Monday, July 24, 2017

Tonight's Movie: Let Freedom Ring (1939) - A Warner Archive DVD Review

Nelson Eddy stars in LET FREEDOM RING (1939), an engaging MGM musical Western available on DVD from the Warner Archive.

LET FREEDOM RING marked a "solo" effort for Eddy without his frequent late '30s costar Jeanette MacDonald. One regrets just a bit that Jeanette wasn't in it, as it would have been a good vehicle for the duo, but even so it's an entertaining film which works quite well just as it is.

Ben Hecht's story and screenplay seem to have been loosely inspired by Johnston McCulley's Zorro. Steve Logan (Eddy) returns to his frontier community after receiving a Harvard law degree. Steve's father (Lionel Barrymore) and sweetheart Maggie (Virginia Bruce) expect Steve to help lead the community against a crooked railroad man named Knox (Edward Arnold), but Steve disappoints them both, appearing to have become a grasping wimp who's interested in doing business with Knox.

Secretly, however, Steve and his sidekick (Charles Butterworth) print newspapers disclosing all of Knox's crooked dealings, trying to stir the townspeople and railroad men against him. The papers are delivered with notes from "The Wasp."

Like TERROR IN A TEXAS TOWN (1958), seen earlier this weekend, the film has a traditional Western theme, with a greedy businessman burning settlers' homes and grabbing their land. The two films, made 20 years apart, serve as a good illustration of how Western themes changed very little over the decades; the fun is always in seeing the unique ways a story is handled. Just as TERROR IN A TEXAS TOWN had an excellent screenwriter in Dalton Trumbo, here we have a solid script from the reliable Hecht.

Hecht may have been inspired by McCulley's classic character, but he does some nice original things with the story, such as creating a weak-looking, shawl-wearing saloon dealer who's deceptively fast with a gun. It's a terrific role for the great character actor H.B. Warner.

The movie was energetically directed by Jack Conway, and along with the Zorro-esque fun there are several rousing musical numbers which really make the movie, concluding with a goosebump-y rendition of "My Country 'Tis of Thee" ("Let freedom ring!"). Movies don't get much better than Nelson Eddy singing at MGM, and this film definitely put me in a happy place.

Virginia Bruce looks quite lovely in this, and she joins Eddy in the final song. The excellent cast also includes faces like Victor McLaglen, Gabby Hayes, Louis Jean Heydt, and Raymond Walburn.

LET FREEDOM RING was filmed in black and white by Sidney Wagner. Bruce's pretty costumes are by Dolly Tree. The film runs 87 well-paced minutes.

The Warner Archive DVD looks and sounds great. The disc includes the trailer.

Musical fans should check out this relatively little-known film for some enjoyable entertainment, including some terrific songs.  I had a good time watching it.

Thanks to the Warner Archive for providing a review copy of this DVD. Warner Archive releases are MOD (manufactured on demand) and may be ordered from the Warner Archive Collection at the WBShop or from any online retailers where DVDs and Blu-rays are sold.


Blogger mel said...

Let Freedom Ring is a Nelson Eddy movie that I'm completely unfamiliar with. I'm a big fan of his, and of Charles Butterworth too.

I'm pretty sure that I'll enjoy it.

Thanks for your review, Laura.

10:36 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Hi Mel!

If you like Eddy and Butterworth I can pretty much guarantee you're going to have fun watching this. :) Do let me know!

Best wishes,

11:30 PM  

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