Monday, July 3, 2017

1943 - The Human Comedy

Finally, after over two years, we reach the end of the current year of review. I sincerely hope I'm able to avoid that sort of lengthy timeframe in the future. Life as a parent may put up a fight, though.

The final entry in 1943's competition for the Best Picture is...

The Human Comedy
Clarence Brown
Howard Estabrook
(from a story by William Saroyan)
Mickey Rooney, Frank Morgan, James Craig, Marsha Hunt, Fay Bainter, Ray Collins, Van Johnson, Donna Reed, Jackie Jenkins
Academy Awards:
5 nominations
1 win, for Best Original Story

The effects of the distant war are felt in small-town California as teenager Homer (Rooney) takes on the role of provider for his family due to the recent death of his father (Collins) and the deployment of his older brother (Johnson). Homer begins working for the local telegraph office, alongside senior telegrapher Willie (Morgan). Meanwhile, the office manager (Craig) frets over the impending introduction to his future in-laws, Homer's sister (Reed) and a friend enjoy a night out with soldiers on leave, and Homer's brother faces Army training.

The Human Comedy wears its heart well and truly on its sleeve. It's overly sincere and plenty preachy with scene after scene of characters waxing philosophical about life, love and, most of all, war. A product of its era, I guess.

That said, the picture's multiple storylines each capture the attention of its audience. We end up caring for all the characters in this town, which is attributable to the ensemble cast. However, it's Mickey Rooney (pictured, with Frank Morgan) that is the standout, proving he wasn't a box office draw for nothing. He displays an affable boyish exuberance, paving the way for the Michael J. Foxes of the world.

Relevant to this blog, it's always fun to come across a Best Picture nominee that makes reference to an earlier Best Picture nominee. In The Human Comedy, one scene sees several characters exit a cinema after having seen the previous year's Best Picture winner, Mrs. Miniver.

1 comment:

  1. Back in March, 1986, I was listening to a radio program hosted by two movie experts. They were offering their predictions on the upcoming Academy Awards and both felt that The Color Purple would be the big winner, making up for the snub of Steven Spielberg in the Directors category. They opened the phone lines for comments and to try to stump them with a movie trivia question. I called them, and after I opined that Out of Africa would be the big winner for 1985 (sorry for the gloat), I gave them a question from The Human Comedy. I mentioned the scene where three GIs were walking down the street, played by three up-and-coming young actors. I asked them to name them. Now, this was years before IMDB and Google. They both immediately named Robert Mitchum and Barry Nelson, but couldn't come up with Don DeFore. They incorrectly guessed Marshall Thompson, which I felt was as good a miss as you could make.

    The Human Comedy was very representative of the sentimental morale building films during WWII. It's hard not to be touched by it. I think it was probably Mickey Rooney's best performance. Never one to shirk his emotions on screen, he anchored the picture very well.