Wednesday, April 22, 2009

My Son John

Agentti 52 / Agent 52. US (c) 1952 Paramount. P+D: Leo McCarey. SC: Myles Connolly, Leo McCarey - adaptation: John Lee Mahin - based on a story by Leo McCarey. DP: Harry Stradling. AD: Hal Pereira, William Flannery. Song: "Alma Mater" (composed by Leo McCarey and Robert Emmett Dolan, lyrics by Leo McCarey). COST: Edith Head. ED: Marvin Coil. CAST: Helen Hayes (Lucille Jefferson), Van Heflin (Stedman), Dean Jagger (Dan Jefferson), Robert Walker (John Jefferson), Minor Watson (Dr. Carver), Frank McHugh (Father O'Dowd). 122 min. A Paramount (Hollywood) print viewed at Cinema Orion, Helsinki, 21 April 2009. - A brilliant print. - A seminal anti-communistic film made with total devotion by Leo McCarey, who not only wrote, directed, and produced, but also dubbed John's final speech and composed and wrote lyrics to the final song that accompanies it. - After this film, there was a five year hiatus in McCarey's filmography. - A strange film beneath McCarey's usual intelligence, wit and sense of humour. - McCarey had certainly demonstrated audacity in treating serious political issues in Hollywood entertainment in Once Upon a Honeymoon. - Before this, he had made one non-comedy, Make Way for Tomorrow, but there was a profound sense of humour in it. - It seems that for McCarey, Communism was a force of evil, of Satan (as in Satan Never Sleeps). - The strange conclusions in this film include that intellect, intellectuality, and academic achievements become suspect. And a fatally dysfunctional family (a weak, conformist and alcoholic father, and a mother on the verge of nervous breakdown) becomes the ideal of America. - Robin Wood has remarked that if this film had been properly understood, McCarey, himself, might have been hauled before the Un-American activities committee. - A pervasive sense of unease, fraud, and phoniness. - A terrible film with a lot of fascinating unconscious content. - An apology of naming names, informing, and espionage. - Robert Walker plays John for a monster. - Helen Hayes is great as the neurotic mother, who also makes fun about her condition (pretending to catch a fly).

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