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The Green Years

The Green Years(1946)

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teaser The Green Years (1946)

The Green Years (1946) is that rare thing: a movie as good as the book. Based on the novel by A.J. Cronin, it was the story of an Irish boy who is raised by his grandfather in Scotland. As Variety noted in its industry review, "Metro [Goldwyn-Mayer], with the skill it has so often demonstrated in transforming a best-selling novel to a best-selling picture, turns the trick again with this filmization of A.J. Cronin's The Green Years. Combination of the pre-sold audience created by the book and the artistic charm of the characterizations will go a long way in compensating for lack of upper-run [box office] names and assures the picture's strength at the [box office]." This is exactly what happened. The Green Years was one of the top moneymakers of 1946 and made The New York Times Ten Best List. In addition, it earned two Academy Award nominations for Charles Coburn as Best Supporting Actor and Best Black and White Cinematography for George Folsey.

Dean Stockwell, age 10 at the time, was still a newcomer to films, but his portrayal earned him excellent reviews from Variety, "[Stockwell] is the particularly bright spot in the well-turned cast , as well as a top addition to the list of Hollywood juve[nile] players. Kid, whose father, Harry Stockwell, is known to Broadway for leads in Marinka and the Chi[cago] company of Oklahoma! first appeared in Metro's Anchors Aweigh [1945]. In the present film he gets real opportunity to demonstrate a sensitivity and true dramatic poignancy that definitely set him off from the usual studio moppets. He has the ability to translate the most subtly-shaded nuance without at any time evidencing the precocity that so often makes audiences waver at the prospect of being forced to see a new child screen find."

Another child appeared in The Green Years, but the director Victor Saville took great pains to hide her. Her name was Tandy Cronyn, and her father Hume Cronyn later explained, "I played a penny-pinching sanitary inspector, Papa Leckie. Jessica [Tandy, Cronyn's wife], who in real life (forgive the ingallantry) is a couple of years my senior, played my daughter. Yes, daughter. Jess had made a test and was immediately given the part. She was newly pregnant at the time, but as the film would be finished before the pregnancy showed, we didn't feel it was necessary to reveal her condition to the studio. Then there was a change of directors and the film got postponed for several months. That blew it. I can remember sitting in the M.G.M. commissary with Jessica explaining the situation to Victor Saville, the new director. Victor swore gently and looked reproachfully at me. "We'll have to recast." Of course. While we were delighted by the prospect of having another child, it was a pity to lose the opportunity of working together again, and besides, Jess was having a less satisfactory time at [Twentieth Century] Fox than I was at Metro. They simply didn't seem to know what to do with her there.

I kept running into young actresses on the lot who were testing for the part of the Leckie daughter. All of them volunteered that before making their test they'd been shown the one Jess had made and been told, in effect "This is what we want." Such a proceeding was highly unusual. As the date to commence shooting The Green Years got closer and closer and the part of Leckie's spinster daughter remained uncast, there was a great deal of speculation as to what the outcome would be. Victor resolved the mystery in a conversation with Jessica. "If you're willing to do it, I believe I can shoot it so that no one will ever know you're not a virgin." That was going to be quite an accomplishment, as by now Jess was in her seventh month and very big. Never has an actress been shot behind so many pieces of waist-high furniture, carrying so many trays or bundled up in so many shawls. And never has an actress been treated with more loving care and consideration on the set. The director, assistant directors, and crew might have all been in training for service in a maternity ward. Jess was made to take regular rest periods, lunch was served to her in her dressing room, and her working day was short. With the timing that only an experienced and gifted actress can accomplish, she managed to give birth to our daughter, Tandy, one day after completion of principal photography: November 26, 1945."

Producer: Leon Gordon (uncredited)
Director: Victor Saville
Screenplay: Robert Ardrey and Sonya Levien, A.J. Cronin (novel)
Cinematography: George Folsey
Art Direction: Cedric Gibbons and Hans Peters
Music: Herbert Stothart
Film Editing: Robert J. Kern
Cast: Charles Coburn (Alexander Gow), Tom Drake (Robert Shannon as a young man), Beverly Tyler (Alison Keith as a young woman), Hume Cronyn (Papa Leckie), Gladys Cooper (Grandma Leckie), Dean Stockwell (Robert Shannon as a child), Selena Royle (Mama Leckie), Jessica Tandy (Kate Leckie).
BW-125m. Closed Captioning.

by Lorraine LoBianco

Sources:
Variety March 8, 1946
A Terrible Liar by Hume Cronyn

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