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William A. Seiter
Though it might not sound like it, "Tom Brown of Culver" is about some military school lads, mainly Tom Brown, who is played, interestingly enough, by Tom Brown. Brown goes from the fight ring into military school on scholarship because his father was a war hero. After a tough time, he goes on to be an excellent cadet, only to meet a man he never knew, his father, and comes to grips with his father's secret.
This is a fairly good melodrama, though clichéd by today's standards, and is especially interesting for the appearance in a small role of 17-year-old Tyrone Power. Alan Ladd is also in the film, but I didn't spot him the first time around. What's fascinating about Power's appearance is his eyebrows. Film lore has it that his boss at Fox, Darryl F. Zanuck, turned him down a few years later because of his distractingly long, large eyebrows, and it was only Mrs. Zanuck who convinced her husband to give the young man a chance. Zanuck loved telling these stories on himself - that he refused to give Clark Gable a contract because of his ears, that his daughter told him about her young friend, Elizabeth Taylor, and he ignored her -why he wanted everyone to think he wasn't good at his job is anyone's guess. The fact is, Power's eyebrows are exactly the same as ever in this film and were the same in photos of him as a child and as an movie usher in Cincinnati. Why would he want to draw them to meet across his nose on the day of a screen test? I guess Zanuck thought these little stories of just stumbling along made him more interesting as a studio head.
Eyebrows aside, there are some very nice performances in this movie from Brown, Eugene Palette (uncredited), Sidney Toler, Richard Cromwell, and Ben Alexander. H.B. Warner, as Tom's father, is clearly from another era - his acting style is over the top, but he is still effective. I have to go back and see if I can find Ladd.
William Wyler directed, and Tyrone Power IV's middle name is William in honor of Wyler, so Power was grateful for the break. However, it didn't lead to anything at that time. He left Hollywood for Broadway and returned later to great stardom, despite his eyebrows.
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