25 July 2005 | silverscreen888
An Important Attempt; a Memorable Production; Intelligent Characters
This is a fine historical-era drama, about a Pennsylvania mill-town. In this absorbing drama, which is only one book of a monumental Catholic work by Marcia Davenport, Greer Garson plays a pretty and bright young woman who takes a job in the lavish home of a Pittsburgh steel magnate, played honestly and strongly veteran actor Donald Crisp. Gregory Peck plays one of his sons, the serious one, who is devoted to his father's mill and who works alongside some of the mill workers, including his friend Preston Foster. The father has two other sons--Dan Duryea, who is more desirous of having money rather than of working; and Marshall Thompson, who has turned to alcohol in his unhappiness...There is also a daughter played by the fine actress Marsha Hunt, perhaps one of her best performances. Gladys Cooper plays the matriarch of the family, who befriends Garson, and leaves her her shares in the mill. Garson's father, played with skill by Lionel Barrymore, is an embittered man, who lost the use of his legs in an accident in the mill, and did not want his daughter working for the owners. It is he who begets violence that has tragic consequences. Jessica Tandy plays Peck's wife, a bitter woman; Peck should have married Garsop all along, of course; but the climax of the film is the troubles at the steel mill that are started by the angry workers and the consequences on all concerned of this violent crisis action. There are many finely-developed characters in this long film, but I sense also a fair sense of fatality about the events, intended by the author, against which the attraction of persons, characters and dispositions of Peck and Garson are played, like two rays of sunlight illuminating a dark jungle's zone. Thiis attractive B/W production was directed by Tay Garnett. Marcia Davenport long novel was adapted to the screen by fine scenarist Sonya Levien and John Meehan. The cinematography for the film was the work of Joseph Ruttenberg and Herbert Stothart composed the dramatic score. When I say that the art direction was done by Cedric Gibbons with Paul Groesse, the set decorations by Edwin B. Willis and the costume designs by Irene, I have accounted for the film's very-opulent and vivid production values. In the cast apart from the principals already mentioned, one can see Barbara Everest, Geraldine Wall, Eveline Dockson, John Warburton, Rusell Hicks, Mary Lord, Arthur Shields, young Dean Stockwell, Maru Courier, Lumsden Hare, Connie Golchrist and Anna Q. Nilsson. This is always an attractive and a carefully-considered production, which occasionally seems to me to lack warmth; with a great script, everyone concerned could perhaps have produced a masterpiece. With the one they had, the talents involved produced a memorable adventure that rises on occasion to first-rate dramatic heights. Not to be missed, perhaps. I would love to see it redone, with another fine cast; more than melodrama, it has I believe as a writer, an important dramatic potential.