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The Human Comedy (1943)

1:38 | Trailer
Teenager Homer Macauley stays at home in small-town Ithaca to support his family while his older brother Marcus prepares to go to war.


Clarence Brown


William Saroyan (from the story by), Howard Estabrook (screen play)
Won 1 Oscar. Another 1 win & 5 nominations. See more awards »





Cast overview, first billed only:
Mickey Rooney ... Homer Macauley
Frank Morgan ... Willie Grogan
James Craig ... Tom Spangler
Marsha Hunt ... Diana Steed
Fay Bainter ... Mrs. Macauley
Ray Collins ... Mr. Macauley
Van Johnson ... Marcus Macauley
Donna Reed ... Bess Macauley
Jackie 'Butch' Jenkins ... Ulysses Macauley (as Jack Jenkins)
Dorothy Morris ... Mary Arena
John Craven ... Tobey George
Ann Ayars ... Mrs. Sandoval
Mary Nash ... Miss Hicks
Henry O'Neill ... Charles Steed
Katharine Alexander ... Mrs. Steed


Homer Macauley remains in a small town looking after his widowed mother and younger brother while his older brother is fighting the war in Europe. Written by Anonymous

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


A Thrilling Emotional Experience! The Book of the Month Club Choice! See more »


Comedy | Drama | Family


Passed | See all certifications »

Did You Know?


Movie developed into the Broadway musical production "The Human Comedy" opened at the Royale Theater in New York on April 5, 1984 and ran for 13 performances. See more »


Near the end of the film when Homer and his friends walk to the telegraph office Homer's tie is tied up short (the tail below the broad part of the tie) but when Homer enters the office and in the following scenes, the tie is tied correctly. See more »


Miss Hicks: You must remember always to give, of everything you have.
Miss Hicks: You must give foolishly even.
Miss Hicks: You must be extravagant.
Miss Hicks: You must give to all who come into your life.
Miss Hicks: Then nothing and no one shall have power to cheat you of anything, for if you give to a thief, he cannot steal from you, and he himself is then no longer a thief.
Miss Hicks: And the more you give, the more you will have to give.
See more »

Alternate Versions

Also available in a computer colorized version. See more »


Version of Summer Playhouse: The Human Comedy (1964) See more »


Cielito Lindo
(1882) (uncredited)
Written by Quirino Mendoza
Sung a cappella by Ann Ayars in Spanish
See more »

User Reviews

A small town family during WWII
20 September 2007 | by blanche-2See all my reviews

Nothing much happens in "The Human Comedy," and yet, everything happens in this gentle 1943 drama based on a story by William Saroyan and directed by Clarence Brown. It stars Mickey Rooney, Van Johnson, Frank Morgan, James Craig, Marsha Hunt, Fay Bainter, Donna Reed and Dorothy Malone. The main focus is on the Macauley family, and the opening and closing narration is by their late patriarch (Ray Collins) who initially introduces the audience to the family and to the town of Ithaca, California.

With oldest brother Marcus away fighting in World War II, it falls to Homer (Rooney) to add to the money his brother sends their mother (Fay Bainter) by getting a job in the local telegraph office after school. There, he finds himself sobering up the drunken man who runs the telegraph (Frank Morgan) and delivering telegrams - sometimes singing, sometimes from the War Department informing a family of a death. Homer has to grow up fast and ponder some serious issues.

There are others besides the Macauleys - kind Tom Spangler and his upper class girl (Marsha Hunt) - Tom is nervous about meeting her parents. Then there is Tobey (John Craven) a soldier with no parents and no real home who is befriended by Marcus while in the service.

"The Human Comedy" is filled with delightful scenes of innocence, goodness, sadness, mischief, tragedy and humor. One night, Bess Macauley and her friend Mary are on their way to the movies when they meet three lonely soldiers on leave (one of whom is Robert Mitchum) and invite them to come along. When the men leave them, the girls get a kiss on the cheek; the youngest Macauley, Ulysses, finds himself alone when the other boys leave after watching a live ad for a drink - is the man a real man or a huge wind-up toy? When he leans over and scares the heck out of Ulysses, Ulysses finds out and runs for his life.

The scenes of Marcus and his fellow soldiers shows us the youth of these men, their fears, and their homesickness; the scenes of the people at home show us what not having any young men around is like for a small town - the worry and the loneliness as they keep things together so their sons and fathers will have something to come home to.

Mickey Rooney, one of the screen's great talents, gives a subdued yet emotional performance as Homer. Frank Morgan is very good as the pathetic Mr. Grogan, and Van Johnson is likable as Marcus. The rest of the cast follows suit - everyone is excellent.

Was a town ever like this? Possibly, in a gentler time. The Human Comedy reminds us of old-fashioned things like responsibility, letter-writing, and prayer, and that love is eternal. A very warm movie. Highly recommended.

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English | Spanish

Release Date:

14 February 1944 (Sweden) See more »

Also Known As:

The Human Comedy See more »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


(Turner library print) (copyright length)

Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »

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