Let Freedom Ring


1h 40m 1939
Let Freedom Ring

Brief Synopsis

A crusader returns to his Western hometown to root out corruption.

Film Details

Also Known As
Song of the West, The Dusty Road
Genre
Drama
Musical
Western
Release Date
Feb 24, 1939
Premiere Information
not available
Production Company
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp.
Distribution Company
Loew's Inc.
Country
United States
Location
San Jacinto Mountains, California, United States; Arizona, United States

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 40m
Sound
Mono (Western Electric Sound System)
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
9 reels

Synopsis

As the railroad blazes its way across the country, the town of Clover City is scheduled to become an important junction on the line. Railroad tycoon Jim Knox will stop at nothing to acquire the land he needs to build the railroad, and hires a gang of cutthroats to burn down the homes of the ranchers whose property lies on the right of way. The beleaguered ranchers are led by Thomas Logan, whose son Steve is returning home after finishing his law studies at Harvard. When Jerry "Pop" Wilkie's house is burned down, Rutledge, a local resident, shoots Gagan, who was working with Knox and was responsible for the blaze. Later, Maggie Adams, Steve's old sweetheart, warns Knox that Steve will lead the embittered town in bringing him to justice. After evaluating the situation, however, Steve decides that the best way to combat the railroad king is to pretend to be his ally. Disowned by his family and friends for his apparent allegiance to Knox, Steve secretly circulates a newspaper in which he accuses the tycoon of stealing property. He also preaches the principles of free choice and democracy to the railroad construction gang, which is composed mainly of immigrants. Steve befriends Knox' construction foreman, Chris Mulligan, and convinces him that his boss is a swindler and a crook. Maggie, thinking that Steve has abandoned her as well as his morals, becomes furious with him and, out of spite, agrees to marry Knox to make him jealous, but her plan fails. Realizing that Knox is preoccupied with his underground newspaper, Steve convinces the tycoon to start his own newspaper, and when Knox purchases the equipment, Steve steals the new press for his own use. Tension is heightened when Tom is shot and his house is set ablaze, and when Knox tries to prevent Steve from rescuing his father from the fire. After revealing his plan to win Knox' confidence to his father and Maggie, Steve makes an appeal to the townspeople by speaking against tyranny, while Knox stands at the opposite end of the stage and makes threats against him. Things look bad for Steve until Maggie saves the day by leading everyone in the song, "My Country 'Tis of Thee." As a result, the townspeople show their solidarity with Steve, and Knox is overthrown. Having restored the tenets of democracy to the town of Clover City, Maggie and Steve reunite.

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Film Details

Also Known As
Song of the West, The Dusty Road
Genre
Drama
Musical
Western
Release Date
Feb 24, 1939
Premiere Information
not available
Production Company
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp.
Distribution Company
Loew's Inc.
Country
United States
Location
San Jacinto Mountains, California, United States; Arizona, United States

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 40m
Sound
Mono (Western Electric Sound System)
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
9 reels

Articles

Let Freedon Ring - Let Freedom Ring


In 1939 as America kept close watch on a Europe preparing for war, Hollywood studios, whose heads were mainly European and Russian immigrants, were churning out ultra-patriotic films touting the American way of life. One of the more blatant of these was Let Freedom Ring (1939) made by MGM, starring Nelson Eddy and Virginia Bruce, and written by Ben Hecht.

Partially shot on location in the San Jacinto Mountains in the California desert near Palm Springs, Let Freedom Ring was originally titled The Dusty Road and Song of the West. The story line has Harvard-educated lawyer Steve Logan (Nelson Eddy), returning to his hometown in the West to fight against land baron Jim Knox who has bought control of the town's sheriff, judge, and newspaper, and whose henchmen burn the houses of settlers who won't sell their land to him for the new railroad. Knox, played by Edward Arnold (who specialized in playing corrupt capitalists) defends himself by saying 'Where I come from (Wall St.) people don't call me a thief, they call me a financier."

The true theme of the film is racial equality and democracy. The railroad workers are poor Swedish, Russian, German, Irish and English immigrants, who Mulligan (Victor McLaglen), himself an Irishman with a thick brogue, calls "foreigners of the worst kind...with names you can't even spell". They are called "cattle" and cowed by Mulligan and the rest of Knox's henchmen, and by the fact that they are reliant on Knox for their livelihood. It is for these men, as well as the settlers, that Logan fights by showing them that as Americans they have the right to think for themselves and vote as they like.

Let Freedom Ring gives Nelson Eddy (who was usually co-starred with Jeanette MacDonald) a chance to show that he was capable of carrying a film on his own. Unlike his earlier films in which he wore heavy make-up and fancy costumes, Eddy has a very plain Western look with no visible make-up and his performance is just as natural. He also proves himself to be a convincing fighter - as evidenced in an extended fight scene with Victor McLaglen who had been a professional prize-fighter. McLaglen, who was fifty-five when the film was shot in 1938, had fought the newly-crowned heavyweight champion Jack Johnson at an exhibition match in Vancouver in 1909. As his wife later recalled, "Victor remained perpendicular the full six rounds." There is also plenty of singing, which was to be expected in a Nelson Eddy film. Ironically, while the film is set in 1868, Eddy sings "When Irish Eyes Are Smiling" (written in 1912) and "Ten Thousand Cattle Straying" (written in 1904 by Owen Wister).

Reviews for the film were generally positive, with Variety noting how the film stressed "the American type of democracy and freedom for the classes and masses. Sweeping along with powerful patriotic spine tingling, picture climaxes with Nelson Eddy leading a gang of railroad workers singing 'America'. In handing the lead assignment to Eddy, Metro apparently decided to provide him with a role that calls for a square jaw and a pair of handy fists. He takes full advantage of the opportunity, displaying a vigorous characterization of the western youth who battles all comers when necessary. Battle in the cave between Eddy and McLaglen is excitingly staged." The New York Times called it "sound dramatic stuff, as sure-fire now as it has always been. We don't dare criticize it adversely under penalty of being summoned before the Dies committee and we shouldn't, if we dare, for the piece has vigor, good characterization and fortunately Mr. Eddy's good singing." (The Dies Committee, headed by Congressman Martin Dies was a forerunner to the House Un-American Activities Committee.)

Producer: Harry Rapf
Director: Jack Conway
Screenplay: Ben Hecht
Cinematography: Sidney Wagner
Film Editing: Fredrick Y. Smith
Art Direction: Cedric Gibbons
Music: Leon Rene, Otis Rene
Cast: Nelson Eddy (Steve Logan), Virginia Bruce (Maggie Adams), Victor McLaglen (Chris Mulligan), Lionel Barrymore (Thomas Logan), Edward Arnold (Jim Knox), Guy Kibbee (Judge David Bronson).
BW-87m.

by Lorraine LoBianco

Sources:

www.dandugan.com

Jack Oakie, "Jack Oakie's Double Takes"

Internet Movie Database
Let Freedon Ring - Let Freedom Ring

Let Freedon Ring - Let Freedom Ring

In 1939 as America kept close watch on a Europe preparing for war, Hollywood studios, whose heads were mainly European and Russian immigrants, were churning out ultra-patriotic films touting the American way of life. One of the more blatant of these was Let Freedom Ring (1939) made by MGM, starring Nelson Eddy and Virginia Bruce, and written by Ben Hecht. Partially shot on location in the San Jacinto Mountains in the California desert near Palm Springs, Let Freedom Ring was originally titled The Dusty Road and Song of the West. The story line has Harvard-educated lawyer Steve Logan (Nelson Eddy), returning to his hometown in the West to fight against land baron Jim Knox who has bought control of the town's sheriff, judge, and newspaper, and whose henchmen burn the houses of settlers who won't sell their land to him for the new railroad. Knox, played by Edward Arnold (who specialized in playing corrupt capitalists) defends himself by saying 'Where I come from (Wall St.) people don't call me a thief, they call me a financier." The true theme of the film is racial equality and democracy. The railroad workers are poor Swedish, Russian, German, Irish and English immigrants, who Mulligan (Victor McLaglen), himself an Irishman with a thick brogue, calls "foreigners of the worst kind...with names you can't even spell". They are called "cattle" and cowed by Mulligan and the rest of Knox's henchmen, and by the fact that they are reliant on Knox for their livelihood. It is for these men, as well as the settlers, that Logan fights by showing them that as Americans they have the right to think for themselves and vote as they like. Let Freedom Ring gives Nelson Eddy (who was usually co-starred with Jeanette MacDonald) a chance to show that he was capable of carrying a film on his own. Unlike his earlier films in which he wore heavy make-up and fancy costumes, Eddy has a very plain Western look with no visible make-up and his performance is just as natural. He also proves himself to be a convincing fighter - as evidenced in an extended fight scene with Victor McLaglen who had been a professional prize-fighter. McLaglen, who was fifty-five when the film was shot in 1938, had fought the newly-crowned heavyweight champion Jack Johnson at an exhibition match in Vancouver in 1909. As his wife later recalled, "Victor remained perpendicular the full six rounds." There is also plenty of singing, which was to be expected in a Nelson Eddy film. Ironically, while the film is set in 1868, Eddy sings "When Irish Eyes Are Smiling" (written in 1912) and "Ten Thousand Cattle Straying" (written in 1904 by Owen Wister). Reviews for the film were generally positive, with Variety noting how the film stressed "the American type of democracy and freedom for the classes and masses. Sweeping along with powerful patriotic spine tingling, picture climaxes with Nelson Eddy leading a gang of railroad workers singing 'America'. In handing the lead assignment to Eddy, Metro apparently decided to provide him with a role that calls for a square jaw and a pair of handy fists. He takes full advantage of the opportunity, displaying a vigorous characterization of the western youth who battles all comers when necessary. Battle in the cave between Eddy and McLaglen is excitingly staged." The New York Times called it "sound dramatic stuff, as sure-fire now as it has always been. We don't dare criticize it adversely under penalty of being summoned before the Dies committee and we shouldn't, if we dare, for the piece has vigor, good characterization and fortunately Mr. Eddy's good singing." (The Dies Committee, headed by Congressman Martin Dies was a forerunner to the House Un-American Activities Committee.) Producer: Harry Rapf Director: Jack Conway Screenplay: Ben Hecht Cinematography: Sidney Wagner Film Editing: Fredrick Y. Smith Art Direction: Cedric Gibbons Music: Leon Rene, Otis Rene Cast: Nelson Eddy (Steve Logan), Virginia Bruce (Maggie Adams), Victor McLaglen (Chris Mulligan), Lionel Barrymore (Thomas Logan), Edward Arnold (Jim Knox), Guy Kibbee (Judge David Bronson). BW-87m. by Lorraine LoBianco Sources: www.dandugan.com Jack Oakie, "Jack Oakie's Double Takes" Internet Movie Database

Quotes

Trivia

Notes

Working titles for this film were The Dusty Road and Song of the West. A Hollywood Reporter pre-release news item indicates that Allen Jenkins was originally set for the comedy lead that was taken over by Victor McLaglen in the film. Although a Hollywood Reporter pre-release news item lists actor Francis X. Bushman, Jr. in the cast, his appearance in the released film has not been confirmed. Hollywood Reporter news items also note that exteriors were filmed in Arizona at Keene Camp and in the San Jacinto Mountains, CA., and that a desert sequence was filmed on a studio sound stage that housed the studio ice rink. Some actors reportedly complained of cold feet while performing on the sand-covered ice rink. Studio records note that McLaglen injured himself while filming a scene in which he was to tackle a mule after it kicked him. The mule bit McLaglen, and when he tried to bite the mule back, McLaglen slipped and pulled a ligament. According to information contained in the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library, German censors "deleted the song praising America as a land of freedom," a reference to one of the characters as an "Irish windmill," and a fight between "Mulligan" and "Steve." Censors in Estonia deleted the line: "You Germans, Italians, Jews...All you who are oppressed...here you are free." Variety commented that this film is "the first in the cycle of film offerings to stress the American type of democracy and freedom for the classes and masses." They praised the presentation of film's message, stating, "Showmanship is apparent in selecting historical background and episodes in which to stress the freedom of America and its advantages. Message is brought home through patriotic appeals to gang of more than 200 hunkies, and picture nicely stresses the nationalities represented in that group which came to America to enjoy the advantages of this country."