Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Tonight's Movie: The Sun Comes Up (1949) - A Warner Archive DVD Review

Jeanette MacDonald stars in her last film, THE SUN COMES UP (1949), available on DVD from the Warner Archive.

THE SUN COMES UP, costarring Lloyd Nolan, Claude Jarman Jr., and Lassie, was the capstone to MacDonald's very fine two decades in films. This was only the second film she starred in after 1942, the other being THREE DARING DAUGHTERS (1948). Reviews of a number of MacDonald films follow at the end of this post.

THE SUN COMES UP is based on a story by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings (THE YEARLING). Jeanette plays Helen, a widowed concert singer who suffers a second devastating loss with the death of her teenage son (Dwayne Hickman).

Helen retreats to the relative seclusion of a mountain community, grudgingly taking along her son's beloved dog, which she blames for the boy's death. A local orphan named Jerry (Jarman) who hires on to do odd jobs becomes attached to both the dog and its owner, dreaming of being adopted, but he's heartbroken because of Helen's reluctance to form another attachment. She tries to keep Jerry at arm's length despite her growing fondness for the boy.

It takes a pair of additional near-tragedies and the nudging of Helen's landlord (Nolan) for her to reset her priorities and allow love back into her life.

This is in some ways a rather sad story, not simply because of Helen's double losses but due to the heartache suffered by Jerry, who desperately wants a family. Jerry's near-brushes with death in the last third of the film are a little hard to watch.

(And speaking of hard to watch, how about a scene where Helen drives a dozen or so orphans in her convertible, as they dangerously hang all over the car?!)

Fortunately the filmmakers leavened the film with some wonderful comic bits by Percy Kilbride, as a painfully honest storekeeper, and Margaret Hamilton as one of the locals. Kilbride in particular is wonderful as the laconic, wise Mr. Williegood; his interactions with Jeanette really make the movie.

As ever, Jeanette is marvelous, whether she's handling drama, comedy, or music. What an immensely talented lady! She was 45 here, and she looks absolutely stunning in the movie's beautiful Technicolor.

Nolan doesn't show up until the final third of the film, but he's always a welcome presence and makes the most of his relatively limited role.

I don't think I'd seen this film since watching it on the big screen at L.A.'s Vagabond Theater when I was a teen, and I very much enjoyed returning to it. Despite the sad moments, on the whole it's a worthwhile and heartwarming film which I recommend.

The supporting cast includes Lewis Stone, Hope Landin, Esther Somers, Ida Moore, and Barbara Billingsley. Orphans are played by Teddy Infuhr, Timmy Hawkins, Charles Bates, and Mason Alan Dinehart, among others.

THE SUN COMES UP was directed by Richard Thorpe. It was filmed by Ray June, with some beautiful locations in Santa Cruz, California. The running time is 93 minutes.

The Warner Archive DVD is an especially lovely Technicolor print. The disc includes the trailer.

THE SUN COMES UP is one of five MGM films of the '40s starring Lassie. The other films were LASSIE COME HOME (1943), SON OF LASSIE (1945), HILLS OF HOME (1948), and CHALLENGE TO LASSIE (1949). CHALLENGE TO LASSIE has just been released on DVD by the Warner Archive, and I anticipate reviewing it here in the near future.

Previous reviews of Jeanette MacDonald films: THE LOVE PARADE (1929), MONTE CARLO (1930), THE SMILING LIEUTENANT (1931), ONE HOUR WITH YOU (1932), NAUGHTY MARIETTA (1935), ROSE-MARIE (1936), SAN FRANCISCO (1936), SWEETHEARTS (1938), THE GIRL OF THE GOLDEN WEST (1938), NEW MOON (1940), and I MARRIED AN ANGEL (1942).

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.


Blogger Ashley said...


You have also reviewed this.

I thought it was a very good film, but very hard to take. The Sun Comes Up seems like an appropriate title, as it ends well.

8:47 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Thank you so much for remembering that, Ashley! I must have overlooked it in my search and have just added the link thanks to you.

Yes, the ending makes some of the preceding sad sequences more worthwhile. Jeanette's character has quite a journey to get to that point, as does Jarman's.

Best wishes,

10:38 AM  
Blogger Caftan Woman said...

I adore Jeanette, but haven't seen this in quite a long time. I suppose the lingering sadness has kept me from saying "oh, boy - I know what to watch". I think I can take it now. Thanks for the marvelous article pointing me in the movie's direction.

7:04 PM  
Blogger mel said...

Another one that you seem to have overlooked is Maytime (1937) which happens to be my favorite of them all...

10:23 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Caftan Woman, I had put off returning to this for the same reason, but I'm glad I revisited it.

Mel, there are just two Jeanette & Nelson costarring films I haven't yet seen or written about here -- MAYTIME and BITTER SWEET. MAYTIME in particular comes highly recommended by several people whose opinions I respect, including you! Looking forward to catching up with them.

Best wishes,

11:11 PM  

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