Wednesday, July 14, 2010

King's Row

Sam Wood, 1941, bw (7.9*)
Beautifully photographed melodrama of the facade behind the small American community of King's Row is easily Ronald Reagan's best role and film. However, he's about 5th best in a stellar cast, deftly handled by director Sam Wood to keep this from being overly sentimental, kind of a Booth Tarkington meets Peyton Place.

The story follows two childhood best friends, Robert Cummings (excellent here) as an upper crust kid from the scenic hills who later becomes a psychiatrist in Vienna before returning, and Reagan as a free-wheeling orphan living on a trust fund who'd rather spend time with ladies than do any real work. Beneath the town's sleepy facade lies insanity, tragedy, class prejudice, and in a brilliant bit of out-of-character acting, veteran Charles Coburn as an overbearing town doctor with a hidden sadistic streak. The terrific cast also features Betty Field, Judith Anderson, Maria Ouspenskaya, and Claude Rains - so you can see how the sometimes hammy Reagan would be about 5th best at his finest (he still reminds me of a salesman, like most politicians), and actually in his words, his 'star making' performance.

Perhaps a little predictable, but still worth seeing as a classic Hollywood era drama. Oscar® nominations for picture, director Sam Wood, and b&w cinematography.


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These are the individual film reviews of what I'm considering the best 1000 dvds available, whether they are films, miniseries, or live concerts. Rather than rush out all 1000 at once, I'm doing them over time to allow inclusion of new releases - in fact, 2008 has the most of any year so far, 30 titles in all; that was a very good year for films, one of the best ever.

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