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Cary Grant wanted to do something different than being a comedic or
romantic leading man. He'd have liked to do more serious things like
None But the Lonely Heart a good deal more frequently.
In point of fact Grant understood the character of Ernie Mott far better than any of his other more upper class characters. Ernie Mott was the kind of fellow Cary would have run into back in the days when he was Archie Leach. Grant came from a hardscrabble background growing up in London. In many ways Cary Grant was the greatest role he ever played.
Grant had played cockneys before on the screen, but in a more comic vein in Sylvia Scarlett and Gunga Din. However what we've got in None But the Lonely Heart is far more serious.
It's an original screenplay by Clifford Odets and adapted from a novel by Richard Llewellyn who also wrote How Green Was My Valley. Odets was at that time a sensation on Broadway with a whole string of dramas of social significance from the Thirties. The grinding effects of poverty are just about the same whether it's the Lower East Side of New York or the cockney slums of London. Odets also directed this film, one of only two times he did that.
Grant understood that very well and he turned in one bravura performance as Ernie Mott who wants desperately to get ahead and makes a few bad choices in trying to do so. The only one who understands him is his mother played by Ethel Barrymore who returned to the screen for the first time in a decade.
It was a great performance for Cary Grant and it lost a fortune for RKO Studios as the public as Sam Goldwyn said, stayed away in droves. They would not accept Grant in a dramatic part. Cary got his second and last nomination for Best Actor, but lost the Academy Award to Bing Crosby in Going My Way.
Ethel Barrymore won a Best Supporting Actress Oscar that year for this film. It led to a permanent break from the stage and she spent the rest of her life in Hollywood in a variety of films. Unlike brother Lionel she wasn't tied down to a long term contract to one studio and she picked and chose wisely in roles when she stayed in Hollywood.
George Coulouris is the best from the rest of the cast as a small time racketeer in the neighborhood who Grant gets mixed up with. Coulouris always exudes menace, one of the best in doing that.
What happened to Cary Grant is the same thing that happened to Tyrone Power when he appeared in Nightmare Alley, great critical reviews and the public wouldn't buy it. Both of those guys were limited by type casting their entire careers. Power did manage to do Witness for the Prosecution at the premature end of his career, the closest Grant did to a dramatic part after this was Crisis which also was a commercial flop.
This 1944 movie is a masterpiece of black and white photography by Director Clifford Odets. The subtilty of background lighting and the shadow effects in the street scenes are magic. There are moments of sheer brilliance with Cary Grant as the independent unorthodox Cockney son Ernie Mott, who comes home and decides to run the secondhand furniture shop and care for his sick mother, Ethel Barrymore. Jane Wyman, makes money playing the cello and patiently loves Ernie from across the street. Mott has 'perfect pitch' and can tune pianos and does odd jobs. Grant brings this quirky character to life and makes us love him. Ernie is a combination of dark brooding and sanguine pathos. All the actors are excellent and bring the poetic language of the script to life. June Duprez as Ernie's girlfriend Ada is riveting. Barry Fitzgerald as genial family friend Henry Twite is special. Even the Dog called Nipper stole every scene. As you can see I loved this movie, hope you do too....
I first saw this movie in 1973 and felt it was a great film. Cary Grant
plays Ernie Mott a drifter from the east end of London who values his pride
and independence above all else. He was raised in the poverty ridden area of
the city but refuses to be tied to it. He believes that mankind can be
better if given the chance and not held back. As he says: "Stand back! Let
the man see the rabbit."
Clifford Odets screen play is very loosely based on the Richard Llewellan novel. The film captures dark moodiness that represents the poverty stricken area of London and the Cockney inhabitants thereof.
Great movie about one man's dilemma where he must choose between freespirited independence vs. the security of settling down with the ones you love, as seen through the eyes of Ernie Mott (Cary Grant). Ernie wants only freedom and peace which he can only obtain by being a wanderer, not being tied down by jobs or commitments. This changes when he finds his mother (Ethyl Barrymore) is very ill and he decides to stay with her and help run her shop. He had also fallen in love and his staying with Mom conveniently means he won't have to leave his new girl Ada(). But there is a catch with Ada, which she seems to realize from the start but Ernie slowly finds out the hard way as events unfold. The tragic implications have effects on everyone who is close to him and he ultimately is forced to re-evaluate his priorities.
I saw this movie by chance. Did not think I would be interested in
seeing Cary Grant as a lower class good for nothing but was gradually
riveted by the story and character development. The mother was amazing.
Cary was amazing, in one of his most acting type acting jobs I've every
seen. What I mean is, he's always playing the suave type and this was
very different, much more serious and nuanced and he was very good at
it. Also the dialog was really engaging, entertaining, full of little
cockney(I guess it was cockney)sayings and rhymes. The watch
maker/repair man was one of my favorite characters. All the actors in
this were splendid and well directed. The ending bitter sweet and
different. I was constantly thinking that I had guessed the outcome but
was continually surprised with each little turn of the story. The two
different women that have his romantic interest are both fascinating
and diametrically opposed which creates a subtle suspense that
underlies the other more dramatic events of the film. The dialog was
really good. Some of the lines are so impacting, I think they'll stay
with me for a long time. At one point,a friend informs Cary about his
mother's illness and Cary asks him about it. The man replies: "Your
mother is not a superficial woman." thus implying the illness is very
Highly recommend this film. BUT it's not your typical funny or adventurous Cary Grant film. It's a serious and touching portrait of a man trying to do the right thing(and the unselfish thing) for the first time in his life. So be ready for a real drama(a bit more modern in feel next to other contemporary dramas). A well made drama.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Most commentators have focused on the great affinity that Cary Grant
had for Ernie Mott, and the great under-appreciated performances he
delivered in this and other similar roles. I completely agree. I regret
that so many great actors such as Grant and Errol Flynn were typecast.
I wish they had been able to leave us a broader cinematic legacy, and I
wish that TCM exposed us to the breadth of their rich legacies more
None But the Lonely Heart is full of characters brought to life by familiar actors delivering absolutely spot-on performances. That is one of the film's great strengths.
The recreation of London's back streets on RKO's back lots and sound stages is also remarkably convincing. This is one of the components of what was termed "Movie Magic" before first, location shooting, then high-tech special effects, and finally, digitalization co-opted the term. This "art" of convincingly capturing the essence of a location within the confines of a studio is one of the quaint aspects of old films that, when done well, fascinates me. It is the essence of Imagination - both of the filmmaker and the audience. This film is "Movie Magic" at its best.
It is also a film of far greater depth than has been reflected in any of the comments. The symbolic bookends of this film are the 2 great world wars. It begins on the eve of Armistice Day (commemorating WWI) where Ernie Mott (everyman) meets Mr. Twite at the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior. Mott acknowledges that the unknown dead man might have been his father and Twite says he might have been his son. The two thus establish a bond that endures for the film and beyond. Mott's symbolic use of the term, "dad" to address the men in the film is also introduced, while Twite begins to refer to Mott as "son." Later we see Mott refer to everywoman (that is, every elder woman) as "mom," except in the latter part of the film he refers to his own mother as his "daughter," when he learns of her illness and he assumes the role of her caretaker. His old, habitual girlfriend (Jane Wyman) will accept him under her roof under any terms. But the new girl he meets, with a "kiddie" (who is never provided a name) wants security. She eventually forsakes him for her autocratic ex-husband, Mott's mobster boss, who ordered the beating of Ma Mott's Jewish friend, Ike Weber, and the ransacking of his business. Near the end of the film, both Mott and his Ma have been arrested for forsaking their honest ways and going after a quick, dishonest gain. Mott, bailed out of jail by Mr. Weber, has visited his dying Ma in jail probably for the last time. At film's end, on the eve of WWII, Mott and Twite gaze skyward and puzzle over the frightful noises they have been hearing overhead. Mott ends up on the stoop of his old girlfriend's flat. Will she let him in? Is he there for good? Has he learned his lesson?
This is a film about Idealism, Fascism, Materialism, the inevitability of War (?), the generational role reversal, the Brotherhood of Man, the Hegelian Dialectic . . . Hemingway wrote about a lost generation. Watch this film and see if you don't think there was also a lost British generation between the wars. Mott had been a disillusioned "ex-pat" up north who returned home to London.
This ernest turn at portraying Cockney life quickly becomes a fascinating story with strong characterisation. The initial narration, a touch overdone, gives a tantalising glance at future events that never appear in the film. At first, Grant seems to be playing his part with a strange over-zealous streak but we rapidly understand that this is the nature of his Ernie Mott (like Nic Cage in Wild at Heart, this is a man with clothes that represent his sense of independence), a happy-go-lucky character with a brooding sense of social injustice. Everything bad comes with a dose of sugar, a kiss if you like, to sweeten the experience and make life seem better than it really is. This is one of those pictures that plays out like a languishing soap opera - insightful and compassionate with moments of excitement - just enough to keep 'Ma' happy. This would probably work today as a remake but I suspect the directors would play up the sex and violence to such a level that the real essence of 'want and need' would be lost. Worth watching.
Thanks to American Movie Classics for bringing us this fine old film. With script and direction by Clifford Odets, success is almost guaranteed going in, and it is ensured in the event by the fine performances of Ethel Barrymore and Cary Grant, who in Ernie Mott plays one of his most substantial roles. Set in the underbelly of between-wars London, this multifaceted story has engrossing characters and a story that draws us in. The inconclusive ending puts it more or less in the category of 'slice-of-life' drama, but what a slice. Worth watching.
I found this movie to be very painful to watch. It is not your typical Hollywood, let's glamorise everything, everyone has money, let's make it look pretty. These people are grindingly poor, the mother is dying of cancer, and our boy is trying to be his own man, without money or position. Tuning pianos seems like a difficult way to earn a living, but makes use of the only talent he really has, which is perfect pitch. For those who don't know, it is the ability to name any tone or note that you hear. This movie has a great supporting cast, Barry Fitzgerald and Jane Wyatt, just to mention two. Grant's mother is one of my favorite actresses, Ethel Barrymore. She really has too much class for the part she plays. And the sets make you glad you don't have to live there. Still memorable, though, in spite of being so depressing.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Throughout his career, Cary Grant tried to shake off the comic leading
man - sophisticate roles that he fell into. He eventually did get parts
in thrillers like NORTH BY NORTHWEST and CHARADES, or serious films
like PENNY SERENADE and AN AFFAIR TO REMEMBER showing a bit of edge,
but up to his last film WALK DON'T RUN, he performed films that were
mostly likable sophisticated comedies like INDISCREET. I suppose it was
the flip side of being one of the best looking men in movies.
Hitchcock had tried to get him a villainous role in the original concept of SUSPICION, and the studio and Grant's agent vetoed it - so the plot of that film was rewritten to make him look innocent of Joan Fontaine's deepest suspicions. The nearest he got was in the film MR. LUCKY, where he is a shady gambler and swindler, and even can be really violent in a fight scene, but still turns up being more honorable than he originally intended to be.
In 1944 Grant was finally able (uniquely for his whole career) to play a movie role which, while hardly villainous, was far more realistic and tragic than anything else he ever played. Ernie Mott is his equivalent to Tyrone Power's "the Great Stanton" in NIGHTMARE ALLEY, the box office failure Darryl Zanuck allowed Power to make that showed he too was a fine actor. After NONE BUT THE LONELY HEART and NIGHTMARE ALLEY Grant and Power were taken seriously as performers by the theater going public.
Ernie Mott is a London cockney (which Grant originally was - but rarely got a chance to show on film), who lives with his mother Ma Mott (Ethel Barrymore - in her "Oscar" winning performance) in a second hands goods/minor pawn broker store. Ernie has been rather light hearted and thoughtless, never settling down to a profession. But there are few good professions for such as him. He's in an East London slum (a reference to Whitechapel in the film reminds me that this story of the 1930s is only half a century from Jack the Ripper's rampages). He has two girls in his life - the glamorous Ada (June Duprez) and Aggie, a cellist (Jane Wyatt). Both like him very much, but he admits to Aggie that he favors Ada a bit more.
Richard Llewelyn, who wrote HOW GREEN WAS MY VALLEY, wrote the novel for this film (screenplay version by dramatist Clifford Odets), and captures the spirit of that slum quite well. Ernie hates it, and wants something better, but can't concentrate. One day a family friend (Jewish pawnbroker Ike Weber - Konstantine Shane (THE STRANGER, VERTIGO)) tips off Ernie that his mother is dying of cancer. Ernie cleans up his act (he was about to see about prospects in Liverpool), and he starts taking over work from his surprised mother. But although the reforms bring him and the dying woman together, both worry about each other - and fall prey to temptations they really don't want to return to.
In Ma's case, she had been a leading fence for stolen goods for many years. If she will handle some more she can earn 500 pounds (in 1939 England a very tidy sum) to leave to Ernie. Ernie, as he dates the luxury loving Ada, finds he needs more money too. There is a snag here - Ernie's opportunity involves him with the local criminal gang boss Jim Mordinoy (George Coulouris). Mordinoy has always considered Ernie a potential gang member, but Ernie has showed little interest. Now Ernie's interested, but Mordinoy has close personal interests in Ada too - and is determined to maintain them whatever anyone (including Ada or Ernie) wants.
The film holds up very nicely, with Grant giving the best performance of his career (which did not even get noticed for an Oscar nomination). As mentioned Barrymore did get nominated as the loving but fearful Ma, and won her Oscar (making her and brother Lionel - A FREE SOUL - the only brother and sister "Oscar" winners in movie history to the present). Duprez is painful as a woman torn between real love for Grant and fear of Coulouris' vengeance. Wyatt is painful too, as she has to accept Grant's positioning her as "best friend" rather than girlfriend. Barry Fitzgerald comes into the film in it's middle as Henry Twite, a wise old fellow who does odd jobs and becomes a missing father figure to Grant (Ernie's father was killed at Verdun). Shayne, an actor of considerable strength, had a wonderful part here. Jewish pawn brokers were usually still subjects of humor in movies in 1944, but with rumors of the death camps coming up this was changing. His role of Ike is that of a decent human being in that area, who has to face Coulouris and his thugs at one point - and maintains our full sympathy.
I have to make a separate comment about George Coulouris here. I always like watching him, but too frequently his nervousness and short temper or his mental condition made his roles "over - the - top". I don't think Jim Mordinoy is anywhere near that - in fact, with Teck in WATCH ON THE RHINE this is his best performance. Mordinoy is not a ranter - he is quiet and direct and totally without scruple. He is far more dangerous (and smart) than the average thug, and one imagines that even at the end of the film he won't get touched by what happens to his minions. Grant's performance and Barrymore's are the best here, but Coulouris is equally good.
The title by the way comes from a song with music by Tschaikowski and words from a poem by Goethe. It was also played by Paul Lukas to Katherine Hepburn in LITTLE WOMEN.
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