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SMILIN’ THROUGH (director: Frank Borzage; screenwriter: Donald Ogden Stewart/John L. Balderston/from the play by Jane Cowl and Jane Murfin; cinematographer: Leonard Smith; editor: Frank Sullivan; music: Herbert Stothart; cast: Brian Aherne (Sir John Carteret), Jeanette MacDonald (Kathleen//Moonyean Clare), Patrick O’Moore (Willie Ainle), Frances Robinson (Ellen), Ian Hunter (Rev. Owen Harding), Gene Raymond (Jeremy/Kenneth Wayne), Jackie Horner (Kathleen, as a Child); Runtime: 101; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Frank Borzage/Victor Saville; MGM; 1941)
“Dated weepie romancer.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Technicolor remake of Smilin’ Through versions from the silent 1922 (Norma Talmadge) and talkie 1932 (Norma Shearer), with this version more schmaltzy and lacking the oomph of the other films.Sensitive director Frank Borzage (“The Mortal Storm”/”Seventh Heaven“/”A Farewell to Arms“) lays on the sentimentality of this dated weepie romancer much too thickly. It’s based on a 1919 play by Jane Murfin and Jane Cowl, while the screenplay is by Donald Ogden Stewart and John L. Balderston.

Jeanette MacDonald plays a young Irish lass, Moonyean, who, in 1864, must chose between two suitors. The rejected lover, Jeremy (Gene Raymond), becomes so outraged he kills her on her wedding day. Many years later, the bereaved and lonely groom, Sir John Carteret (Brian Ahearn), takes in his orphaned youngster niece, Kathleen (Jackie Horner), who grows up to be the spitting image of his dead bride. As a young woman, Kathleen (Jeanette MacDonald) falls in love with Kenneth Wayne (Gene Raymond), arriving from America and the son of the man who murdered the bride, which enrages the guardian who prohibits her to see him. But their love is rescued by the spirit of the slain bride emerging from above to show her husband that true love conquers all.

Its star Jeanette MacDonald plays a dual role and sings nine songs.MacDonald’s real-life husband, Gene Raymond, also played a dual role of both the murderously jilted lover and his son. Brian Aherne plays the stuffy surviving groom, crushed by the tragedy, who communicates with his deceased wife from above and later on raises his niece.

There’s an audience for such tearjerkers, ones that are so well done and acted (at least by Ahearne & MacDonald), but its old-fashioned sentiments never appealed to me and I found it too sticky.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”