Clarence Brown's superlative and poignant OF HUMAN HEARTS is set in the rural Ohio Valley before the Civil War. Huston is a stern religious leader who forces his family to endure near-poverty to set an example for his parishioners. All this really does is make a drudge of his wife (Bondi)
and compels his son (Reynolds as a boy, Stewart as a man) to resent him. By the time Stewart reaches early manhood, he yearns to break his father's stranglehold and to go East to study medicine, but he is so impoverished that it is impossible. However, Bondi, defying her husband, sells off some of
her dowry and finances her son's dream. Stewart becomes so engrossed in his own ambitions that he all but ignores his family and returns only when his father lies dying. When Stewart goes off to the Civil War as a doctor, Bondi is left alone at home. Again, Stewart ignores the mother who has
sacrificed so much for him and who is now starving since Stewart has not sent her even enough money to survive. Failing to hear from Stewart, Bondi believes that he has been killed and writes President Lincoln (Carradine) to ask him to learn if her boy is dead. Carradine discovers that Stewart is
very much alive and sends for him. Gently but firmly Carradine reprimands Stewart for ignoring his mother in her time of need and sends him home on furlough. A repentant Stewart returns to the loving arms of Bondi and vows that she will never suffer again.
Brown's direction is top-notch, and he coaxes excellent performances from Walter Huston, Beulah Bondi, and James Stewart. Bondi earned a Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination, but lost to Fay Bainter for JEZEBEL. Gene Reynolds, playing the boy who becomes Stewart, is also superb, as are the
wonderful supporting players, Guy Kibbee, Charley Grapewin, Ann Rutherford, and John Carradine as Lincoln. The story is on the melodramatic side and is often syrupy, but Brown overcomes the weaknesses in the plot with spritely visuals.
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- Rating: NR
- Review: Clarence Brown's superlative and poignant OF HUMAN HEARTS is set in the rural Ohio Valley before the Civil War. Huston is a stern religious leader who forces his family to endure near-poverty to set an example for his parishioners. All this really does is… (more)