John Ford weaves three "Judge Priest" stories together to form a good- natured exploration of honour and small-town politics in the South around the turn of the century. Judge William ... See full summary »
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"Docudrama" about the bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7th, 1941 and its results, the recovering of the ships, the improving of defense in Hawaii and the US efforts to beat back the ... See full summary »
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Springfield, Illinois. Brandon, a surveyor, dreams of building a railway to the west, but Marsh, a contractor, is sceptical. Abraham Lincoln looks on as their children, Davy Brandon and ... See full summary »
Charles Edward Bull
Victor Marswell runs a big game trapping company in Kenya. Eloise Kelly is ditched there, and an immediate attraction happens between them. Then Mr. and Mrs. Nordley show up for their ... See full summary »
John Ford weaves three "Judge Priest" stories together to form a good- natured exploration of honour and small-town politics in the South around the turn of the century. Judge William Priest is involved variously in revealing the real identity of Lucy Lake, reliving his Civil War memories, preventing the lynching of a youth and contesting the elections with Yankee Horace K. Maydew. Written by
Bernard Keane <BKeane2@email.dot.gov.au>
"The Sun Shines Bright" is a sequel to John Ford's 1934 "Judge Priest," with Charles Winninger replacing Will Rogers as Judge Billy Priest and Stepin Fetchit reprising his role as Jeff Poindexter. Stepin Fetchit's film career essentially ended with this movie, until he briefly came out of retirement 19 years later. See more »
[the prayer he says at the funeral of Lucy Lee's mother]
Gentle Jesus, meek and mild, / look upon a little child. / Pity her simplicity; / suffer her to come to thee. / Amen.
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I feel like I have to walk over eggshells to say anything at all about this movie, Ford's remake of his earlier, 1934 Will Rogers vehicle Judge Priest. Both films have some hard-to-take racial stereotypes, first and foremost in the personage of Stepin' Fetchit, who, along with Butterfly McQueen, stand as the ugliest black performers of their era. But the offense doesn't stop there. The Sun Shines Bright contains a plethora of objectionable material, some of which probably well deserves to be objected to, and some of which will be construed as hateful by modern audiences when it really isn't. The story concerns an aging judge running for re-election in Kentucky, somewhere near the Mason-Dixie line around the turn of the 20th Century. Judge Priest is a Confederate veteran, as are many of his friends. They celebrate this with open nostalgia, although there isn't really any hatred between them and those in the county who fought for the North. The main story of the film is of Judge Priest's deep humanity, and his love for all people. There are two main plot threads, that of a lynch mob out to hang a young black man and that of a dying prostitute, who happens to be the long absent mother of one of the town's outstanding young women. Priest must defend the black man from the mob and arrange a dignified funeral for the prostitute, even though it very well could cost him the election. The film's treatment of African Americans seems quite more in tune with the 1930s than the 1950s. The original film, Judge Priest, might be less offensive, actually. Yes, the blacks in that film were caricatures. However, the star of that film, Will Rogers, who famously never met a man he didn't like, seemed more like a friend to the African Americans around him, including Stepin' Fetchit and Hattie McDaniel. He even sings with McDaniel at one point. Priest in that film seems something of an outcast from the whites; they respect him, even love him, but he is not exactly one of them. In The Sun Shines Bright, Priest spends most of his time with his fellow veterans. Stepin' Fetchit is there most of the time, too (he even attends a veterans' meeting with a gray cap on his head), but he and Priest don't seem like buddies. Fetchit is his servant. Even though Fetchit and McDaniel were also his servants in the earlier version, like I said, they seemed more like friends. When Judge Priest helps out the African Americans of his county in the later version, his actions seem more patronizing than friendly. He is the father figure to every black person. At the end of the film, it almost seems like they're worshiping him. Worse yet, when the election is held, we see everyone vote except for the blacks. It's not even implied that they have already voted. Despite these very important problems, The Sun Shines Bright is a very good film that would indeed inspire a deep love for humanity long before it would ever inspire bigotry. I would never dismiss the problems of the film, but I think that what it accomplishes is much more valuable than what most would damn it for. 9/10.
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