28 March 2004 | Ron Oliver
Fine Performances Propel Melodrama
A young husband has his DAY OF RECKONING when he's sent to prison for embezzlement.
Fine performances raise what is essentially a soap opera above its material and provides some dandy entertainment along the way. While the subplots grow a little thick, all is resolved in time for an idyllic, if somewhat bittersweet, ending.
Leading man Richard Dix sheds his usual in-charge persona for a much more vulnerable characterization. Although they share few scenes, he is given firm support by perky Una Merkel playing his devoted Southern maid. She easily upstages pretty Madge Evans as Dix's conflicted wife. Stalwart Stuart Erwin plays the friendly milkman in love with Merkel.
Some fine character actors do quite well in smaller roles. Conway Tearle is the family friend who takes advantage of Dix's absence. Isabel Jewell is properly distraught as Tearle's former mistress. Raymond Hatton is effective as a prison trustee who befriends Dix. James Bell is noteworthy as a prisoner driven crazy by worry over his wife's supposed infidelity. Samuel S. Hinds manages to become suitably repellent in his brief screen time as a crooked lawyer. Tiny Spanky McFarland, of OUR GANG fame, turns on the charm as Dix's infant son.
Movie mavens will recognize an unbilled Clarence Wilson as a bail bondsman.