22 September 2006 | krorie
Perhaps the inspiration for the 2005 film "Four Brothers," this overlooked John Ford gem from 1938 is a winner all the way, except for the nondescript title which makes one think this is going to be some type of religious outing, especially since Barry Fitzgerald is in the credits.
Good performances abound, in particular Loretta Young as a headstrong globetrotter, Lynn Cherrington, who is determined to get her man but gets involved with murder and intrigue along the way; David Niven as one of the Brothers Leigh, Christopher, whose derring-do is often derring-undone; George Sanders playing against type as another of the Brothers Leigh, Wyatt, a barrister who knows the law better than he knows people; Reginald Denny as a gunrunner named Capt. Douglas Loveland who lets a pretty skirt get the best of him; Alan Hale as Mr. Furnoy, a scoundrel in sheep's clothing; and the always reliable C. Aubrey Smith in a brief appearance as the father, Col. Loring Leigh. Veteran actors Barry Fitzgerald and John Carradine do their usual superior jobs but have only small roles.
John Ford's direction adds much to the total effect of the film. Note the action scenes in South American of the revolution where camera work and film editing are paramount. The firing squad sequence plays almost like a clip from Woody Allen's "Bananas," including several covert comedy touches that would later be labeled black humor.
Not surprising for such a crisp script with probing lines, the hand of novelist William Faulkner shows through. This is obvious in the conversations between the brothers, at times playful, at other times dead serious, and in the repartee between Lynn Cherrington and the four brothers--also between her and her father.
The story concerns Col. Leigh being accused of causing the death of several of his men in India. He is given a dishonorable discharge by the British army as a result. He summons his four sons to meet with him at their home in London. The youngest is enrolled at Oxford; the oldest is a practicing barrister; another is some sort of diplomat in Washington, D.C.; and the fourth is in the military. The Col. has a briefcase full of papers to prove his innocence. While perusing the documents in the study to get his defense together while the four brothers are waiting in the foyer, a shot rings out. The Col. is dead but not from suicide as indicated by the position of the body and gun in hand. That the papers are missing points to murder.
The four brothers then begin globe trotting to find the killer and the motive behind it. Two go to India to investigate. The other two go to South America. Geoffrey Leigh's American girlfriend, Lynn, tags along to help though her assistance is discouraged by the brothers. The plot becomes more complicated when it is learned that a gun syndicate called Atlas Arms may be behind it all.