A botch job by Sam Goldwyn, who exercised his power as producer by changing directors—from Howard Hawks to William Wyler—halfway through the shooting. Some sources hold that Wyler shot only the last ten minutes, working from Hawks’s script; others claim that Wyler reshot much of Hawks’s work. But the first part of the film, the best, is unmistakably Hawks, as Edward Arnold and Walter Brennan (in an early part, his first Academy Award performance) fight for the hand of Frances Farmer, against the background of the north-woods logging country. The Edna Ferber story (like her Giant) then shifts generations, and the action loses much of its scale. Farmer remains a wonder, in one of her few fully realized parts as an early and lusty version of the Hawksian woman (1936).
George Stevens graduated from grade B comedies to prestige productions with this 1935 adaptation of Booth Tarkington‘s novel. Katharine Hepburn, in one of her most sympathetic and properly scaled performances, stars as a small-town girl struggling to escape her middle-class background; it’s Hepburn’s accomplishment, and Stevens’s, to show us the heart beneath this faintly unappealing character while stopping short of pushing her into sweetness. Stevens’s talent for stepping away from the plotline and creating intimate, casual, and naturalistic moments is given plenty of opportunity here, as it would not be in his later superproductions. With Fred MacMurray, Evelyn Venable, Frank Albertson, Fred Stone, and Ann Shoemaker. 99 min.
A good example of the kind of soporific nonsense that won rave reviews and armloads of Academy Awards back in the 50s, while the finest work of Ford, Hawks, and Hitchcock was being ignored. George Stevens, a tireless moralizer and part-time embalmer of American myths (Shane), directed this melodramatic adaptation of Dreiser‘s An American Tragedy, and what does not seem facile in it seems overwrought. Curiously, this 1951 film now seems hopelessly dated, while Josef von Sternberg‘s 1931 treatment of the material, filmed under the original title, seems breathtakingly modern. With Montgomery Clift, Elizabeth Taylor, and Shelley Winters.