Edward, My Son (1949)

Edward, My Son (1949)

“His home? When did he ever have a home? Something that wasn’t a cross between a toy department, a sweet shop, and the bank of England, presided over by a perpetual fairy godfather who granted his every wish before he thought of it himself?”

An overly ambitious businessman (Spencer Tracy) stops at nothing to further the success of his son Edward, despite losing the love and faith of his wife (Deborah Kerr) and close friend (Ian Hunter) in the process.

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Character Studies
  • Deborah Kerr Films
  • Father and Child
  • Flashback Films
  • George Cukor Films
  • Ian Hunter Films
  • Play Adaptation
  • Spencer Tracy Films

Based on a play by Noel Langley and Robert Morley (who performed the lead role on stage), George Cukor’s Edward, My Son remains a thematically powerful yet fatally flawed cinematic adaptation. The primary problem, as others have noted, is that Spencer is quite simply miscast — and not just because he lacks a requisite British accent. Imagining Morley himself in the role allows one to better understand what’s missing from Spencer’s otherwise typically fine, naturalistic performance — he simply can’t handle a line like “I’d twirl my mustache, if I had one” the same way someone like Morley would. Tracy does try to invest his sociopathically ambitious character with enough arrogant self-concern to convince us that he’d literally do anything for his son, but one still can’t help feeling a lack of appropriate menace in his demeanor. As DVD Savant points out in his review, Tracy “pretty much neutralizes this play adaptation by refusing to interpret a complex role”; while the story “wants to say something about the curse of power and ambition… Tracy’s performance doesn’t give us a clue”. The supporting actors — particularly Kerr as Tracy’s long-suffering wife, and Leueen MacGrath as his secretary-turned-lover — give fine performances, and the script itself is often keenly insightful; but the movie as a whole isn’t quite successful enough to recommend as must-see viewing.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Deborah Kerr as Evelyn
  • Leueen MacGrath as Eileen Perrin
  • An often incisive and powerful script

Must See?
No, though it’s worth a one-time look if you can find a copy.


One thought on “Edward, My Son (1949)

  1. First viewing. Not must-see.

    This is a largely forgotten and forgettable film. It’s been given the grade-A production treatment from MGM but it’s sadly more soap opera than melodrama.

    It didn’t bother me personally that Tracy is without a British accent, nor do I think he’s miscast. It may have been fun for him playing a character this morally ambiguous (in a way). Just as it may have been an interesting challenge for Kerr to play an alcoholic (and age so much in a film when she was, in fact, but 27!).

    But, alas, the film is mostly dreary and the story ultimately not nearly as engaging as it may have been with less predictable elements.

    (I happened upon it on YouTube.)

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