19 June 2008 | tavm
One Man's Journey is a rare gem recently rediscovered
Just discovered on Mark Evanier's blog that Turner Classic Movies-on their blog-are running a feature every month. One Man's Journey is for June. This just-rediscovered RKO release from 1933 stars Lionel Barrymore as Dr. Eli Watt, a widowed man with 6-year old son Jimmy (Buster Phelps) coming back to his old country roots. Since many of the townspeople are nearly poor, Dr. Watt accepts payment in potatoes or other foods. That's what the husband of his first patient offers to him. This husband-a McGinnis (David Landau)-gets some good news and bad news. Good: He has a healthy baby girl. Bad: The mother died giving birth. McGinnis wants no part of his girl's life and threatens to kill Eli. For four years, Eli helps raise the girl with Jimmy, a dog, and their housekeeper Sarah (May Robson). Then McGinnis, having rehabilitated himself, wants her back. We then flash-forward about 15 or so years with that daughter Letty (Dorothy Jordan) grown up and helping Dr. Watt care for several children with smallpox. Son Jimmy (now played by Joel McCrea) is becoming a doctor himself. I'll stop here and mention some other players: James Bush as Bill Radford-Letty's eventual husband, Frances Dee as Joan Stockton-Jimmy's fiancée (and later McCrea's real-life wife), Dorothy Gray as Letty's daughter who has a heart-tugging scene with Barrymore when he's carrying her, and Samuel S. Hinds (or Sam Hinds as he's credited here) as Dr. Roger Babcock who pays Eli a very high compliment at the end that makes a marked contrast to me when I remember their later roles on It's a Wonderful Life as-respectively-Peter Bailey and Henry F. Potter-fighting over foreclosures in front of Bailey's son George. All of them give wonderful performances with Mr. Lionel Barrymore at his most heartwarming throughout. There's also some stirring yet underplayed musical scoring by Max Steiner. In summation, One Man's Journey is one of those "they-don't-make-them-like-they-used-to" pictures that makes you wish they still did!