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Danville, Connecticut at the turn of the century. Young Richard Miller lives in a middle-class neighborhood with his family. He is in love with the girl next-door, Muriel, but her father isn't too happy with their puppy-love, since Richard always share his revolutionary ideas with her. Written by
Quite bland musical version of Eugene O'Neill's gentle comedy play about a family in rural America before the first world war.
MGM made the first (non-musical) version in 1935 under the play's original title, AH, WILDERNESS! That film, which stars Eric Linden, Lionel Barrymore, and Wallace Beery is superb.
Here we get Mickey Rooney (aged 28 playing a high school senior), Walter Huston, and Frank Morgan. Huston and Morgan are OK, but Morgan can't hold a candle to Beery's Uncle Sid.
The rest of the cast here is competent but all the "edge" has been taken out of the original story. Agnes Moorehead plays the old maid aunt, Selena Royle is the mother, Gloria DeHaven is the girl next door, Butch Jenkins is the kid brother (Rooney played the role in the '35 film), and John Alexander plays the blowhard neighbor.
Not helping is the bland and forgettable music score. They would have been better off using real songs from the period.
The main problem is that Rooney is simply too old for this, and his acting is pretty bad. By 1948 he was already about to end his second marriage (first was to Ava Gardner). And here he is trying to play a virginal high schooler. It gets really sticky when he rebels and meets Belle.
In this version Belle is a chorus girl rather than a prostitute. Marilyn Maxwell is a breath of fresh air as the salty, plain-talking, overly made-up woman trying to take the green kid for a few bucks ... until another guy shows up. This is a nicely lit and interesting scene as Belle is "transformed" in Rooney's eyes from the cheap chorus girl into a colorful woman of the world. Maxwell is terrific. It's a great small role; in the '35 version Helen Flint was also terrific.
Bottom line is that this is just a so-so film. It can't compare with the '35 version of the story, and it certainly doesn't come up to the MGM standard for its '40s musicals. The movie was not a box office success.
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