Archive for January 26th, 2009


by Allan Fish

(Jeez, I almost feel strange going back to movies after the weekend’s events, so let’s pick a forties film that tries to offer a ray of hope among the grime)

(USA 1945 128m) DVD2

The Brooklyn Thrush

p  Louis D.Lighton  d  Elia Kazan  w  Tess Slesinger, Frank Davis  novel  Betty Smith  ph  Leon Shamroy  ed  Dorothy Spencer  m  Alfred Newman  art  Lyle Wheeler

Dorothy McGuire (Katie Nolan), James Dunn (Johnny Nolan), Peggy Ann Garner (Francie Nolan), Joan Blondell (Aunt Sissy Edwards), Lloyd Nolan (Officer McShane), Ted Donaldson (Neely Nolan), James Gleason (MacGarrity), John Alexander (Steve Edwards), Ruth Nelson (Miss McDonough), Adeline de Walt Reynolds (Mrs Waters), Mae Marsh, Al Bridge, Charles Halton,

Elia Kazan’s debut film stands as one of the most beloved family sagas of the old Hollywood; a lovingly crafted, detailed, emotional tale of growing up in turn of the century Brooklyn that wrings tears from you like a thumbscrew wrings cries of agony.  In its own way, it’s perfect, and yet these days it’s overlooked, and dismissed as a formative work in its director’s canon.  Why might this be?

            The main reason seems to be that of realism, or the lack thereof.  No-one could ever accuse it of truth, and yet could pre-Code Hollywood have depicted the real Brooklyn of the era faithfully; it seems doubtful.  Hence they aim rather to capture a the rose-tinted and somewhat flavourful essence of time, with its Tin Pan Alley music, streets on which a Model T Ford have never appeared and slum garrets where everyone, though poor, is a character.  Realists will hate it, but it is, after all, an exercise in nostalgia, as indeed it has to be when told through the eyes of a child.  However, unlike a similar film, John Ford’s How Green Was My Valley, which also looked at a time and a place through rose-tinted spectacles, they didn’t make it out to be a sort of mythical paradise when it wasn’t – his Wales having not one jot of truth – rather simply looked at a hell through positive eyes, the eyes of not only its heroine, but her father. (more…)

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