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Human Comedy

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Overview

Author William Saroyan's corn-shucking brand of sentimentality works wonders in this 1943 filmization of his novel. Narrator Ray Collins is dead before the film begins; thus he is able to provide an all-seeing overview of the tiny community of Ithaca, California. The principal character, played by Mickey Rooney, is Collins' son; as the delivery boy for the local telegraph office, Rooney keeps in close contact with virtually every family in town, which results in several comic and poignant moments. Rooney's older ...
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Overview

Author William Saroyan's corn-shucking brand of sentimentality works wonders in this 1943 filmization of his novel. Narrator Ray Collins is dead before the film begins; thus he is able to provide an all-seeing overview of the tiny community of Ithaca, California. The principal character, played by Mickey Rooney, is Collins' son; as the delivery boy for the local telegraph office, Rooney keeps in close contact with virtually every family in town, which results in several comic and poignant moments. Rooney's older brother Van Johnson is in uniform, off fighting World War II; his sister Marcia Hunt is the erstwhile sweetheart of telegraph-office supervisor James Craig. The "circle of life" concept that unifies the anecdotal plotline is best illustrated by the film's final image: after Johnson dies in battle, his best friend, parentless John Craven, is more or less adopted by Collins' family. Reportedly, The Human Comedy was MGM chief executive Louis B. Mayer's favorite film, an apotheosis of Mayer's devotion to "family values." Among the many small-part players populating Human Comedy are Barry Nelson, Robert Mitchum, Don DeFore, Jay Ward later the producer of Rocky and His Friends and Carl "Alfalfa" Switzer.
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Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide - Craig Butler
The Human Comedy is a marvelous film, an achievement made all the more impressive by the fact that portions of it are unbearably, sometimes laughably corny. Many viewers will have a very difficult time with the incredibly optimistic, overly sentimental tone of much of the film, and for good reason. In William Saroyan's screenplay, there are virtually no characters who are not good at heart, and even those who occasionally behave poorly manage to have a change of heart after having their flaws gently pointed out to them. Yet Saroyan clearly believes in what he has written, and as a result, some of those sequences overflow with a transcendent humanity that makes them both heartwarming and heart wrenching. Clarence Brown is the perfect man to direct Comedy, seeming as he does to share Saroyan's sensibility down to a "T;" if he can't redress the tendency to over sentimentality, he also deserves partial credit for those moments that give the film its glorious glow. And he gives equal emphasis and strength to the film's tragic moments, providing a very necessary balance. Credit is also due to Mickey Rooney, giving arguably the finest performance of his career. He carries the film on his small but sturdy shoulders, always keeping in check his tendency toward overplaying and cuteness and is rock solid. Rooney is greatly aided by a supporting cast that is an embarrassment of riches, from Van Johnson and Donna Reed to Frank Morgan and James Craig. (Watch out for a lovely, giddily quirky turn from a young Barry Nelson.) For those willing to overlook its occasional excesses, Comedy is richly rewarding.
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Product Details

  • Release Date: 11/16/2010
  • UPC: 883316288832
  • Original Release: 1943
  • Source: Warner Archives
  • Presentation: Remastered
  • Time: 1:57:00
  • Format: DVD
  • Sales rank: 25,875

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Mickey Rooney Homer Macauley
Frank Morgan Willie Grogan
Fay Bainter Mrs. Macauley
James Craig Tom Spangler
Ray Collins Mr. Macauley
Marsha Hunt Diana Steed
Van Johnson Marcus Macauley
Donna Reed Bess Macauley
Dorothy Morris Mary Arena
Ann Ayars Mrs. Sandoval
Mary Nash Miss Hicks
Henry O'Neill Charles Steed
Katherine Alexander Mrs. Steed
Alan Baxter Brad Stickman
Darryl Hickman Lionel
Barry Nelson Fat
Rita Quigley Helen Elliott
Clem Bevans Henderson
Morris Ankrum Mr. Beaufrere
Lynne Carver Daughter
Wally Cassell Flirt
Wallis Clark Principal
Mark Daniels 1st Soldier
Byron Foulger Blenton
Howard Freeman Rev. Holly
Connie Gilchrist Dolly
Gibson Gowland Leonine Type Man
David Holt Hubert Ackley
Frank Jenks Larry
Robert E. O'Connor Bartender
Emory Parnell Policeman
William Roberts 2nd Soldier
S.Z. Sakall Mr. Ara
Mary Servoss Mrs. Beaufrere
Don Taylor Soldier
Jay Ward Felix
Ernest Whitman Black
Butch Jenkins
John Craven Tobey George
Adeline Reynolds Librarian
Don DeFore Texas
Robert Mitchum Horse
Carl "Alfalfa" Switzer Augie
Hobart Cavanaugh
Frank Craven
Technical Credits
Clarence Brown Director, Producer
Jack Dawn Makeup
Howard Estabrook Screenwriter
Cedric Gibbons Art Director
Paul Groesse Art Director
Hugh Hunt Set Decoration/Design
Ernst Matray Choreography
Conrad A. Nervig Editor
Irene Sharaff Costumes/Costume Designer
Herbert Stothart Score Composer
Harry Stradling Cinematographer
Edwin B. Willis Set Decoration/Design
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Customer Reviews

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