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Early 1905, French governess Emilie Gallatin (Ingrid Bergman) is hired to care of a luxurious family mansion and the four sons of wealthy Adam Stoddard (Warner Baxter) and his wife, Molly Stoddard (Fay Wray). Things couldn't be more perfect, until in 1907, first Molly dies, and then the stock market crashes, wiping out the Soddard's fortune. Emilie is forced to go back home to France. The parting is difficult, for the teenager boys - Jack Stoddard (Billy Ray), David Stoddard (Steven Muller), Chris Stoddard (Wallace Chadwell), and Phillip Stoddard (Bobby Walberg) - had grown to depend on Emilie more after the loss of their mother, and Emilie had fallen in love with Adam. Seven years later, just before the beginning of World War I, the family's fortunes have improved, and Adam insists with Emilie to return and stay on as part of the family - preserving her from the foreseeable fates of war. The four boys are adults, and they all serve in various branches of the military - Jack Stoddard (...Written by
There are some plot gaps in 1941's "Adam Had Four Sons," possibly because 25 minutes have been cut. As it is, it's an okay film thanks to the performances.
At the beginning of the 20th century, Ingrid Bergman plays Emilie, a young foreigner hired as a governess for the Adam Stoddard family's four boys. Everyone takes to her immediately, and she becomes one of the family. Unfortunately, tragedy strikes the family when the boys' mother Molly (Fay Wray) dies. Then there is a reversal in the stock market, and Adam Stoddard (Warner Baxter) loses his business. His aunt (Helen Westley) puts up the money to send the older boys to school, and Stoddard has no choice but to sell his house and move into an apartment with the youngest boy, Phillip. He has to send Emilie back home, but he promises that as soon as he can, he will send for her to return.
Years later, before World War I, Adam sends for Emilie, and she comes back. The three older boys, and eventually Philip, all fight in World War I. One of the boys, David, brings home the manipulative, trashy Hester (Susan Hayward) as his wife, and she lives in the house while he is away. Emilie has her number right away. Hester has an affair with the oldest son, Jack (Richard Denning), and, so Adam will not find out, Emilie claims that it was she that he saw in Jack's room.
Well, the big question any viewer will have is, why did Adam send for Emilie to return when his kids were grown and, in fact, about to go off and fight a war? And what the heck was Emilie doing all those years? This may be what is missing in the 25 minutes that were cut. My hunch is that Emilie continued to work as a governess, and probably even turned down a couple of offers of marriage, because she had fallen in love with Adam. When he sends for her, it's because he needs her to run his household. But I'm guessing because we see none of that.
Ingrid Bergman is beautiful and charming, and she has excellent scenes with Susan Hayward, who is a real spitfire. Richard Denning makes a strong impression as Jack, and Warner Baxter is very good as Adam, a gentle, optimistic man who loses his beloved wife. Fay Wray is the wife, and she, too, is quite beautiful but doesn't have a huge role.
This is an enjoyable movie if you fill in the story so it makes sense.
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