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"Joe Smith, American" lives in a Los Angeles suburb and works at an aircraft plant. One night Joe hears a voice cut in on a radio program: "This is God. I'll be with you for the next few days." It turns out, everyone in the world listening to any radio heard the same thing. More messages come; some people react positively, others negatively. Written by
Rod Crawford <firstname.lastname@example.org>
This is apparently one of only three films in which the MGM lion is not shown roaring at the start of the opening credits, probably because of the religious theme of the film. The only other known incidence of a non-roaring lion is Ben-Hur (1959), which also has a religious theme, and Westward the Women (1951). (The studio's 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) uses the illustrated lion from the MGM record label at its beginning, not a real lion, and so doesn't count.) See more »
Joe Smith, American:
You remember what the voice said last night? That we should all do our homework for tomorrow? Well, let's take a look at the things that God told us to look at. Let's just see how great his miracles really are. There's the moon. The stars. It's the air we breathe. The earth we walk on. It's the trees. It's the hills. And it's things like loving each other. The way I love you and the way Mom loves us. It's all those wonderful things, Johnny. The way I love you and you love me, we got nothing to ...
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"You know," writer George Sumner Albee said, "wouldn't it be something if God would come on the radio and give people such a bad scare they'd wake up and behave themselves!" That quote appeared in MGM president Dore Schary's book "Case History of a Movie", which elevated "The Next Voice You Hear " far above its station. It also places the "germ" of the story in the days of radio, when the magical medium would be natural place for God to speak to "Joe Smith, American". So, during the time it was written and filmed, this story must have seemed far less ludicrous.
The story focuses on the Smith family: James Whitmore (as Joe), Nancy Davis (as Mary), and Gary Gray (as Johnny). The names "Joseph" and "Mary" have Biblical implications, of course; and, in the film, "Mary" is pregnant. These facts, like the "voice of God" itself, never progress past the point of mildly intriguing, however. The Smith family proves to be an underwhelming choice to follow, through God's supposed manifestation. Interestingly, the filmmakers combine all the world's Gods into one; with the implication being that Jews, Muslims, and others hear a similar message.
A couple of supporting performers are nice, but Ms. Davis (later known as Nancy Reagan) is the best thing in the film. Though a surprisingly thin pregnant woman, she still endeavors to look like she's carrying a child; and, Davis gives the most realistic performance. She helps the other performers look believable, too, just by appearing on screen with them. For example, it looks like she covers for young Gray, when he almost knocks over a table. And, after a silly "drunk scene", ending with Mr. Whitmore walking a straight line into EVERY stool on his way out of a bar, Davis' presence dampens the mediocrity.
Davis is genuine in her manner and looks; she obviously worked on the character, with direction from William A. Wellman. Mr. Wellman keeps it interesting, for the most part; and, the film provokes some thought. Finally, many at MGM would agree with the observation that God's voice, if heard, would sound exactly like Lionel Barrymore.
***** The Next Voice You Hear (6/29/50) William A. Wellman ~ James Whitmore, Nancy Davis, Gary Gray, Lillian Bronson
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