Friday, June 8, 2012

The Silver Cord (1933)

Based on a play by Sidney Howard, the set-up is deceptively simple: two brothers bring their girls to visit their doting, loving,  and perfect mother. The eldest (Joel McCrea) has recently married a biologist (Irene Dunne) who won't let matrimony prevent her from working; the youngest (Eric Linden) is engaged to a headstrong, straightforward girl (Frances Dee). It appears that Mother (Laura Hope Crews) is pleased with how things turned with her perfect boys. But the further plans she has for them don't take the girls into consideration.
            Now this is a movie that psych majors are sure to really enjoy. There is so much Oedipal subtext that is ridiculous! It is a fascinating portrait of the ultimate domineering mother whose extreme love for her sons is matched by her fierce lashing out at anything or anyone that could take them away from her. This self deluding monster doesn't for a moment think what she is doing is wrong. On the contrary, she considers herself a model of perfect motherhood, which is what makes her so terrifying. It's a real show-stopper of a role, and Ms. Crews’s melodramatic yet mesmerizing performance totally owns it.
            The rest of the cast is also very good: McCrea is fine as the stronger of the two sons, with the weaker one played by to a snooty, spineless perfection by Linden. The younger women of the cast deserve special mention.  Dunne and Dee are both straight-talking and strong-willed, and get plenty of time to shine.
            Now, this film is based on a play, and it shows it: most of the action takes place inside of the Mother’s house, the camerawork is static, and there are plenty of monologues galore. But the story and dialogue is interesting enough to prevent it from being boring. enough, and the interactions between the different people are effective, and often brutal.
            Though it does not have that much action, I can say with satisfaction that this film is very good and worth sitting: there is enough innuendo and drama to fill to keep one's attention.

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