5 June 2010 | wes-connors
Ford Arms to Hold You
In Germany, at the dawn of World War I, widow Margaret Mann (as Frau Bernle) is blessed with "Four Sons" - strapping soldier Francis X. Bushman Jr. (as Franz), dreamy rustic James Hall (as Joseph), handsome metalworker Charles Morton (as Johann), and fair-haired shepherd George Meeker (as Andreas). And, she makes the best honey-cakes in Bavaria. With one son serving the Fatherland, and two more about to join him on the battlefield, Ms. Mann arranges for adventurous Mr. Hall to emigrate to democratic America. There, he opens a delicatessen and marries sweet, beautiful June Collyer (as Annabelle). Eventually, the Great War results in multiple brother tragedies, testing old mother Mann's ability to count her blessings.
The last years of the "silent film" era produced an avalanche of stunning motion pictures; in hindsight, you wonder if the "talkie" might have prevented the silent from advancing even beyond its late 1920s peak. "Four Sons" is another artful example, with John Ford and his picturesque cameramen, George Schneiderman and Charles C. Clarke, directing under the influence of F.W. Murnau - the combination produced a winning film, full of memorable scenes and images. Ford's best symbolic double whammy has two white birds flying to heaven, followed by postman Albert Gran hurling stoning the church's reflection. The restored print looks lovely, but lacks the original's innovative "synchronized sound effects" track, which will hopefully turn up somewhere.
The film won the "Best Picture" of 1928 medal from "Photoplay" and placed #4 on the annual "Film Daily" honor roll.
********* Four Sons (2/13/28) John Ford ~ Margaret Mann, James Hall, George Meeker, Charles Morton