Friday, January 14, 2011

Kings Row (1942)

Jan. 13, 2011

13. Kings Row(1942)

Starring Ann Sheridan, Robert Cummings, Ronald Reagan, Betty Field, Charles Coburn, Claude Rains, Judith Anderson, Nancy Coleman, Kaaren Verne, Maria Ouspenskaya, Harry Davenport

Directed by Sam Wood
Based on the novel by Henry Bellamann

Plot: The story of a small turn-of-the-century town and its hidden secrets. [again, bad synopsis]

I was afraid this would be an endlessly depressing two hours, but found it surprisingly good. The film does take tragic turns, but the drama is well balanced and the over all effect is very satisfying. It is sad to see some of the ‘secrets’ that lie hidden in this town and the awful things some people do, though (I will never look at Charles Coburn the same again). I also felt like some aspects of the story were not sufficiently fleshed out. I don't want to give anything away, but I wasn't really satisfied with how the situation with the Cassandra and her father was resolved. I do really like some of the changes that Hollywood made to the film, though, as I think it makes a better movie. (Having not read the book I guess I can't really say for sure, though.)

I thought Ronald Reagan (he has a very likeable screen presence) and Ann Sheridan (she was a better actress than many people gave her credit for, in my opinion) did a great job. I’m not sure what to think of Robert Cummings. I usually like him as a performer but here something seemed flat. I can’t decide whether this was the actor’s fault or if that’s just the way the character was supposed to be.

One of the greatest parts of this film is the cinematography* and set design**. The mood of the town is perfectly recreated. Also notable is the famous Korngold score. It is really beautiful and greatly adds to the film.

* The director of photography was none other than legendary Hollywood cinematographer James Wong Howe. He has a fascinating story in his own right and is definitely worth looking up.

**Production design was by William Cameron Menzies, two time Oscar winner who is notable for doing the set design for Gone With the Wind (1939).

**Art direction was by Carl Jules Weyl, another Oscar winner, whose work includes Casablanca (1942), The Big Sleep (1946), The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938), and Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942).

Kings Row was nominated for three Academy Awards: Best Cinematography (black and white), Best Director, and Best Picture.

If you haven’t seen this, I think it’s definitely worth checking out. Let me know what you think.

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