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|Index||35 reviews in total|
Unique movie, fantastic, shows part of Cary Grant rarely seen.. even if just in a movie role. In the role of Ernie Mott, shows a rare side and if you're open to cockney accent and a rough neighborhood, well.. he's charm comes through .. even without the usual polish. A champion movie.. showing a hint of Cary Grant's background.. His change in heart for his mom and turnaround coupled with the difficulties of pre-war england. I suppose some might not like the lack of polish and some people can not get past a thick accent.. and the British slang from the rougher side of town... if you look past that and open up to the role.. you'll love this movie
Cary Grant is much too handsome,too aristocratic ,to play the part of
this prodigal son and it is one of his more painful part.A loser he
just cannot be.Ethel Barrymore ,on the other hand ,saves the movie
,with a balanced portrayal of a woman who ,in a way,as sonny
says,exploits the others' poverty;and the most touching scene might be
that of the cage ,when Grant gives the bird back to the woman in tears
. Directing is static,trying to create an English atmosphere with fish
and ships and pounds;but didn't they forget that cars run on the left
in Albion ?(see the car chase) .Sometimes the music rises and we feel
something important is about to happen :but nothing essential occurs.
All the elements of melodrama are present :a bad son,who will redeem his soul,a fatal disease,bad influences , a divorced girl with a little child,and even an imprisoned mom, but the mixture lacks consistency and even the final is not convincing ,being particularly gloomy.the hero's middle name is "Verdun" ,the French town where his father fights in WW1
Tough guy Ernie Mott...and his life-battered widowed Mom (played by the
great Ethel Barrymore-great aunt to Drew Barrymore) live on the bottom
edge of London society. Ernie is the kind of guy who the law might
sorta watch...but he does benefit from the counsel of a few older men
he calls "Dad"...Will this Diamond in the Rough Ernie Mott make
wise---or foolish choices??? The other reviews above suggest potent
reasons why this is the best film the usually suave Cary Grant made.
This really good film brings out the better reviewers!!! Grant, in real
life a Cockney, had to usually play his "Smooth Romantic Leading Man"
in too many movies...NONE but the Lonely Heart-is an exception! This
film also enticed the great stage actress Ethel Barrymore into 10+ more
years as a wonderful character actor. Tho no longer young, she
absolutely dominates any scene with her wonderful old beauty and her
elegant yet streetwise wisdom. (PS I heard that she was tough...She
stood up to a abusive husband!) You get the sense of LOSS as the
beginning narrative hints that Ernie Mott might well join the war dead
of World War 2. (Movie is set just before WW2 erupts tho it came out in
Mott's depth is hinted at...He fights with his mom, but sticks with her when he finds she has incurable cancer. When she is tempted to make a disastrous choice, he comforts her...As he ponders a car crash, his musical ear is so fine that he can name the stuck horn tone as "e flat". This drifter, tinkerer and piano tuner...draws you in..You care what happens to him! He is willing to stand up to a gangster (George Couloris) to marry the gangster's abused ex wife...Bravery is not a problem, tho Mott does seem to get in the way of the law.
Imagine that some wise WW2 military officer would have been glad to have the tough, rough Mott in his unit!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Not having read Richard Llewllyn's novel, upon which Clifford Odetts
based this script, I can't comment on how successfully the transfer was
made from book to screen.
However, what remains is a very odd, moody and atypical film for Cary Grant. It's probably the closest thing to an art film he ever did.
Knowing Grant's personal life, especially his childhood through adolescent experiences, I can understand his wanting to connect with Archie Leach and his deferred Bristol background.
Here was an excellent opportunity in the role of a Cockney drifter searching for a better life, amid the cultural squalor. It was probably a very therapeutic project in the actor's search for personal psychological closure.
Too, RKO obviously wanted ideal casting, and went to great financial lengths to secure Ethel Barrymore for the mother role.
The b/w photography, idiomatic sets and dark lighting are all appropriate and effective. Yet what finally resulted is a piece oozing with atmosphere and character study, yet strangely static in terms of dramatic thrust.
What's our hero's specific objective? We get it that he's dissatisfied and wants to move on. Is that enough, though, for a full length story? Where's the agenda? Does the fault lie in Mr. Odett's somewhat lackluster direction and writing?
Whatever the case, the viewer must steel up stamina to view this film. It's requires a lot of concentration and effort to understand the Cockney accents, character motivation and over all "message."
Still, if it helped Grant to stabilize and balance himself as an actor (and person) before going on to do such fine future work, we can be appreciative for this effort.
The movie's a wildcard in Grant's otherwise debonair career. Here he's
an aimless London slum-dweller, who thinks futility is just the way the
world is. So why should he, Ernie Mott (Grant), try for anything better
when the world's rigged for defeat. Still, Ernie's got an indulgent, if
fatally ill, mother, along with two adoring girlfriends. They might
help if he weren't so casual about their affections.
The movie's heart is in the right place, as lefty screenwriter-director Odets links the ease of crime with slum conditions. The trouble is it's hard to take Grant (age 40) as either youthful or poverty stricken (couldn't they have dirtied him up a bit). Maybe I've seen too many of his slick light comedies, but I just couldn't forget that this is the great smoothy playing against type. No doubt, he was trying to expand his range, but the choice of vehicles was unfortunate as he himself admitted.
The movie itself is about as dingy as any I've seen. The murky b&w is tediously unrelenting. Naturally, that emphasizes the slum-like conditions, but also serves a more practical purpose. Namely, the dimness masks the many studio-bound streets and sets that are about as cheaply done as any of Grant's many films. Frankly, between the unrelenting talk and bleak visuals, my attention wandered. Still, Jane Wyatt is fetching, Barrymore doesn't over-act, Fitzgerald is not too cuddly, while Grant tries his manful best. Too bad, the results aren't better the 113-minutes could easily have profited by shaving off 20 of those.
Anyway, the movie remains more a bleakly done oddity than anything else in Grant's fabulous career.
Cary Grant reinvented himself as a Hollywood film star with an American accent, but before he did that, his real name was Archie Leach, from Bristol, and as English as they come. In this film, he returns to his roots and very successfully plays an Englishman. The film is a very moving and effective story about a young man reluctantly coming to terms with what it means to be responsible and sensible, and giving up a rather wild and unconstrained existence which was leading nowhere. It is superbly directed by the playwright Clifford Odets, who also wrote the screenplay, which is based upon a novel by the Welshman Richard Llewellyn, who is more famous for his novel HOW GREEN WAS MY VALLEY (filmed in 1941). This was one of only two films directed by Odets, the other being fifteen years later, THE STORY ON PAGE ONE (1959, which is such a bad film I did not bother to review it). However, this earlier directorial achievement by Odets was really one to be proud of, and totally works. The film takes its title from the famous song by Pyotr Tchaikovsky, a tune played by the character Aggie Hunter in the film, who is sensitively played by Jane Wyatt. Wyatt plays the cello herself on screen. The same theme tune is also played on the piano by Cary Grant, also really playing the instrument himself. Another excellent pianist/actor appears in the film, Dan Duryea, but he only has a small part and does not play any music. This film is remarkable for the stunning performance by Helen Duprez as a steamy and passionate gal who falls for Cary Grant. Helen Duprez is so amazing in this film that she equals Gloria Grahame for effortlessly conveying intense sensuality on the screen, just by the way she talks, looks, and moves. It is one of the great tragedies of the cinema that Helen Duprez's career misfired (see the account in her bio on IMDb), for she was truly in a class of her own. Anyone interested in the history of screen passion without bedroom scenes needs to study this performance, and see how it is done. Clifford Odets obviously knew how to get Duprez's magic out of her, by gaining her confidence and giving her the necessary encouragement. Although it was Ethel Barrymore, who played Cary Grant's mother, who got the Oscar for her performance in this film, that Oscar should really have gone to Helen Duprez. That is not to say that Ethel Barrymore's performance is not marvellous, for it is. She shows extreme subtlety in a part which a lesser actress would have played with broad strokes and would have hammed it up. This is a wonderfully successful film which deserves to be more widely known.
Ne'er-do-well drifter Ernie Mott (Cary Grant) returns home to London, where he learns his mother (Ethel Barrymore) has cancer. He decides to stay and help her run her shop but falls in love with a gangster's ex-wife and turns to crime. The film directorial debut of playwright Clifford Odets is a dreary, unexciting tale with nice performances from Ethel Barrymore and a miscast Cary Grant. The character in the book this is based upon is much younger than Grant is in this. The part's rewritten with him in mind but still feels like it would have been a better fit for a younger man. Grant does a decent job, though. The supporting cast includes lovelies June Duprez and Jane Wyatt, as well as the great Barry Fitzgerald. Unfortunately, he's not utilized to his full potential here. It's an unmoving social drama that goes on too long and has some rather forced WW2 elements that feel tacked-on. There's also a stagy feel to things, in large part due to the talky script where one can easily imagine Grant or Barrymore speaking to an audience instead of the other characters in the film.
Cary Grant was born in Bristol although that might not explain his
rather peculiar accent which is not quiet west Country. He also had a
strained relationship with his real life mother.
None but the lonely heart in some ways goes back to his roots and gets away from his debonair and dapper image. He plays Ernie Mott, a working class cockney drifter, tuning pianos, fixing watches. His mother runs a second hand shop with a sideline in handling stolen goods. Grant starts taking an interest in the shop when he learns from a family friend that she is gravely ill. He also meets a girl and in order to have the good life with her joins a local gang whose criminal endeavours simply leads him to more aggro.
The film disappointed at the box office which hurt Grant as it was a personal project for him. The film is rather maudlin, it shows a Hollywood version of Cockney life where even working class grime has been cleaned up for the screen. Grant fails to convince me that he is working class despite putting on a cap, he just looks to well spruced. The film is not bad but only the latter part of the film rises to the occasion.
Ethel Barrymore who plays Grant's mother won a Best Supporting Actress Oscar and she is fine in the role and brings a lot of heart.
Just like John Wayne, Cary Grant was skilled at playing himself. Here the boy from Bristol tries and fails to play a Londoner - his accent is less plausible than the American actors around him. He sticks out like the proverbial sore thumb in a 'spiv-suit' attempting to portray a cockney 'wide-boy' while Hollywood's idea of thirties London stinks of caricatures and stereotypes - the Jewish moneylender Ike Weber and the Irish 'son of the sod' Henry Twite, played by that excruciating 'stock' Irishman Brry Fitzgerald . Mawkishly sentimental as only Hollywood could be, it struggles aimlessly to create any believable character, setting or plot. The only thing that kept me watching was the expectation of a shoot-out of some sort. God knows where it was filmed. And, to cap it all, Grant apparently was Oscar-nominated for it! Acted by the cast of 'Brighton Rock' there may have been some veracity but I doubt any English viewer could watch this without being astonished at just how stereotypical it is. Of its era and location - it's a construct for American eyes only.
None but the Lonely Heart (1944)
An odd but actually really interesting American movie set in London (and made on a huge soundstage built for the filming in California). At first you might twitch at Cary Grant's slightly affected accentexcept that he grew up in working class London, though with a different neighborhood accent than this. His mother, played by Ethel Barrymore, doesn't even pretend at an accent, which is fine. She's tough as nails and she fights for her son's dignity with maternal hardness. "A breath of homeless wind," she calls him.
This makes sense in contextthe movie is from the big turning point and gruesome zone of World War II. It seems the Germans are losing ground at last, and Britain, a short Channel away from enemy soldiers, is desperate to keep morale up. A final scene has some badly done shadows of planes falling on a third major character, as he and Grant look up at the sky.
There are a hundred great moments here, many of them in the clever, homey script (which is filled with old school aphorisms like, "They milk the cow that stands still"). And then there's the moment when Grant appears at the bottom of the stairs in a new striped suit. What a sight!
Underneath all this is a tender, sad, triumphant story amidst the ruins of this mother and son family. You can read it two ways. The first is simple: a gadabout young man hasn't paid much attention to his aging, widowed mother and the two have to find ways of getting to know each other again. Both of the leads are terrific actors, and though they might seem mismatched in style, they are decent enough to pull of this seesaw of emotions.
The other story is a social message about young men with skills coming to the aid of those who need them. In the bigger picture this means Great Britain in its fight against the Nazis. As the personal ups and downs fly around us while we watch (there is tumult of romantic and criminal activity), the bigger truth is developingGrant's troubled character has to find some inner stability to make him a useful, happy human being. It's not about being a homeless wind after all.
Overall there is a stage-like stiffness to part of the film (Odets was a playwright above all), but it's so moving at times, and so well written at others, I recommend it anyway. A classic? No. But it helps fill in some gaps in Grant's career (he just finished filming "Arsenic and Old Lace") and it does satisfy some dramatic impulse in me.
An example of a great tidbit? Midway, Grant is making advances on the leading lady, and she rebuffs him flat. "Rolled a nice cold pickle jar down my back, you did," he says. A little later she says, "There's about twenty good kisses left in me but you'll never get one." Where the heck does this kind of great, old-fashioned, writing come from? The writer of the movie, of course, Clifford Odets, who also is directing. This is one of two movies the great writer directed. And this, in the end, is why to see it. He's not a terrific director, but he knows how to respect a good writer when it's himself. And there is so much that works here amidst the slightly awkward direction it's worth seeing.
For those who love old movies, that is. And for anyone trying to get a grip on the effect of WWII on England, and London, and regular folk.
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