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W.S. Van Dyke,
Robert Z. Leonard
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 <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Sort of like Scotland's answer to HOW GREEN WAS MY VALLEY
HOW GREEN WAS MY VALLEY was one of the best films of the 1940s and really did a lot to bring to life the Welsh experience at the end of the 19th century. The film featured brilliant writing, acting and John Ford's deft direction. Now five years later, MGM returns with a film that reminded me, in many ways, of this earlier film--though it is set in Scotland just a decade or so after HOW GREEN WAS MY VALLEY.
One major difference was that the main character (initially played by Dean Stockwell) was actually Scotch-Irish and when orphaned he was sent from Ireland to live with family in Scotland. Unfortunately, not everyone in the family was happy to see the kid--as the stingy (both financially and emotionally) grandfather (played exceptionally well by Hume Cronyn) saw the kid as a burden and obligation instead of kin. Also, the fact that the boy was Catholic didn't help matters. However, the great-grandfather (Charles Coburn) was quite different. Despite at first seeming a bit gruff, he became the boy's greatest friend and ally. Through the course of the film, we see the boy grow from childhood to young manhood (where he is played by Tom Drake).
The film has a nice touch to it--with really nice acting and direction. About the only negative is that perhaps they tried too hard to stick with the original book, as there were so many story elements that seemed unnecessary and distracting, while several characters were never fully developed. A good example was the friend being hit by a train--it came from no where and did NOTHING to further the story. Also several family members' motivations and behaviors seemed oddly difficult to predict. A good re-write and streamlining of the novel would have improved things. Now I am NOT suggesting they should have shortened the film--just devoted more time to character development. Still, this is a lovely and entertaining film.
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