A MAN TO REMEMBER
(director: Garson Kanin; screenwriters: Dalton Trumbo/Lester Cohen/Arthur Kober/Samuel Ornitz/story by Katharine Haviland-Taylor; cinematographer: J. Roy Hunt; editor: Jack Hively; music: Roy Webb; cast: Edward Ellis (John Abbott), Anne Shirley (Jean), Lee Bowman (Dick Abbott), William Henry (Howard Sykes), Granville Bates (George Sykes), Harlan Briggs (Homer Ramsey), Frank M. Thomas (Jode Harkness), Charles Halton (Perkins), John Wray (Johnson), Carole Leete (Jean Johnson, age 4), Dickie Jones (Dick Abbott as a child), John Wray (Tom Johnson); Runtime: 79; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Robert Sisk; RKO; 1938)
“Warm-hearted modest weepie family drama about a dedicated rural country doctor.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
This warm-hearted modest weepie family drama about a dedicated rural country doctor is directed by Garson Kanin (“Bachelor Mother”/”The Great Man Votes”/”My Favorite Wife”) in his directorial debut. It’s a remake of 1933’s One Man’s Journey. Written by Dalton Trumbo, Lester Cohen, Arthur Kober and Samuel Ornitz; it’s based on a story by Katharine Haviland-Taylor. It was previously thought “lost” but rediscovered and restored by the Netherlands Filmmuseum in 2000 after Ted Turner bought the RKO library. It’s presented in English with Dutch subtitles. Kanin shot it in 15 days on a budget of only $84,000.
It opens in the Midwestern rural town of Westport with an elaborate, public funeral of Doctor “Doc” John Abbott (Edward Ellis). The three money-hungry leading citizens–banker George Sykes (Granville Bates), newspaperman Jode Harkness (Frank M. Thomas) and store owner Homer Ramsey (Harlan Briggs)–before the church service open Doc’s strong box, hoping to find money long owed to them. The film then goes into flashback recalling the good-natured doctor’s life.
In 1919, a broke and widowed Doc, a practicing doctor for seventeen years, returns to his home town with his young son Dick. His old college friend George Sykes gives him a hard time when asked for a loan before giving him less than what he needed. John is forced out of necessity to work the poor part of town, where his services are mostly paid for in goods instead of cash. John’s first patient is a poor farmer’s wife who dies during childbirth. The father, Tom Johnson, dumps the baby girl on John’s porch, saying he can’t afford to keep her. John names her Jean (Anne Shirley, as an adult; Carole Leete, as a child) and raises her as his own. The doctor humbly continues to practice for the next two decades and is taken for granted without much appreciation, but he’s a good doctor who is cunning enough to get the wealthy Sykes to build a hospital after his irresponsible son accidentally shoots his date Jean and to selflessly during a polio epidemic get the town inoculated above the objections of crooked politicians while other nearby towns didn’t and had polio outbreaks. After that crisis, a weary Doc suddenly dies of a heart attack and the grateful community mourns his passing as they realize at last that they lost a great humanitarian.
REVIEWED ON 6/4/2008 GRADE: B- https://dennisschwartzreviews.com/
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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