2 May 2007 | btfkelly
Portrait in Agony
Bobby Phillips (Frankie Thomas) is the collateral damage that results in a bitter divorce between Mom (Kay Francis) and Dad (Edward Arnold). Dad's older and travels a lot, Mom's regretful and totally focused on escape. Bobby goes through the intense grief that accompanies such a situation and the script heaps on additional sharp sticks in the eye. We watch Bobby (surrounded by his friends) discover his Mom with another man and later we squirm with him as he testifies at trial against one of his parents.
Post-divorce, we see additional grief heaped upon the adolescent Bobby by the hapless Mom and the oblivious Dad. The story is somewhat heavy handed, but overcomes underplaying (to the point of disappearance) by Kay Francis and overplaying by Edward Arnold, whose trademark laugh could have been meted out in much smaller doses here. To its credit, the script doesn't point the blame at one parent or the other, but focuses on how young Bobby deals with it all. The performance given by Frankie Thomas is somewhat uneven, I think,but he was given a lot of dramatic baggage to deal with and a director who seems to have been asleep at the switch much of the time.
Dave Durand, later of East Side Kids renown (?), is the only supporting player worth mentioning here, as he gives an entertaining and energetic performance as Bobby's school chum mentor. Everyone else seems to have had the life sucked out of them by the black hole of Kay Francis' malaise or caught whatever virus made Edward Arnold go into supernova mode periodically.
This movie deals a heavily stacked deck, but is still moving at times, mostly thanks to Frankie Thomas.