Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB.5.
USA, 1936. The Samuel Goldwyn Company. Screenplay by Sidney Howard, based on the novel by Sinclair Lewis. Cinematography by Rudolph Mate. Produced by Samuel Goldwyn. Music by Alfred Newman. Production Design by Richard Day. Costume Design by Omar Kiam. Film Editing by Daniel Mandell. Academy Awards 1936.
Most of William Wyler’s films of the thirties and forties are at the top of their class, and this excellent adaptation of the play by Sidney Howard (originally from the novel by Sinclair Lewis) is no exception. Walter Huston gives a career-defining performance as an aging auto industrialist who sells his company in order to retire. He and his social-climbing wife (Ruth Chatterton) are intending to sail around the world, she especially looking forward to practising her worldly charms on more than just the tiny town they’ve been living in for so long. While overseas, Huston learns to enjoy his cultural exposure while his wife learns to enjoy pretending to be single again, mostly with a long line of fortune-hunting cads. He, on the other hand, strikes up a genuine friendship with a classy divorcee (Mary Astor) living in Italy. The acting is absolutely superb, even by today’s less-mannered standards, and the dialogue is so incredibly well-written and modern that it hasn’t lost any of its power. This film is surprisingly alive after so many years and there’s just no rational explanation for it.