Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:
- Claude Rains Films
- John Garfield Films
- Love Triangle
- Michael Curtiz Films
- Priscilla Lane Films
Based on a story by Fannie Hurst, and designed as a vehicle for Priscilla Lane and her two sisters (Lola and Rosemary), Four Daughters — directed by Michael Curtiz — was originally intended as an “A”-level picture, before Errol Flynn dropped out of the cast and Jeffrey Lynn signed on.
It’s primarily notable today for affording John Garfield his memorable screen debut:
Indeed, Garfield’s Oscar-nominated supporting performance as a philosophizing cynic who plucks Ann’s pity strings is likely why Peary includes this title in his GFTFF, and was enough to make the New York Times’ reviewer take note:
As the most startling innovation in the way of a screen character in years — a fascinating fatalist, reckless and poor and unhappy, who smokes too much, who is insufferably rude to everybody, and who assumes as a matter of course that all the cards are stacked against him, Mr. Garfield is such a sweet relief from conventional screen types, in this one character, anyway, so eloquent of a certain dispossessed class of people, that we can’t thank Warner Brothers, Michael Curtiz, the director; Mr. Epstein and Miss Coffee, the screen playwrights; and even Miss Fannie Hurst, the original author, enough for him.
Otherwise, the film remains a fairly straightforward product of its era — a tearjerking romance full of conveniently implausible twists and turns, all taking place within the idyllic white-picket borders of a happy small-town household, presided over by avuncular Rains (in a throwaway role):
… and no-nonsense May Robson as “Aunt Etta”.
With that said, the script is surprisingly well-written for its genre, and contains quite a few lines of thoughtful and/or amusing dialogue (see examples below) — you’ll likely be pleasantly surprised if you decide to check this one out.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- John Garfield as Mickey Borden
- Ernest Haller’s cinematography
- Some surprisingly effective dialogue:
“Do you think that’s right, to leave a song dangling in mid-air — no face, no feet?”
“My name came first — then the curtains.”
No, though it’s of interest simply for Garfield’s debut screen performance.