|SMILIN' THROUGH (director: Frank Borzage; screenwriter: Donald Ogden Stewart/John L. Balderston/from the play by Jane Cowl and Jane Murfin; cinematographer: Leonard Smith; editor: Frank Sullivan; music: Herbert Stothart; cast: Brian Aherne (Sir John Carteret), Jeanette MacDonald (Kathleen//Moonyean Clare), Patrick O'Moore (Willie Ainley), Frances Robinson (Ellen), Ian Hunter (Rev. Owen Harding), Gene Raymond (Jeremy/Kenneth Wayne), Jackie Horner (Kathleen, as a Child); Runtime: 101; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Frank Borzage/Victor Saville; MGM; 1941)|
by Dennis Schwartz
remake of Smilin’ Through versions from the
silent 1922 (Norma Talmadge) and talkie 1932 (Norma
Shearer), with this version more schmaltzy and
lacking the oomph of the other films. Sensitive
director Frank Borzage ("The Mortal Storm"/"Seventh
Heaven"/"A Farewell to Arms") lays
on the sentimentality of this dated weepie romancer
much too thickly. It's based on a 1919 play by
Jane Murfin and Jane Cowl, while the screenplay is by
Donald Ogden Stewart and John L. Balderston.
Jeanette MacDonald plays a young Irish lass, Moonyean, who, in 1864, must chose between two suitors. The rejected lover, Jeremy (Gene Raymond), becomes so outraged he kills her on her wedding day. Many years later, the bereaved and lonely groom, Sir John Carteret (Brian Ahearn), takes in his orphaned youngster niece, Kathleen (Jackie Horner), who grows up to be the spitting image of his dead bride. As a young woman, Kathleen (Jeanette MacDonald) falls in love with Kenneth Wayne (Gene Raymond), arriving from America and the son of the man who murdered the bride, which enrages the guardian who prohibits her to see him. But their love is rescued by the spirit of the slain bride emerging from above to show her husband that true love conquers all.
MacDonald plays a dual role and
sings nine songs. MacDonald's real-life
husband, Gene Raymond, also played a dual role
of both the murderously jilted lover and his
Aherne plays the stuffy surviving groom, crushed
by the tragedy, who communicates with his deceased
wife from above and later on raises his niece.
There's an audience for such tearjerkers, ones that are so well done and acted (at least by Ahearne & MacDonald), but its old-fashioned sentiments never appealed to me and I found it too sticky.
REVIEWED ON 7/3/2014 GRADE: C+
Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"
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