films, as every time she sang the hair on my neck stood up and my ears burned. So my advice is if the movie comes back on TV, copy it first. Then, when you watch it, you can speed through the god-awful songs!!
When I saw it again the other night for the first time in years on TCM I was horrified. Worse, I was somewhat bored. Either I never saw or my memory blocked out the musical portions. Obviously, Warner Bros. was trying to turn Gloria Warren into their own Deanna Durbin, but she just lacked the "star quality" Durbin had and was a completely uninteresting actress, at least in this film.
The film could have been a great one if the music had been eliminated and the focus kept on the melodrama - a man (Walter Huston) getting out of prison and giving up a woman who loves him and his children so they can all have some security with a rather bland fellow who wants to marry the woman (Kay Francis). Instead, Huston paces from the "good" side of town where we are tormented by Warren's operatic screeching, to the bad side of town where a novelty harmonica band act torments us some more. Just goes to proves bad music has a home in both the low-brow and high-brow varieties.
What gets five stars from me is the warm family story and the title song, "Always In My Heart" which is really quite beautiful and a bit of a theme song for the entire situation portrayed in the film.
If you want to see what Kay Francis and Walter Huston can do for a film without all of this distraction thrown in, try to track down a copy of "Gentlemen of the Press". There they really sizzle.
This is a very sweet film with some enjoyable music and operatic singing by Warren. With the success of Deanna Durbin, the studios apparently all scrambled for their own version. Warren had a well-trained, small coloratura voice that had a very high sound to it (everything she sang sounded as if it started about an octave higher than anyone else's music), the kind of voice very popular back in the days of the French soprano, Lily Pons. She was dark and pretty with a certain appeal, but the voice didn't have the versatility of Durbin's, nor was she as charismatic. Huston, of course, does a beautiful job as her father. Francis looks fantastic and gives a lovely performance. Warner Brothers was just about to dump her. Una O'Connor is very funny as the housekeeper, and while some may have found her annoying, I thought Patti Hale, who played O'Connor's granddaughter, was adorable.
If you're a Kay Francis fan, a Walter Huston fan, or an opera fan, you should enjoy "Always in my Heart."
Ms. Francis plays a middle class woman with 2 children, who supposedly is widowed. Wealthy Sidney Blackmer wishes to marry her.
It turns out that she is not widowed. She divorced her husband after he was sent to prison for killing a man. Both children have been told that their father is dead.
As Huston is about to be pardoned, Francis arrives at the prison to tell him that she is remarrying. Thinking only of her happiness and security for their children, Huston does not tell Francis of the pardon but instead encourages the marriage.
Huston, upon release, settles in a fishing area around San Francisco. Of course, he meets his children but says nothing.
Naturally, the children find out what they are and the film ends where he saves his son from a drunk and daughter, when she goes out in a storm in a boat.
There are some musical interludes in this as the daughter is training to be an opera singer. Huston does a little singing and there are several sequences where groups of fishermen turn to their harmonicas.
She's being courted by a rich man, but no one likes him (us included).
The husband gets out of jail and, also a musician, hangs out in "Fish Town," an Italian community on the docks.
It sounds corny but it works.
A dated, misguided mishmash of soapsuds (a paroled convict goes home incognito to meet his estranged wife and children who think he died), ghastly musical numbers (the theme song is indeed haunting, but after 15 renditions you'll wince), star-vehicle (Warners' ill-advised attempt to turn Gloria Warren into the next Deanna Durbin? Not!), and cornball melodramatics (the waterlogged ending is a corker).
All of the above notwithstanding, the luminous performances by Walter Huston and Kay Francis provide fleeting moments of genuine emotion, and the supporting cast -- Sidney Blackmer, Una O'Connor, and the always likable Frankie Thomas -- is first-rate. A pity they weren't rewarded with a first-rate script.