5.6/10
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31 user 14 critic

My Son John (1952)

The Jeffersons are the ideal picture-perfect all-American family in a small town, but their eldest son John returns home after a long absence spouting views that cause them to worry he may be a Communist.

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Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 1 win. See more awards »
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Stars: Deborah Kerr, Robert Walker, Mark Stevens
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Cast

Complete credited cast:
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Lucille Jefferson
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Stedman
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Dan Jefferson
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John Jefferson
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Dr. Carver
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Father O'Dowd
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Chuck Jefferson
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Ben Jefferson
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
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Boy (scenes deleted)
David Bond ...
College Professor (scenes deleted)
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Jail Matron (scenes deleted)
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FBI Agent (scenes deleted)
Bill McLean ...
Parcel Post Man (scenes deleted)
Frances Morris ...
Secretary (scenes deleted)
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Professor (scenes deleted)
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Storyline

John Jefferson comes home from a trip overseas a strangely changed man. His already nervous wreck of a mother is distraught by the way he seems to be feigning feelings for her and his father that he no longer has. Plus, his odd refusal to accompany the family to church on Sunday not only disturbs her but their priest as well. He also seems to be making fun of and smirking at his father's jubilant expressions of patriotism. His poor mother cannot imagine what could have caused such a change in her favorite son, who used to be loving and church-going and now seems remote from both. He also gets strange calls and goes off to strange "meetings" with no explanation. He is also being watched by an FBI agent who comes to the home and greatly disturbs John's mother with his odd questions about him. Eventually the horrible truth comes out: John is a Communist spy! No wonder he has no real feelings for his family and shuns the church he once loved!During a high-speed chase, John is killed, but ... Written by Michael Wisper

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Drama

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Details

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Release Date:

8 April 1952 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Mi hijo John  »

Filming Locations:

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Technical Specs

Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Parts of the film were rewritten after actor Robert Walker (John Jefferson) died during production. Several scenes use a double shot from behind, and others recycle footage of Walker from Strangers on a Train (1951). The final scene, where a recording of John delivers an anti-communist speech, is lit with a halo around the tape-recorder. See more »

Connections

Edited from Strangers on a Train (1951) See more »

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User Reviews

 
Heavy handed anti-commie propaganda all of the way
17 May 2016 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

In the beginning we see all of the Jeffersons -sans the titular John - going to church in their small town, getting ready to send their two sons off to Korea. These are the good sons, the literally blue eyed blonde haired sons in their uniforms going off to war, with the church symbolically behind them as the priest is the one to drive them off to join up with their regiments. Hey. Have I just wandered into a Nazi propaganda film, because so far it sure seems like it! Didn't Sam Goldwyn make "The North Star" just nine years before telling us how great and friendly those Russians were? And that Stalin, he was just a big lovable father figure...in 1943 that is.

John is given a big build up before he even physically enters the scene. He is a big intellect. His brothers were the football players, he was the student. Dad is suspicious of John and thinks he looks down on them. Mom is still seeing him as a little boy, and sometimes it gets downright creepy. You almost feel like if John died and she lived we'd have the reverse of Hitchcock's "Psycho" playing out as John would be the stuffed one sitting in a rocker. John is also treated as some sort of supernatural threat that only mother love and the Catholic church can defeat. The truth unfolds as though the son has been found out to be a vampire, one of the walking dead. Rosaries and crosses and talk of God thus repel him.

There also seemed to be quite a bit of Bruno ("Strangers on a Train") in John Jefferson, especially with cigarette in hand, conversing with dear old Mom: Oh you know how father is, etc. He just preferred a gray flannel suit to a silk dressing gown, and communism to homosexuality. Besides the dark shadow of Marxism-Leninism hovering over the Jefferson household, there is the dark shadow of mom's menopause. Mother Jefferson does seem very subject to mood swings, even before she starts to suspect John's secret. That's why the doctor gave her those three times a day pills. I think Helen Hayes played this role very well, with just the right tone of confused mother love, and a little bit of pixilation. But maybe it would have been better if her two All-American sons had actually sent her back an opium pipe from their government-sponsored trip to Korea rather than a kimono, and the necessary contents to fill it. Mom could have mellowed out a bit. Who sends their mom a kimono anyways?

Leaving aside the Communist element, this film is similar to ones like All My Sons and others of the deep, dark, family secret genre. Usually it's the old man who is hiding something from his cheerily normal family. This time it's the son who has the secret. That sets up all those claustrophobic, dark, gloomy scenes between the three in their somewhat spooky house. And while it's overlong and overwrought, that's the saving grace of this film. There's a certain pedestrian reality to this aspect of the movie that's separate from all the Red Scare guff. I was hoping John would come through with a few more anti-clerical shafts at the expense of the priest, but you can't have everything.

If you want to see a similar film from the same era, see John Wayne's "Big Jim McLain". That one has a lot more action, Wayne style, but still makes the same basic claim. Loyal all-American guys and gals are physically attractive and good at sports and genuinely well liked. The ones that are likely to be seduced by Communism lack athletic ability and may be overly intellectual, making them prime targets for being philosophically enslaved by their Soviet masters. However, in trying to fight the Soviet menace, the authorities use tactics similar to those they say that they are fighting, such as faking a car accident, impersonating Joe average, and then smooth talking their way into the home of the unknowing parents so they can get them talking and maybe get some clues, which FBI agent Van Heflin does. Yet somehow, being Heflin after all, he manages to remain charming throughout.

This had to have been an A-list production for Paramount, because of the very talented cast. You have Academy award winning Helen Hayes and Van Heflin, Dean Jagger as John's father playing it a bit over the top, and finally Frank McHugh in a more serious role than I was accustomed to seeing him in, but still with a touch of that comic wit he displayed over at Warner Brothers in the 30'sand 40's. I'd recommend it because the mass hysteria of the red scares may be 65 years in the past, but this film gives us a good record of how it affected the film industry. I'm giving a 6/10 more for historical value and being a snapshot in time.

This was on Turner Classic Movies about six years ago, just once. Other than buying the rather pricey DVD, the only other way I know to see it is Amazon Prime, where it is free per view, which is how I saw it today.


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