Janet Leigh makes an impressive debut alongside Van Johnson in this historical romance in which a farmer's daughter falls in love with a man who fought against her family in the Civil War. ...
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Janet Leigh makes an impressive debut alongside Van Johnson in this historical romance in which a farmer's daughter falls in love with a man who fought against her family in the Civil War. Into a Missouri farming community living in a state of constant tension due to conflicting pro-North and pro-South sentiments ambles ex-Union soldier Henry Carson (Van Johnson), who briefly camps out at the farm of unforgiving Confederate sympathizer Gill MacBean (Thomas Mitchell). Suspecting that Carson is up to no good, MacBean is outraged when the handsome stranger begins courting MacBean's daughter Lissy Anne (Leigh). Things come to a head dramatically when the heretofore easygoing Carson comes face to face with a band of hooded, night-riding barn burners who've been fomenting discord among the farmers.
Another reviewer claims this is a romantic musical comedy, not a drama--I beg to differ. There are songs, to illustrate the folksy ways of the Missourians, and there are a few laughs, and there is a romance, but it's difficult to class anything that includes montages of barn-burnings committed by hooded men on horseback as a musical comedy.
It's a film worth watching, though, as a post-WW2 look at the post-Civil War era, and how difficult it can be to cool off the high-burning passions of wartime. Johnson plays a vet who wanders into a small Missouri town still smarting with North-South divisions. It's an interesting story, incorporating unusually pointed comments about racial equality; the screenwriter, Lester Cole, was later blacklisted as a member of the Hollywood Ten.
The cast is incredibly engaging, from the dewy new starlet Janet Leigh (who got this part after just three weeks in Hollywood!), to the indescribably adorable young Dean Stockwell, to the complex Thomas Mitchell, to the wonderful character actress Selena Royle, playing Leigh's mother with beautiful emotional range.
This definitely falls into the category of the sort of social-issue picture (like Gentleman's Agreement or Paths of Glory) that led to the blacklisting of so many screenwriters. That alone makes it worth the viewing; the cast will just ice the cake.
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