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The Human Comedy (1943)

Unrated | | Comedy, Drama, Family | 14 February 1944 (Sweden)
Teenager Homer Macauley stays at home in small-town Ithaca to support his family, while his older brother Marcus prepares to go to war.

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(from the story by), (screen play)
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Won 1 Oscar. Another 1 win & 5 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
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Fay Bainter ...
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Jackie 'Butch' Jenkins ...
Ulysses Macauley (as Jack Jenkins)
Dorothy Morris ...
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Ann Ayars ...
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Henry O'Neill ...
Katharine Alexander ...
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Storyline

Homer Macauley remains in a small town looking after his widowed mother and younger brother. Homer's older brother is fighting the war in Europe. Written by Anonymous

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer's Great Production

Genres:

Comedy | Drama | Family

Certificate:

Unrated | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

Language:

|

Release Date:

14 February 1944 (Sweden)  »

Also Known As:

La comedia humana  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

 »
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Technical Specs

Runtime:

(Turner library print) (copyright length)

Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Don Defoe and Robert Mitchum were the soldiers with Barry Nelson. See more »

Goofs

Near the end of the film when Homer and his friends walk to the telegraph office Homer's tie is tied up short (the tail below the broad part of the tie) but when Homer enters the office and in the following scenes, the tie is tied correctly. See more »

Quotes

Mr. Macauley: I am Matthew Macauley. I have been dead for two years. So much of me is still living that I know now the end is only the beginning. As I look down on my homeland of Ithaca, California, with its cactus, vineyards and orchards, I see that so much of me is still living there - in the places I've been, in the fields and streets and church and most of all in my home, where my hopes, my dreams, my ambitions still live in the daily life of my loved ones.
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Connections

Referenced in Added Attractions: The Hollywood Shorts Story (2002) See more »

Soundtracks

America the Beautiful
(1895) (uncredited)
Music by Samuel A. Ward (1882)
In the score as Tom and Diana drive past different dancing nationalities
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User Reviews

A gentle glimpse into another time
20 November 2000 | by (Sacramento, CA USA) – See all my reviews

While the years may not have been entirely kind to "The Human Comedy," they have certainly been kinder than some of the comments I've seen here, the venom and churlish malice of which frankly astonish me.

In 1943, M-G-M commissioned author William Saroyan to develop a screen story about the World War II homefront. The result was this, which Howard Estabrook turned into a screenplay and Saroyan himself expanded into a novel -- which explains why the film was released before the book was published.

Yes, "The Human Comedy" is propaganda, but with a difference. Most of the propaganda of WWII arose from anger and grim determination, and films like "Air Force" and "Operation Tokyo" look excessive and embarrassing now that passions have cooled. The propaganda of "The Human Comedy" rises not from anger but from fear -- the fear that the crucible of war might be too harsh for the spirit of small-town America to survive.

To be honest, much of "The Human Comedy" also looks excessive and embarrassing now the fears have been alleviated. But few films struck such a chord in audiences of the time by showing them, if not as they were, then at least as they liked to picture themselves.

The film's appeal now is more than just as a historical curiosity, however. Despite the Andy Hardy sentimentality and Saroyan's blue-collar pseudo-poetry, "The Human Comedy" has much to recommend it if you can resist viewing it through the prism of our own time, with the war safely won these 50 years. It has, for example, one of Mickey Rooney's best and most restrained performances and a charming performance by Jackie "Butch" Jenkins as his baby brother -- he became a child star on the strength of this film, but was never this good again.

Frank Morgan, too, is first-rate as a sad old man taking pride in his work and refuge in his bottle; Morgan was an idiosyncratic actor, but he was capable of great depth and deserves to be known for something besides "The Wizard of Oz." Director Clarence Brown, now sadly neglected, shows once again his sure touch with Americana and his sensitive handling of child and teen actors.

"The Human Comedy" is a bit cloying, perhaps, but it's also a compassionate and generous-spirited film. It deserves to be regarded with the same generosity.


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