The Prodigal

  • 1931
  • Movie
  • NR
  • Comedy, Drama

Tibbett plays the scion of a well-to-do southern family of plantation owners who turns happy hobo, riding the rails with English-accented Young and smiling Edwards as sidekicks. After years of carefree vagabonding, Tibbett decides to return to his antebellum origins, where he finds himself falling in love with his brother Pratt's genteel bride, Ralston....read more

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Tibbett plays the scion of a well-to-do southern family of plantation owners who turns happy hobo, riding the rails with English-accented Young and smiling Edwards as sidekicks. After years of carefree vagabonding, Tibbett decides to return to his antebellum origins, where he finds

himself falling in love with his brother Pratt's genteel bride, Ralston. The film struck a little too close to home in this Depression year when hundreds of thousands of homeless men were riding the rails; 2,294 banks failed in 1931. Rene Clair's A NOUS LA LIBERTE, released at about the same time,

dealt with much the same theme, but carried the master's touch of fantasy blended with irony lacking in this picture; it did not do well at the box office despite a capable cast. Tibbett--familiar with the film industry since childhood, a native of Los Angeles who had made his professional singing

debut as Amonasro in Giuseppe Verdi's Aida in the Hollywood Bowl--had been nominated for an Academy Award as Best Actor for his film debut work in THE ROGUE SONG (1930). His acting talents were employed here more than his operatic baritone; the film contains only about 10 minutes of songs, backed

up by a large unbilled chorus of black plantation singing extras. The English-accented Young, his part written to give him an enormously polysyllabic vocabulary, made an anomalous comic bindlestiff. Edwards, who was best known for his "Ukelele Ike" and "Harmony" roles in a succession of films,

including Charles Starrett westerns, was an extremely experienced sidekick who handled his role well. At the time, the bumbling, shiftless black stereotype Fetchit was a top comic draw; he was earning $1,500 weekly when other black featured players were paid only $25 a day. The picture bombed;

audiences were more ready, in this perilous time, for releases such as DRACULA, SVENGALI, and FRANKENSTEIN, which premiered the same year. Songs include "Life Is a Dream" (Arthur Freed, Oscar Straus), "Home Sweet Home" (John Howard Payne, Sir Henry Bishop), and "Without a Song" (Vincent Youmans,

Edward Eliscu, Billy Rose).

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  • Rating: NR
  • Review: Tibbett plays the scion of a well-to-do southern family of plantation owners who turns happy hobo, riding the rails with English-accented Young and smiling Edwards as sidekicks. After years of carefree vagabonding, Tibbett decides to return to his antebell… (more)

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