Thursday, March 29, 2007

Tonight's Movie: Four Daughters (1938)

FOUR DAUGHTERS is an engrossing domestic drama about the Lemps, a family of musicians consisting of father Adam (Claude Rains), his sister Etta (May Robson), and his four lovely daughters, played by Gale Page and real-life sisters Rosemary, Lola, and Priscilla Lane.

The Lemps' lives are turned upside down with the arrival in town of two young musicians: cheerful, good-hearted Felix (Jeffrey Lynn) and dour, down-on-his-luck Mickey (John Garfield). Romantic complications abound for the four daughters, the two young men, and two other suitors (Dick Foran and Frank McHugh) who aspire to marry into the family.

Garfield made quite a splash when this film came out, playing an unusual character for the day, sort of an early version of the James Dean or Marlon Brando "rebel." However, viewed from today, I had little patience for Garfield or his character. Mickey was self-involved and depressed, and Garfield melodramatically overacted Mickey's climactic downward spiral.

Lynn's role was originally slated to be played by Errol Flynn, who would have been absolutely perfect as the man adored by the entire family. Although he's no Flynn, Lynn acquits himself well. In the '40s Lynn would be absent from the screen for an extended period of time while serving in WWII; his best-known role may be that of Brad Bishop, Jeanne Crain's husband in A LETTER TO THREE WIVES (1949).

The Lane Sisters and Gale Page are delightful as the Lemp daughters. Priscilla Lane is a standout as sweet Ann Lemp, and it's easy to see why she became the biggest star in the family. In 1939 Lane would reunite with Garfield in DUST BE MY DESTINY and with Lynn in YES, MY DARLING DAUGHTER.

When poking around the Internet I discovered that Simpson College in Iowa has a Lane Sisters Collection. That would certainly be interesting to examine.

FOUR DAUGHTERS was nominated for five Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Director, and Best Supporting Actor (John Garfield). Although Garfield didn't do much for me, overall the movie provides excellent entertainment value and is well worth seeing.

FOUR DAUGHTERS was filmed in black and white and is 90 minutes long. It was directed by the great Michael Curtiz. The musical score was composed by Max Steiner.

FOUR DAUGHTERS was followed by two sequels, FOUR WIVES (1939) and FOUR MOTHERS (1941).

The FOUR DAUGHTERS trailer can be seen at TCM's site here. The trailer for FOUR WIVES can be seen here.

Most confusingly, at least 10 members of the cast of FOUR DAUGHTERS reunited in 1939 for DAUGHTERS COURAGEOUS, but that film is not about the Lemp family and is completely unrelated to the FOUR... movies. The trailer for DAUGHTERS COURAGEOUS can be seen here.

FOUR DAUGHTERS was loosely remade in 1954 as YOUNG AT HEART, with Doris Day and Frank Sinatra in the Lane and Garfield roles.

FOUR DAUGHTERS is available on video. It next airs on Turner Classic Movies on April 17, 2007.

Update: Reviews of FOUR WIVES (1939) and FOUR MOTHERS (1941).

May 2009 Update: FOUR DAUGHTERS is now available on DVD via the Warner Archive.

May 2011 Update: The Warner Archive has now released an upgraded remastered print of FOUR DAUGHTERS. It can also now be purchased in the FOUR DAUGHTERS COLLECTION with FOUR WIVES, FOUR MOTHERS, and DAUGHTERS COURAGEOUS; DAUGHTERS COURAGEOUS has also been remastered.

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