Saturday, February 20, 2021

Tonight's Movie: The Great Man's Lady (1942) - A Kino Lorber Blu-ray Review

Another weekend, and another set of Kino Lorber reviews wrapped up!

Last year I reviewed the first two films in Kino Lorber's Barbara Stanwyck Collection, INTERNES CAN'T TAKE MONEY (1937) and THE BRIDE WORE BOOTS (1946).

There were so many interesting Kino Lorber sets released last year that I couldn't get to every film as each collection initially came out. With the pace of releases a bit slower this winter, I'm really enjoying circling back to completing watching these sets, and it's a good opportunity to remind readers of last year's many excellent multi-film releases.

THE GREAT MAN'S LADY is an historical saga directed by William A. Wellman.  Stanwyck appears opposite one of her regular costars, Joel McCrea, who also starred with her in the set's INTERNES CAN'T TAKE MONEY, filmed half a decade previously.  In the intervening years they had also costarred in Cecil B. DeMille's UNION PACIFIC (1939); ultimately Stanwyck and McCrea would make half a dozen films together in close to 24 years.

THE GREAT MAN'S LADY is a story presented in flashback as 100-year-old Hannah Sempler Hoyt (Stanwyck) recounts her life to a writer (K.T. Stevens, billed here as Katharine).  

Hannah is a young girl when she elopes with Ethan Hoyt (McCrea), who dreams of building a great city on the frontier.  

The Hoyts struggle and have decided to go west in search of gold when Ethan loses everything he owns to gambler Steely Hoyt (Brian Donlevy).  Hannah manages to get everything back from Steely, and when the Hoyts go west, Hannah and Steely become close friends when Ethan is away for weeks at a time prospecting.

Hannah gives birth to twins in her husband's absence, but they die in a flood.  Ethan believes Hannah has died in the same flood and remarries.  Having lost everything, Hannah goes with Steely to San Francisco, while Ethan becomes a wealthy and powerful man thanks to finding silver.

The early part of the film is the best, with McCrea and Stanwyck as ambitious young dreamers who are head over heels for each other.  The second half of the film is absorbing enough to watch but the lighthearted energy gradually disappears and the film instead becomes depressing, as one can imagine reading the above.  Killing off two little babies, followed by the permanent break to the Hoyt marriage, was much too much.

The performances by Stanwyck and Donlevy are top notch, and Stanwyck really gets to show her stuff as her character ages by eight decades.  McCrea is a big favorite but has less to do in this film, especially in the second half, when he's more talked about than seen.  

There are a number of familiar supporting faces in the cast, from Thurston Hall, Charles Lane, and George Chandler to Etta McDaniel, Mary Treen, and Lloyd Corrigan, but only the three excellent leads make any impression.  

The film is worth seeing for fans of Stanwyck, McCrea, and Donlevy -- and I'm definitely one -- but ultimately it's kind of a long 90 minutes with all the tragedies befalling the characters in rapid succession.

THE GREAT MAN'S LADY was filmed by William C. Mellor.  The screenplay by W.L. River was based on a story by multiple contributors, including Adela Rogers St. Johns.  Additional great names behind the scenes included costumes by Edith Head and a score by Victor Young.

Kino Lorber's Blu-ray is a nice print with excellent sound.  The disc includes a commentary by Eloise Ross along with the trailer.  

Thanks to Kino Lorber for providing a review copy of this Blu-ray.


Blogger Caftan Woman said...

Epic in my youngster's view and less so as an adult. The combination of creative people off and on screen is always a draw.

5:57 AM  
Blogger barrylane said...

I started watching this once, a long time ago. The shooting was marvelous, a strong hint of what might have been, but I could not get through it, and there are not a ton of pictures I can say that about.

12:24 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Very interested to hear each of your reactions to this movie, Caftan Woman and Barrylane.

One definitely has the feeling that, between the director and the actors, it could have been so much more. Instead it's one I don't imagine I'll be returning to in the future, when everyone involved made so many movies I like far better.

Best wishes,

12:37 PM  

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