Wednesday, May 06, 2009


During WWII, in the small town of Heartsfield, Iowa, drug store owner Lew Marsh (Don Ameche, at right) gets a telegram telling him that his beloved son Rusty (Richard Crane) has been killed in action. Marsh is inconsolable, refusing to go to work, brooding at home, and even shutting his wife out of his grief until the ghost of his grandfather (Harry Carey) shows up and, a bit like Scrooge’s Ghost of Christmas Past, takes him on a long walk around town, making him relive his past. We see Marsh come home as a young man from service in WWI, marry, and raise Rusty into a fine young Boy Scout-type. Rusty falls in love, graduates from high school, and plans to go to a school of pharmacy to join his dad at the drug store, but the war intervenes. Back in the present, Marsh finally goes back to the store and, as he’s closing up, meets Tony (Henry Morgan), a sailor who was Rusty's best friend; he tells Marsh about Rusty's heroic death, and Marsh and his wife take him into their home for his 2-week leave.

This sentimental drama from Fox has a lot in common with MGM’s THE HUMAN COMEDY, which was released a few months earlier. Both are patriotic propaganda stories of how wonderful it is to live in small town America and how Americans should deal with the inevitable loss of their loved ones in the war. Both end the same way, with a friend of the dead soldier arriving in town as a symbolic new son. The biggest difference is that COMEDY is largely about a community and this film is about an individual family. Ameche is very good as both the older and younger Marsh, and Crane (pictured), best known as 50's TV spaceman hero Rocky Jones, looks and acts the all-American boy part to a tee. The women (Frances Dee as Marsh's wife and Cara Williams and Anne Rutherford as Rusty's love interests) don't fare as well, mostly because they're not given much to do, though I enjoyed seeing Mary Wickes in a small role as an employee at the drug store. Similarly Carey doesn't register strongly in his relatively small ghostly role. It's really Ameche's show all the way, and if you like him and don't fight the lump-in-the-throat sentimental scenes which occur fairly regularly, you'll enjoy this. [FMC]

No comments: