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This is an episode in a TV series done in the 1950's that was produced
by Hal Roach Studios, but there's no slapstick to be found in these
productions. Each week a well known motion picture director would
direct a half hour production, and this time it was Allan Dwan, who had
been directing since the days of early silent cinema, in the director's
This particular episode is about a minister that believes in living his sermons. In particular he preaches about having faith in one's fellow man and he believes "it's always Sunday" in the sense that he tries to live this philosophy and more than that, he believes in this philosophy. The main matters of note here are the supporting players, two of which are from my favorite era in film, the early sound era. Fay Wray has a very small part in the production as the minister's wife. Not from the early sound era is Sheldon Leonard who figures prominently in the plot as a hobo whom the minister trusts with an expensive car that just happens to belong to someone else. By this time Leonard was beginning a long career as a producer of very popular TV shows, but he was always fun to watch as an actor with that unique gangster like voice of his.
I knew about these two performers being in this production before I watched it, but what made be do a double take was when the end credits rolled and I saw Grant Withers' name appear. I know Grant's face well from his early talkie leading roles at Warner Brothers and later supporting roles up into the 1940's, and I saw nobody that looked like Grant. I backed up the recording and realized he was playing the man whose expensive TBird may or may not have been stolen by the hobo. If I looked really close I could make out some familiar features but he was practically unrecognizable. However, that doesn't mean he looked bad or his performance was bad - he simply looked like a distinguished older gentleman who did a good job with the role he was given. How sad he committed suicide three years later because he felt he had let everyone in his life down.
I'd recommend this one because it's very upbeat and optimistic and has that too good to be true 50's picture of family life about it. It's also interesting to see how the audiences of the 50's still had places for the actors and directors of the past in their current productions.
In a directing career that lasted more than fifty years, Allan Dwan
worked with almost everyone, one time or the other. Here he is, back in
the two-reelers for the first time since about 1915, directing this
comedy short for Hal Roach's Screen Directors' Playhouse. He's dealing
with one of the fine casts that Hal Roach could assemble thanks to his
long career as a producer, starting in 1915 and also lasting more than
half a century; his last credit as producer would be for 1966's ONE
In this one, minister Dennis O'Keefe is having a busy day. When a young couple shows up to be married, he sends hobo Sheldon Leonard with ten dollars and a borrowed Thunderbird to pick up flowers for his wife, Fay Wray. The production is a straightforward affair which ma strike the viewer as a little sappy, but for the short time it lasts, it's very amusing.
Screen Directors Playhouse: It's Always Sunday (1956)
*** (out of 4)
I'm sure some might find this episode to be too sugar-coated but the performances and the upbeat direction make it worth checking out. A preacher (Dennis O'Keefe) is known around the community for his willingness to take in homeless men. One hobo (Sheldon Leonard) shows up so the preacher feeds him and then decides to test the hobo on whether or not he can be trusted. The preacher believes that any man, no matter how rich, poor or what they they are, can be trusted if that person trusts themselves. The preacher gives the hobo some money and a car and then sits back to see if the hobo will take off or if he will return like he said. IT'S ALWAYS Sunday isn't a masterpiece but it's a pretty charming little movie that manages to make one smile thanks to some great performances as well as the well-meaning story. I think many people might be turned off by the sweet and pure nature of the story but I never found it to be preachy and I think it makes its points without beating the viewer over the head with any sort of message. Character actor O'Keefe played a wide range of people in his career and this here is certainly one of the most memorable parts I've seen him in. I thought he did a terrific job at getting across the good-natured heart of this character and you couldn't help but feel and believe you were watching a real preacher testing his own sermon. Leonard plays the wise-cracking hobo in a nice way and his humor works perfectly for the film. Fay Wray plays the preacher's wife and she's good in the few scenes that she's in. Dwan's direction is its usual high standards as he has no problems getting across the story and he manages to make it very upbeat and I enjoyed that style.
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