Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Monday, April 7, 2008


DODSWORTH (1936). Director: William Wyler.

"Love has to stop somewhere short of suicide."

Sam Dodsworth (Walter Huston) has retired and his younger wife Fran (Ruth Chatterton) wants to spend her remaining days with him on the continent, where she wants to forget she has grown children and live a gay social whirl. Dodsworth is a simpler, less exciting soul and only wants to return to Zenith, the small town they come from. "You're rushing at old age," Fran tells him "and I'm not ready for that yet!" Before long Fran is being courted by and falling for younger men while Sam meets a sympathetic woman named Edith (Mary Astor). The interesting thing about the movie is that you find yourself switching allegiances mid-stream, at first rooting for the lively, fun-loving (if pretentious and snooty) Fran to shake the starch out of Sam, but then recognizing that Fran's life-loving vivacity has its dark and selfish side. Huston and Astor are fine, but Chatterton nearly steals the picture as Fran, and there are also excellent performances from Maria Ouspenskaya (as the mother of one of Fran's suitors), David Niven, Paul Lukas, and Gregory Gaye. "Have you considered how little happiness there can be for the old wife of a young husband?" Ouspenskaya asks a horrified Chatterton. John Payne also has a small role. Screenplay by Sidney Howard from the novel by Sinclair Lewis.

Verdict: A bit contrived at times but otherwise excellent. ***1/2.


Anonymous said...

I did enjoy this movie, although I am a bigger fan of the book, but then again Sinclair Lewis was kind of my college area of "expertise" as a student.

William said...

I haven't read the book, but I imagine there were a lot of changes made. I've heard this was especially the case with Lewis' Babbitt.

Thanks for your comment.