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William A. Wellman
When young Robert Shannon is orphaned he leaves his home in Ireland and travels to Langford, Scotland, home of his maternal grandparents. Growing up in the home of his penny-pinching grandfather is made bearable by his doting but irresponsible great-grandfather, loving grandmother and kind aunt and uncle. After a rocky start in his new school Robbie adjusts and is befriended by Gavin and Allison, whom he grows to love as the years pass. As he matures into a young man Robbie's dreams turn to medicine and becoming a doctor. Supported by everyone in the family except his grandfather, he studies for a scholarship as a way to escape life toiling in the local boiler-works. Written by
Ron Kerrigan <email@example.com>
A measure of this film's quality is that days after screening it I'm still thinking about it. It's a great multifaceted story with many and varied parallel plots and the performances will stay with you for a long time. Several scenes have become permanently engraved in my mind, too many to enumerate. Others have commented on Charles Coburn's performance and yes, it is outstanding, but not the only notable one. Hume Cronyn's miserly Papa Leckie is exasperating and even oddly sympathetic. Norman Lloyd who plays Papa's son is truly a chip off the old block if with more joviality. Gladys Cooper and Selena Royale are both excellent as always and Dean Stockwell gives a very nuanced performance, more so than in any other film I've seen him in. I should also mention Beverly Tyler whom I have never seen before if only for her singing voice which is truly angelic. And let's not forget another outstanding performance by Jessica Tandy in a complete role reversal from her previous outing in "The Valley of Decision". She is by far my favorite here even though she is not a headliner, with Coburn and Hume close seconds. If I have a gripe it's about the chronology. The story takes place in 19th century Scotland, a notoriously unhealthy place, yet it covers four generations. Coburn's grandpa is already an old man when Bobby comes to live with the Leckies yet he lives long enough to see Bobby to young adulthood a decade later. To top it all off he's an overweight alcoholic and his lifestyle is anything but healthy. That alone stretches all credulity although it is possible, if barely so. I think I'll have to read Cronin's novel on which the film is based to discover how the author handled this detail. Put that aside though and enjoy a great find.
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