MY SON, MY SON is an over-sized independent film released by United Artists, based on a popular novel of the 1930's. While the film may not have been completely true to the novel, I can't imagine the book being any better than this film given the absurd situations and characters.
Brian Aherne and Henry Hull are two young buddies who dream of the day they will have sons. Hull wants his son to be courageous and with honor but Aherne, tired of poverty and struggle, wants his son to enjoy the luxuries in his life he never had. Eventually each man marries although they remain lifelong friends. Hull has a son and daughter while Aherne has a son as a result of a loveless marriage to a baker's daughter whose shop he helped run.
Aherne becomes a best-selling novelist. He indulges his boy with the best of everything. The kid grows up feeling the world owes him a living without an honorable bone in his body, tracing drawings for school contests and stealing friends' books. He's also a pathological liar, able to lie himself out of any situation with his father. His conservative, religious mother Josephine Hutchinson fully sees her son for what he is but Aherne rejects her attempts at disciplining the brat. Years past and sonny boy is now 21 (and now played by Louis Hayward) but as selfish and spoiled as ever. Aherne goes uncover as a coal miner to obtain material for his next novel and meets young artist Madeleine Carroll who bewitches him completely but he cuts off their friendship since he is still married. Shortly thereafter he is widowed but has no way of tracking down the girl since he never knew her name and she never knew his real name. Meanwhile who should sonny Hayward happen to be pestering in the city but the lovely Miss Carroll who is apparently a few years older than he. She is amused with his company and lets him escort her to events although there is no real romance for either of them. Hayward happens to bring her to a play written by his father (and starring Hull's daughter, Laraine Day) and the star-crossed couple meet again. Aherne and Carroll are thrilled to be reunited and she's upfront with both men about their past relations. Hayward feigns to be OK that his dad has now won the affections of his date but behind the scenes is scheming and making Carroll as miserable as possible.
While generally well acted, this story is so hackneyed the viewer can tell every plot twist in advance. There is major irony when Carroll, discussing a novelist (and unaware she is actually talking to that novelist, Aherne) comments about the author's inability to write credible female characters, given the stereotypical women that populate this potboiler: the frosty saint (the wife, Josephine Hutchinson), the walking perfection (Carroll), the silly, emotional girl (Laraine Day). One particularly tasteless scenario has Day secretly in love with Aerne, a man she as known all of her life as a "uncle" (as she and her brother have always called him). I also have to wonder why on earth the wonderful Madeleine Carroll even accepted this film. Although she enjoys top billing, her part is far smaller than that of Aherne and Hayward and not much larger than Hutchinson's or Day's.
This was a rare starring film for Aherne, usually cast as a second lead, and frankly he is not up to the challenge. His speciality on screen was always something of a cad himself, in personality if not in actual roles, so this persona fails to mesh with this obsessively loving father role. Hayward is better though obviously older than his role; he was only seven years Aherne's junior, and while at 6'3" Aherne dwarfs the 5'10" Hayward, their scenes are shot at angles to play up the height difference to apparently make Hayward seem younger but at times only manage to make him look like a shrimp. This was also one movie that badly needed to be shot in sequence; Aherne's graying hair in the later scenes vary with each segment and in the final confrontation with Hayward it appears Aherne has his natural hair color from his youth!
It's a bit silly that a mediocre film like MY SON, MY SON gets what airplay on TV it does via TCM's "Oscar month" since it received a lone nomination in production design. It certainly didn't get any votes for the acting, directing, or the film itself! And certainly not the writing, despite the reliable Lenore Coffee doing what she can with this uninspired reversed-sex "mother love" soap opera plot.
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