Movie Reviews by Edwin Jahiel


Directed and produced by Leo McCarey. A touching drama that Hollywood would not dream of making today. Impecunious old couple Beulah Bondi and Victor Moore lose their house and are not properly looked after by their five children, now grown-up and married.

Since no one wants them as a couple, they have to separate. Bondi goes to the New York apartment of son Thomas Mitchell and his wife Fay Bainter. Moore stays in a small town with a daughter. Both feel unwanted, even as singles.

Bondi volunteers to go to a home for aged women, under the pretext of frail health. Moore will be sent to another daughter yet, in California. The two oldsters get together one last time and have fun being driven in a car and revisiting their honeymoon hotel.

The film has an appropriate old folks tempo, is quietly pathetic, affecting and gripping. It concentrates on Bondi and the unease of her stay with the weak-willed Mitchell, the impatient Bainter, and their happy-go-lucky daughter. Yet it paints none of them as a villain. Their sin is more insensitivity than malice. Arguably, those characters and the particulars of their situation are not sufficiently explored, while the Bondi-Moore sweetness and naivete are a bit overstressed.

Perhaps some viewers will think too that a bit mechanical --albeit very warm--is the small lineup of strangers who show kindness to the old couple: Maurice Moscovitch as a Jewish small-store owner; a car salesman who thinks he might make a sale; a hotel manager; a band leader who plays for the couple "Let Me Call You Sweetheart." But those are trifles, attributable to the period's studio cine-esthetics. In any case the everyday details are observed with precision and there's a welcome absence of forced effects or histrionics.

At the 11th hour the old people's children realize how shabbily they had treated their parents, but the movie has the good sense of avoiding an artificial, last-minute shift to give us a happy ending. In 1937 Moore was 60, Beulah Bondi, Thomas Mitchell and Fay Bainter were all 45. The excellent makeup job by Wally Westmore helped the very talented Bondi look convincingly old. So does her superb performance and body English. The casting is additionally interesting as Bainter for a change does not play a sunny, sweet matron; as Mitchell is not his usual lovable type; and as Moore, a comedian, is cast against type in a serious role that he handles very well. The film was most popular the year of its release.

Additional points of interest: The home for old women is called Idylwild; in the 1932 " If I Had A Million," also a Paramount film, such a home was Idylwood. The music is by two fascinating people, the melodious, prolific Victor Young, and the little-known George Antheil. Antheil was an American but has often been mistaken for a Frenchman, what with his family name and his work in France. There, he had written the score for the famous, experimental "Ballet Mecanique" ( 1924), made by French painter Fernand Leger and the American Dudley Murphy. (Edwin Jahiel)

Copyright © Edwin Jahiel

Movie Reviews by Edwin Jahiel