7.1/10
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52 user 15 critic

The Human Comedy (1943)

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

Director:

Clarence Brown

Writers:

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

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Cast

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
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Storyline

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

Taglines:

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

Genres:

Comedy | Drama | Family

Certificate:

Passed | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English | Spanish

Release Date:

14 February 1944 (Sweden) See more »

Also Known As:

La comedia humana See more »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

(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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Did You Know?

Trivia

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 »

Goofs

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 »

Quotes

Librarian: What are you boys looking for?
Lionel: Books.
Librarian: What books are you looking for?
Lionel: All of them.
Librarian: What do you want with them?
Lionel: We wanna look at em.
Librarian: Books are for reading.
Lionel: Can't I just Look at em?
Librarian: That's not what the public library is for boy, but you can look into them and look at the pictures in them. What do you want the outsides for?
Lionel: I like to. can't i?
[...]
See more »

Alternate Versions

Also available in a computer colorized version. See more »

Connections

Version of Ithaca (2015) See more »

Soundtracks

A Dream
(1902) (uncredited)
Music and Lyrics by James Carroll Bartlett
Performed by Donna Reed Dorothy Morris
See more »

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User Reviews

A gentle glimpse into another time
20 November 2000 | by luannjimSee all my reviews

While the years may not have been entirely kind to "The Human Comedy," they have certainly been kinder than some of the comments I've seen here, the venom and churlish malice of which frankly astonish me.

In 1943, M-G-M commissioned author William Saroyan to develop a screen story about the World War II homefront. The result was this, which Howard Estabrook turned into a screenplay and Saroyan himself expanded into a novel -- which explains why the film was released before the book was published.

Yes, "The Human Comedy" is propaganda, but with a difference. Most of the propaganda of WWII arose from anger and grim determination, and films like "Air Force" and "Operation Tokyo" look excessive and embarrassing now that passions have cooled. The propaganda of "The Human Comedy" rises not from anger but from fear -- the fear that the crucible of war might be too harsh for the spirit of small-town America to survive.

To be honest, much of "The Human Comedy" also looks excessive and embarrassing now the fears have been alleviated. But few films struck such a chord in audiences of the time by showing them, if not as they were, then at least as they liked to picture themselves.

The film's appeal now is more than just as a historical curiosity, however. Despite the Andy Hardy sentimentality and Saroyan's blue-collar pseudo-poetry, "The Human Comedy" has much to recommend it if you can resist viewing it through the prism of our own time, with the war safely won these 50 years. It has, for example, one of Mickey Rooney's best and most restrained performances and a charming performance by Jackie "Butch" Jenkins as his baby brother -- he became a child star on the strength of this film, but was never this good again.

Frank Morgan, too, is first-rate as a sad old man taking pride in his work and refuge in his bottle; Morgan was an idiosyncratic actor, but he was capable of great depth and deserves to be known for something besides "The Wizard of Oz." Director Clarence Brown, now sadly neglected, shows once again his sure touch with Americana and his sensitive handling of child and teen actors.

"The Human Comedy" is a bit cloying, perhaps, but it's also a compassionate and generous-spirited film. It deserves to be regarded with the same generosity.


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