Universal Wants To Be A Class Act
Broadway Blisterer All My Sons (1948) Comes To The Screen ... and DVD
There was clean-up after the war of those who'd exploited the conflict for personal gain. Home front profiteers were regarded lower than the enemy, and headlines shouted to accompany of each one brought to earth. A first play to address the issue was also the maker of Arthur Miller's career. All My Sons, staged on Broadway in 1947 and directed by Elia Kazan, ran over a year and won the New York Drama Critics Circle Award. Ed Begley played the machine shop owner who ships defective cylinders that result in death for allied flyers, Arthur Kennedy his devoted son who discovers truth and forces Dad to confront responsibility. Playwright Miller's dialogue attacked go-getter businessmen and, by extension, capitalism itself. The FBI got interested and kept watch on Universal's screen adapt after that company paid an alleged (Film Daily) $200K against percentage for screen rights to the drama. All My Sons is mostly forgotten now, but was big cheese then, with prestige to rinse off U's rep for cheap westerns, serials, and monster pics. They were after carriage trade now, most of 1948's schedule decided A's, of which All My Sons would be a most ambitious offering.
What revives interest in All My Sons is Universal Vault's just-out DVD, a first-rate transfer of a film too long out of circulation. Father/son opponents are Edward G. Robinson and Burt Lancaster, with some of Broadway's cast kept on in support.
|Writer/Producer Chester Erskine Poses with Cast Members|
Louisa Horton, Edward G. Robinson, and Burt Lancaster
Erskine had been a triple-threat man (writer, producer, director) and was riding high at U as result of The Egg and I, a hit to take onus off fancy duds coming off company line that year. For adapting as well as producing All My Sons for the screen, he'd have much creative control, Erskine of opinion that "there has been a tendency to credit the director at the expense of the writer, and this I believe to be an injustice in many cases" (a song still sung loudly today). Universal initially had notion to exhibit All My Sons on roadshow basis, but the format had gone down in flames for several high-profile pics at other companies. A postwar public was wary of $1.25 scale for shows not worth that as entertainment. Backing off a hard-ticket policy was