Kings Row

1942, Movie, NR, 127 mins

Review

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"Where's the rest of me?" Too bad Ronnie never found the answer. Containing what is easily the future President's finest performance, KINGS ROW was a startling film for its day, portraying a small town not with the poignancy and little joys of Thorton Wilder's Our Town, but rather in grim, often tragic tones.

The film begins with its main characters as children. Playful Drake, tomboyish Randy and uppity Louise are among the friends of the sensitive Parris. He, meanwhile, befriends the strange, lonely Cassandra, but her psychiatrist father, Dr. Tower (Rains) soon removes her from school to be tutored at home. We advance in time to the grown Parris (Cummings), now a brilliant medical student who studies with Dr. Tower and still sees the increasingly quirky Cassandra (Field) occasionally. The feisty Randy loves both Parris and the rakish Drake (Reagan), but Louise (Coleman) remains sheltered by her strict parents.

Trouble brews when Louise becomes jealous of Randy's involvement with Drake, and Cassandra begins to go off the deep end and wants to go to Vienna with Parris. Ultimately, two very different fathers, the kindly Dr. Tower and Louise's avaricious dad, Dr. Gordon (Coburn), take brutal action in their misguided attempts to protect their daughters.

KINGS ROW remains one of director Wood's finest films, but one wonders how much he relied on his ace support. Robinson did a fine job of adapting Bellamann's rich novel, even if he cut out a death from cancer, deleted a mercy killing, and toned down the narrative's homosexual angle. Korngold's rich score is haunting and the detailed sets by Menzies quite stunning. Howe's gorgeous cinematography, meanwhile, maintains in deep focus many layers of drama, as befits this brooding tapestry. An uneven film in spots, but one of the most memorable melodramas of its day, compelling and unusual for early WWII. leave a comment

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