Classic movie site with rare images (no web grabs!), original ads, and behind-the-scenes photos, with informative and insightful commentary. We like to have fun with movies!
Archive and Links
grbrpix@aol.com
Search Index Here




Monday, September 11, 2006



Favorites List --- King's Row


Ann and I watched King’s Row last week, and it’s still a wonderful show. There’s dark stuff here that no other picture ever touched. They had to remove the novel’s depiction of incest between the characters of Dr. Tower and his daughter and substituted inherited insanity in order to mollify Code restrictions. If   King’s Row were remade today, they’d no doubt be obliged to remove any notions about inherited insanity, but the incest would be front and center. Still a Code in force, but now it’s an unwritten one. Warner’s new DVD is the usual splendid job from them, and there are shorts and cartoons that are alone worth the price of the disc. Once again, I had to concede that Claude Rains is the greatest actor who ever lived, and this time I found myself appreciating Robert Cummings for the fine performance he gives. I understand Tyrone Power was coveted for this role, but of course, Fox wouldn’t loan him, and maybe that’s a better thing in the long run, for Ty’s kind of glamour might have overpowered the rest of the ensemble and upset the balance among the cast of young players. You have to feel sorry for Ronald Reagan, Ann Sheridan, and Nancy Coleman. They’d never have parts this good again. Reagan used to run his 16mm print of King’s Row over and over again at home. Jane Wyman really got sick of it. Maybe that’s why she split. When I met Reagan back in 1975, I mentioned the title just because I knew it would make him pause and talk a little longer. It did. A lot of people will tell you they grew up in a real Peyton Place. Not me. I grew up in a real King’s Row. Check out this great movie --- maybe you did too.

5 Comments:

Blogger East Side said...

Near the beginning of the movie -- when, offscreen, Claude Raines is performing surgery on a kid without anasthesia -- contains the most bloodcurdling scream I've ever heard. What a strange, dark movie.

7:32 AM  
Anonymous Jim Lane said...

I believe East Side's memory is playing him (or her) false. In that early scene in Kings Row, the surgery is performed by Dr. Henry Gordon (Charles Coburn), who uses his scalpel to punish people for what he considers their sins, and who later amputates the legs of Drake McHugh (Ronald Reagan). The scream is truly bloodcurdling, but it comes from the throat of a grown man; the kid East Side remembers is the man's son, who sits sobbing helplessly on the front porch while Dr. Gordon does his ugly work upstairs. (And let's pause a moment to acknowledge Charles Coburn's performance. This was surely the darkest and most unsavory character he ever played; soft-hearted curmudgeons were his usual stock in trade.)

You're right, John, about Casey Robinson's script substituting inherited insanity for the incest between Dr. Tower (Rains) and his doomed daughter Cassie (Betty Field). That element of Henry Bellamann's novel was one of the things that made the Breen Office urge Warner Bros. not to film it; the novel was so notorious, Breen said, that the very title would sully Hollywood's name, no matter how vigorously Warners bowdlerized it. Ironic, then, that those who've seen Kings Row remember it as one of the most honest and complex movies of Golden Age Hollywood.

But notwithstanding the script's cover story, it's clear that director Sam Wood, Claude Rains, and (especially) Betty Field had all read the book. I saw a screening here in the 1990s with a friend who had never heard of the movie or the novel; at one point she turned to me and whispered urgently, "What is going on between that man and his daughter?!" I have it on good authority that audiences in 1942 were asking the same question.

And by the way, if you've never read Bellamann's book, I recommend it. It's still pretty strong -- and steamy -- stuff.

12:03 PM  
Blogger John McElwee said...

Thanks, Jim, for another thoughtful observation. I've really enjoyed reading your comments on previous postings, and hope to hear more from you. East Side, as always, has cogent insights that are always welcome here. Thanks, guys.

12:15 PM  
Blogger East Side said...

to Jim Lane: My memory was fuzzier than I realized. On the other hand, I saw it about 35 years ago, so I'm suprised I remember seeing it at all.

1:09 PM  
Blogger Michael said...

I wonder if audiences wondered-- my experience over the years has been that when a bestseller had something new and dirty in it, everybody knew it. (Like when we passed a copy of The Exorcist around in 8th grade, opened to the place where she, uh, USED a crucifix in a manner not intended by the manufacturer.)

I think Hollywood figured everybody would get the real idea, no matter how it was depicted. Another example of that is A Woman of Affairs, a Garbo silent based on the notorious bestseller The Green Hat, about a woman who's infected with syphilis by her newlywed husband, who then commits suicide out of shame; MGM changed it to him killing himself out of shame at being arrested for a burglary he'd committed earlier in his youth... with the result that, later in the movie, Garbo seems to be dying of Tertiary Burglary. That only makes sense if we all knew what was really going on.

Oh, and as long as we're honoring people who worked on King's Row-- James Wong Howe! The cinematographer who gave the wrong side of the tracks that great, dense, almost impressionistic look. (I think this was his reaction to Citizen Kane, personally.)

12:27 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home

grbrpix@aol.com
  • December 2005
  • January 2006
  • February 2006
  • March 2006
  • April 2006
  • May 2006
  • June 2006
  • July 2006
  • August 2006
  • September 2006
  • October 2006
  • November 2006
  • December 2006
  • January 2007
  • February 2007
  • March 2007
  • April 2007
  • May 2007
  • June 2007
  • July 2007
  • August 2007
  • September 2007
  • October 2007
  • November 2007
  • December 2007
  • January 2008
  • February 2008
  • March 2008
  • April 2008
  • May 2008
  • June 2008
  • July 2008
  • August 2008
  • September 2008
  • October 2008
  • November 2008
  • December 2008
  • January 2009
  • February 2009
  • March 2009
  • April 2009
  • May 2009
  • June 2009
  • July 2009
  • August 2009
  • September 2009
  • October 2009
  • November 2009
  • December 2009
  • January 2010
  • February 2010
  • March 2010
  • April 2010
  • May 2010
  • June 2010
  • July 2010
  • August 2010
  • September 2010
  • October 2010
  • November 2010
  • December 2010
  • January 2011
  • February 2011
  • March 2011
  • April 2011
  • May 2011
  • June 2011
  • July 2011
  • August 2011
  • September 2011
  • October 2011
  • November 2011
  • December 2011
  • January 2012
  • February 2012
  • March 2012
  • April 2012
  • May 2012
  • June 2012
  • July 2012
  • August 2012
  • September 2012
  • October 2012
  • November 2012
  • December 2012
  • January 2013
  • February 2013
  • March 2013
  • April 2013
  • May 2013
  • June 2013
  • July 2013
  • August 2013
  • September 2013
  • October 2013
  • November 2013
  • December 2013
  • January 2014
  • February 2014
  • March 2014
  • April 2014
  • May 2014
  • June 2014
  • July 2014
  • August 2014
  • September 2014
  • October 2014
  • November 2014
  • December 2014
  • January 2015
  • February 2015
  • March 2015
  • April 2015
  • May 2015
  • June 2015
  • July 2015
  • August 2015
  • September 2015
  • October 2015
  • November 2015
  • December 2015
  • January 2016
  • February 2016
  • March 2016
  • April 2016
  • May 2016
  • June 2016
  • July 2016
  • August 2016
  • September 2016