“The day wouldn’t come when I wouldn’t want to know everything about our town.”
A narrator (Frank Craven) reflects on the lives, hopes, and dreams of citizens in the small American town of Grover’s Corners, focusing specifically on young sweethearts Emily (Martha Scott) and George (William Holden).
This early cinematic adaptation of Thornton Wilder’s Pulitzer Prize-winning 1938 play remains a solid telling of an oft-staged, deeply philosophical tale about the beauty and value of everyday life. With effectively stylized sets by William Cameron Menzies, atmospheric cinematography by Bert Glennon, a typically distinctive score by Aaron Copland, and confident direction by Sam Wood, the film successfully “opens up” Wilder’s play, maintaining some theatrical conventions while also making creative use of cinematic possibilities. Other than a substantial change to a major event in the third act (sanctioned by Wilder himself, who agreed the play’s original ending would be too downbeat for movie audiences), the film remains relatively faithful to its source material. Watch for fine performances by Oscar-nominated Martha Scott (in her cinematic debut), a very young William Holden, and stalwart character actors Fay Bainter, Beulah Bondi, Guy Kibbee, and Thomas Mitchell as Emily and George’s parents.
Note: Film fanatics may be curious to watch this title on a “double bill” with Wood’s 1942 melodrama Kings Row, which offers a less nostalgic, more cynical glimpse into small town life in early-20th-century America.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- Fine cinematography by Bert Glennon
- William Cameron Menzies’ stylized sets
- Aaron Copland’s memorable score
Yes, as a solid adaptation of an American theatrical classic.