ALL MY SONS (director: Irving Reis; screenwriter: based on a play by Arthur Miller/Chester Erskine; cinematographer: Russell Metty; editor: Ralph Dawson; music: Leith Stevens; cast: Edward G. Robinson (Joe Keller), Burt Lancaster (Chris Keller), Mady Christians (Kate Keller), Louisa Horton (Ann Deever), Howard Duff (George Deever), Frank Conroy (Herbert Deever), Lloyd Gough (Jim Bayliss), Arlene Francis (Sue Bayliss), Henry Morgan (Frank Lubey), Elisabeth Fraser (Lydia Lubey); Runtime: 95; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Chester Erskine; Universal-International; 1948)
“There are enough social conscience talking points to fill the airwaves of talk radio for a season of broadcasts.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

It’s based on the Pulitzer Prize winning play by Arthur Miller and the taut screenplay is by Chester Erskine. Irving G. Reis (“Roseanna McCoy”) directs this thoughtful and well-meaning family drama. It explores all of the following moral questions: unprincipled greed, taking family loyalty to the extreme, the importance of taking responsibility for one’s actions, and suicide. The stage play undergoes a major change in its screen adaptation, making it less controversial. In the play the unethical business practices leading to war profiteering by the entire defense industry is questioned, in the film it’s only the business partners that are found guilty of such criminal acts. Still, there are enough social conscience talking points to fill the airwaves of talk radio for a season of broadcasts.

Set in a small-town in the Midwest, Chris Keller (Burt Lancaster) returns from the war to join his self-made father, Joe (Edward G. Robinson), in his successful manufacturing firm and is determined to marry childhood neighbor friend Ann Deever (Louisa Horton). She now lives in Chicago with her lawyer brother George (Howard Duff), where they moved to after her father Herbert (Frank Conroy) was sent to prison for selling the government defective airplane cylinders which caused the deaths of 21 pilots over the Pacific. At the time, Joe and Herbert were business partners. Joe got off because he lied on the stand and let his partner take the full blame. Chris’s older brother was engaged to Ann, but the flyer has been missing in action for three years after going on a raid, and Chris’s mother Kate (Mady Christians) believes her son is still alive and therefore will not grant permission for the marriage.

Ann’s visit opens up those old wounds and opens up the eyes of Chris, who always believed his father was innocent. Chris visits his father’s former partner in the Springfield jail and discovers the bloody truth, causing him to confront his father and bring about more tragedy.

The film questions the patriotism of those who profit from war and how easy it is to go into denial about your wrong doings when you find rationales such as you did it for your children’s sake. The shaded character played by Robinson shows his arrogance as well as his virtues as a good family man, but is someone who can never understand until it’s too late his moral obligation to do what’s good for society. Though losing some of the power of Miller’s play, it still is a haunting melodrama with excellent performances by the stellar cast.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”