Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Tonight's Movie: Daughters Courageous (1939)

Tonight I enjoyed a Warner Bros. double bill, following TORRID ZONE with DAUGHTERS COURAGEOUS. DAUGHTERS COURAGEOUS was a somewhat unusual follow-up film to FOUR DAUGHTERS, reviewed here last week.

DAUGHTERS COURAGEOUS reunited FOUR DAUGHTERS director Michael Curtiz and 10 cast members in what film historian George Morris terms "neither a sequel nor a remake, but a unique mixture of paraphrase and elaboration." (As I wrote last week, sequels to FOUR DAUGHTERS would also follow.)

This time around the "four daughters," again played by the Lane Sisters and Gale Page, live with their mother (Fay Bainter) and housekeeper (May Robson) in a comfortable, book-filled home near the seaside in Carmel, California. The girls are all happy with their boyfriends (Jeffrey Lynn, Frank McHugh, Dick Foran), and the mother is about to marry her nice beau (Donald Crisp). Suddenly the girls' father (Claude Rains), who abandoned the family two decades previously, re-enters the picture. Further complicating matters is the attraction of the youngest daughter (Priscilla Lane) for the local bad boy (John Garfield), whose personality is very much akin to that of the errant father.

The storyline not only had echoes of FOUR DAUGHTERS, but I also found it a bit of a modern-day variant on LITTLE WOMEN, with Jeffrey Lynn cast in the "Laurie" role. Like the historian Morris, I preferred DAUGHTERS COURAGEOUS to the better-known FOUR DAUGHTERS. (Leonard Maltin, on the other hand, gives FOUR DAUGHTERS 3-1/2 stars compared to 3 for DAUGHTERS COURAGEOUS.) Although DAUGHTERS COURAGEOUS is not all sweetness and light, I liked its greater sense of optimism; in multiple ways, FOUR DAUGHTERS was a much darker picture.

The performances are uniformly fine. Fay Bainter is one of my favorite character actresses, and Claude Rains has a moving moment in his climactic confrontation with her, when the barest glint of a tear shows in his eye. Donald Crisp, playing a decent man whose life plans are in jeopardy, likewise has a strong scene with Rains near the end of the film. The daughters are all fun, with Priscilla Lane once more the standout. John Garfield is less abrasive than in FOUR DAUGHTERS, though his type of character still doesn't do much for me.

DAUGHTERS COURAGEOUS runs 107 minutes and was filmed in black and white. The trailer can be seen on TCM's site.

This film does not appear to have had a video release.

May 2011 Update: DAUGHTERS COURAGEOUS is now available on DVD-R from the Warner Archive. It can be purchased individually or as part of the Four Daughters Movie Series Collection.


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