14 September 2010 | MartinHafer
A bit too much 'speechifying' but otherwise a pleasant little film.
In case you slept through history class and have no idea who Will Rogers was, I'll give a quick recap. During the first half of the 20th century, this Oklahoman made a huge name for himself as a movie star (first in silents and then in talkies) and humorist. He made a name for himself mostly for his humorous observations and likable personality and when he was killed along with the aviator Wally Post in an airplane crash, the entire nation mourned. During the time this movie was made, Rogers truly would have fallen into the category of a beloved national icon.
As I said above, Rogers was a movie star and made a string of folksy comedies for Fox Studios. Most of the films are very good and it's hard not to like his persona and the down-home fella he played in them. A few of these films are weak or feature some very politically incorrect scenes (such as in "Judge Priest"--with Steppin Fetchit--a very racist character of the day), but many were also wonderful--fresh and fun. Because of this, I try to see as many of these films as I can. Sadly, his premature death meant an end to his career--and "Life Begins at Forty" is one of his last.
While I would certainly NOT consider this film among his best (such as "They Had to See Paris" and "Doctor Bull"), it is pleasant and worth a look. The only serious negative in the film is that all too often Rogers plays himself more than in other films--and makes many, many 'clever' observations. First, many of them weren't that clever. Second, it made him sound like a stand-up comedian instead of an actor. But, if you can ignore this, the rest of the film is decent--if unremarkable.
Rogers plays a newspaper publisher in a small town. When an ex-con returns to town and Rogers becomes friends with him, the town big-shot (and blow-hard) makes life rough for Rogers--and results in a feud of sorts (the scene where they finally fight it out is pretty cute). Mostly, it's a country melodrama with a bit of humor thrown in to pep it up a bit. Not great and I recommend you try the two films I mentioned in the last paragraph first. But, if you find you like his films, then by all means try this one.