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Festival Coverage

Sunday, 9 December 2007

Four Mothers (1941) William Keighley

I'm not usually a big fan of soap opera type women's pictures, but I found 1938's Four Daughters thoroughly enjoyable. Maybe it was the musical background, maybe the joyous work of Claude Rains, maybe the fact that three of the four daughters were played by the Lane sisters who had possibly the most charming and inviting smiles in Hollywood. Perhaps it was the notable introduction of John Garfield in his debut picture. If so, he's the only piece of the picture not to make it through the first sequel, Four Wives, to the final part of the trilogy in 1941.

Claude Rains returns, along with the four daughters/wives/mothers (Priscilla Lane, Rosemary Lane, Lola Lane, Gale Page) and supporting actors Jeffrey Lynn, Eddie Albert, May Robson, Frank McHugh, Dick Foran, Vera Lewis, you name it. That's a big cast to fill less than an hour and a half, but director William Keighley and scriptwriter Stephen Morehouse Avery do their best to give them all screen time, yet leave some for the babies. Naturally, as the title would imply, there are now four of them, one to each of the mothers.

The trigger for plot here is the Ocean Zephyrs property development in Florida, that Ben Crowley (daughter Thea's husband) has been making a fortune off. Unfortunately a hurricane put paid to the whole thing and all their investments, along with those of half the town of Briarwood, are gone with the wind.

The repercussions go well beyond the obvious, with family patriarch Adam Lemp losing his position at the conservatory and the four husbands band together to make enough money to pay back the Briarwood investors. Meanwhile Adam himself puts his house up for sale to raise the money himself. There are other little side plots to complicate things and give people screen time but they're hardly the focus, and of course everything turns out fine in the end, wrapping up not just this film but also the series.

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