Smilin' Through


1h 40m 1941
Smilin' Through

Brief Synopsis

An embittered man threatens the love life of his niece, who's a dead ringer for his lost fiancee.

Film Details

Genre
Romance
Musical
Adaptation
Release Date
Oct 1941
Premiere Information
not available
Production Company
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp.
Distribution Company
Loew's Inc.
Country
United States
Screenplay Information
Based on the play Smiling Through by Jane Cowl and Jane Murfin (New York, 30 Dec 1919).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 40m
Sound
Mono (Western Electric Sound System)
Color
Color (Technicolor)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
11 reels

Synopsis

In 1898, a small English village celebrates Queen Victoria's sixtieth jubilee, but Sir John Carteret can only mourn his sweetheart Moonyean Clare, who died thirty years before. When John, who spends most of his time brooding about the past, goes to his garden, he sees Moonyean in his thoughts. That same afternoon, the Reverend Owen Harding, who is John's best friend, comes to tell him that Moonyean's sister and brother-in-law have drowned in Dublin, leaving their five-year-old daughter Kathleen orphaned. Owen has brought Kathleen with him and, despite John's initial protests, he is enchanted with the child and decides to care for her. Kathleen grows into a beautiful young woman, the image of her aunt Moonyean, and on her twenty-first birthday, Willie, one of her many suitors, tries to propose to her. Rain forces them to seek refuge in the long-abandoned Wayne house. Suddenly, a man appears and he and Kathleen are immediately attracted to each other. The man reveals that he is an American enlisting in the British army to fight in France, and that he is Kenneth Wayne, the son of the house's late owner, Jeremy Wayne. From that night, Kenneth and Kathleen spend a lot of time together and fall in love. One evening, Kathleen casually mentions Kenneth to John and Owen and is startled at her uncle's shock. When John leaves, Owen advises her not to question John, but she follows him to the garden and, to convince her not to see Kenneth again, John tells her why he hates the Waynes: In 1868, on the eve of John and Moonyean's wedding, the deeply in love couple host a party at John's house. Owen arrives and tells John that he has seen Jeremy drinking heavily and making threats, but John dismisses them as drunken words by a spurned suitor. Jeremy later comes to the garden and tells Moonyean how much he still loves her, but she only feels friendship toward him. He threatens to kill John and drunkenly grabs her, but she rejects him and he leaves. When John finds her in the garden, she does not tell him what has happened. The next morning, while Jeremy's drinking and rage increase, Owen begins the wedding ceremony. Suddenly, Jeremy shows up brandishing a gun. As he takes aim and fires at John, Moonyean jumps in front of him and takes the fatal bullet. As she dies, Moonyean tells John that their love will never die and if he needs her, she will find a way to come back to him. After John's story ends, he reveals that, despite his relentless pursuit, Jeremy was never caught. John then begs her not to see Kenneth again and she sadly agrees. She then writes a goodbye letter to Kenneth. When Kenneth goes to see her at a servicemen's canteen, she tells him about Moonyean. They kiss goodbye, but realize that they are too much in love to part and agree to see each other secretly until he goes to France. They soon decide to marry and hope that John will understand, but he angrily says that he will never forgive her if she marries Kenneth. Although Kathleen still wants to marry, Kenneth is afraid that she will have no one if he dies in France and sends her home. Later, John displays such callousness over Kathleen's pain that Owen chastises him, and John sends him away. Now alone, when John calls out for Moonyean, she says that she cannot reach him because his hate is driving her away and could stand between them for eternity. In 1918, an embittered Kenneth comes home on crutches, determined to sell his estate and leave for America without seeing Kathleen. Back at his house, Kathleen, who has seen the lights, rushes in but does not see the crutches, which he has hidden. She has been worried because he has not written for three months and quickly realizes that something is wrong. When he says that he no longer loves her, she then leaves in tears. Meanwhile, Owen who has not seen John in more than three years, goes to him. Having spoken to Kenneth earlier, Owen tells John about his wounds but John is unable to forget the past. After Owen leaves, Kathleen arrives and John realizes that Kenneth has hidden his condition to protect her. When she tearfully says that, like him, she will never be over her love, he is ashamed and tells her the truth. She then happily rushes to see Kenneth as John asks her to return home with him. On the way, she sees Owen and asks him to go to John, who tells him what has happened and asks him to stay for a game of chess. John appears to fall asleep and Owen leaves, unaware that his friend has died. The spirit of Moonyean then comes to him and his spirit rises to greet her. Happy in death, they enter their carriage, just as Kenneth and Kathleen drive back to the house.

Film Details

Genre
Romance
Musical
Adaptation
Release Date
Oct 1941
Premiere Information
not available
Production Company
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp.
Distribution Company
Loew's Inc.
Country
United States
Screenplay Information
Based on the play Smiling Through by Jane Cowl and Jane Murfin (New York, 30 Dec 1919).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 40m
Sound
Mono (Western Electric Sound System)
Color
Color (Technicolor)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
11 reels

Articles

Smilin' Through (1941) - Smilin' Through (1940)


Smilin' Through was already a hopelessly dated property when Jeanette MacDonald got around to it in 1941. Based on a 1919 play by Jane Murfin and Jane Cowl (who also starred), the story was filmed twice before; in 1922 with Norma Talmadge and in 1932 with Norma Shearer. But the old-fashioned fantasy/tearjerker was given top-drawer treatment by MGM for its hit-maker star. Foremost among its merits was direction by Frank Borzage, Academy Award® winner for Seventh Heaven (1927) and Bad Girl (1931), the great romanticist of Hollywood's Golden Age and a sure hand with sensitive love stories that carried an air of spirituality and redemption.

The material certainly seemed worthy of the Borzage treatment. MacDonald plays a young Irish lass who, in 1864, chose between two suitors, angering the rejected lover so much he killed her on her wedding day. Many years later, the bereaved groom takes in his orphaned niece, who grows up to be the spitting image of his lost bride. As a young woman, she falls in love with the son of the man who murdered the bride, and her furious guardian forbids her to see him. The course of true love, aided by the spirit of the slain woman, finally triumphs.

MacDonald, who sang nine songs in Smilin' Through, played dual roles as did Gene Raymond, appearing as both the murderously jilted lover and his son. The stars had been wed four years earlier, after MacDonald's romance with her most frequent co-star, Nelson Eddy, ended. It was the only film the husband and wife made together. Perhaps it was because they lacked the famous screen chemistry MacDonald had with Eddy; At one point, Borzage told Raymond, "Don't kiss her as though you're already married; kiss her as though you're in love!". Or it may have been simply that the old story did not resonate with the wartime mood, but Smilin' Through was a flop with both audiences and critics, starting the swift downslide of MacDonald's career.

A dependable, handsome leading man and supporting player of some success in the 1930s, Raymond's career also started to wane after this, and he worked rarely over the next 30 years. For Borzage, too, it was the beginning of the end. Little in his output of 14 more films over the following 20 years had the impact of such work as Street Angel (1928), A Farewell to Arms (1932), History Is Made at Night (1937), or The Mortal Storm (1940).

The studio poured major resources into Smilin' Through. For one of the film's prime locations, an English garden, six hundred shrubs were imported, more than a quarter mile of grass was woven into the set's floor, and three willow trees were planted and replaced several times during the six weeks of filming. Because MacDonald's severe allergies prevented the use of real flowers, thousands of artificial ones were substituted. The 200-foot-long brook used 2,000 gallons of water daily. Among the props were a 175-year-old grandfather clock imported from London by the studio in 1932, an antique desk found in a small Irish hamlet, Viennese tapestries, and Irish lace. MacDonald's dress for the ill-fated wedding was made of the last 75 yards of a priceless crown-patterned French lace that costume designer Adrian had purchased a few years earlier in Paris on a buying trip for Marie Antoinette (1938).

Smilin' Through was filmed in Technicolor, a fact remarked on in some reviews because it brought out MacDonald's red hair. The original cinematographer, Oliver T. Marsh, who had photographed the star in eight previous pictures, died in the early stages of filming. He was replaced by Leonard Smith, who went on to shoot some of the first movies featuring Lassie, MacDonald's canine co-star in her screen farewell, The Sun Comes Up (1949).

Director: Frank Borzage
Producers: Frank Borzage, Victor Saville
Screenplay: Donald Ogden Stewart, John L. Balderston, based on the play by Jane Cowl and Jane Murfin
Cinematography: Leonard Smith
Editing: Frank Sullivan
Art Direction: Cedric Gibbons
Original Music: Herbert Stothart (uncredited)
Cast: Jeanette MacDonald (Kathleen/Moonyean Clare), Brian Aherne (Sir John Carteret), Gene Raymond (Ken/Jerry Wayne), Ian Hunter (Rev. Owen Harding), Frances Robinson (Ellen).
C-100m. Closed captioning.

by Rob Nixon
Smilin' Through (1941) - Smilin' Through (1940)

Smilin' Through (1941) - Smilin' Through (1940)

Smilin' Through was already a hopelessly dated property when Jeanette MacDonald got around to it in 1941. Based on a 1919 play by Jane Murfin and Jane Cowl (who also starred), the story was filmed twice before; in 1922 with Norma Talmadge and in 1932 with Norma Shearer. But the old-fashioned fantasy/tearjerker was given top-drawer treatment by MGM for its hit-maker star. Foremost among its merits was direction by Frank Borzage, Academy Award® winner for Seventh Heaven (1927) and Bad Girl (1931), the great romanticist of Hollywood's Golden Age and a sure hand with sensitive love stories that carried an air of spirituality and redemption. The material certainly seemed worthy of the Borzage treatment. MacDonald plays a young Irish lass who, in 1864, chose between two suitors, angering the rejected lover so much he killed her on her wedding day. Many years later, the bereaved groom takes in his orphaned niece, who grows up to be the spitting image of his lost bride. As a young woman, she falls in love with the son of the man who murdered the bride, and her furious guardian forbids her to see him. The course of true love, aided by the spirit of the slain woman, finally triumphs. MacDonald, who sang nine songs in Smilin' Through, played dual roles as did Gene Raymond, appearing as both the murderously jilted lover and his son. The stars had been wed four years earlier, after MacDonald's romance with her most frequent co-star, Nelson Eddy, ended. It was the only film the husband and wife made together. Perhaps it was because they lacked the famous screen chemistry MacDonald had with Eddy; At one point, Borzage told Raymond, "Don't kiss her as though you're already married; kiss her as though you're in love!". Or it may have been simply that the old story did not resonate with the wartime mood, but Smilin' Through was a flop with both audiences and critics, starting the swift downslide of MacDonald's career. A dependable, handsome leading man and supporting player of some success in the 1930s, Raymond's career also started to wane after this, and he worked rarely over the next 30 years. For Borzage, too, it was the beginning of the end. Little in his output of 14 more films over the following 20 years had the impact of such work as Street Angel (1928), A Farewell to Arms (1932), History Is Made at Night (1937), or The Mortal Storm (1940). The studio poured major resources into Smilin' Through. For one of the film's prime locations, an English garden, six hundred shrubs were imported, more than a quarter mile of grass was woven into the set's floor, and three willow trees were planted and replaced several times during the six weeks of filming. Because MacDonald's severe allergies prevented the use of real flowers, thousands of artificial ones were substituted. The 200-foot-long brook used 2,000 gallons of water daily. Among the props were a 175-year-old grandfather clock imported from London by the studio in 1932, an antique desk found in a small Irish hamlet, Viennese tapestries, and Irish lace. MacDonald's dress for the ill-fated wedding was made of the last 75 yards of a priceless crown-patterned French lace that costume designer Adrian had purchased a few years earlier in Paris on a buying trip for Marie Antoinette (1938). Smilin' Through was filmed in Technicolor, a fact remarked on in some reviews because it brought out MacDonald's red hair. The original cinematographer, Oliver T. Marsh, who had photographed the star in eight previous pictures, died in the early stages of filming. He was replaced by Leonard Smith, who went on to shoot some of the first movies featuring Lassie, MacDonald's canine co-star in her screen farewell, The Sun Comes Up (1949). Director: Frank Borzage Producers: Frank Borzage, Victor Saville Screenplay: Donald Ogden Stewart, John L. Balderston, based on the play by Jane Cowl and Jane Murfin Cinematography: Leonard Smith Editing: Frank Sullivan Art Direction: Cedric Gibbons Original Music: Herbert Stothart (uncredited) Cast: Jeanette MacDonald (Kathleen/Moonyean Clare), Brian Aherne (Sir John Carteret), Gene Raymond (Ken/Jerry Wayne), Ian Hunter (Rev. Owen Harding), Frances Robinson (Ellen). C-100m. Closed captioning. by Rob Nixon

Quotes

There's only one thing missing from this picnic. Don't you have any ants in England?
- Kenneth
I have some in Ireland, but I never hear from them.
- Kathleen

Trivia

The original play opened in New York on 30 December 1919 and ran for 175 performances. Authors Jane Cowl and Jane Murfin used a single pseudonym (Allan Langdon Martin) as the author, but Jane Cowl starred in the play under her real name. Also in the play were Charlotte Granville and Henry Stephenson.

Oliver T. Marsh was to be director of photography but died of a heart attack on 5 May 1941. It is unclear if he actually did any filming.

Notes

Claudine West and Ernest Vajda, who are credited in the SAB as "contributing writers" wrote the screenplay for the 1932 M-G-M adaptation of Jane Cowl and Jane Murfin's play (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1931-40; F3.4156). According to various news items in Hollywood Reporter, Smilin' Through was originally to co-star Robert Taylor and Jeanette MacDonald. A January 17, 1941 news item in Hollywood Reporter noted that James Stewart was being considered as a replacement for Taylor, but news items from early March to mid-April 1941 again include Taylor. A April 17, 1941 news item indicated that Taylor finally was granted an eight-week vacation from the studio, thus precluding his appearance in the film. An Hollywood Reporter news item noted that Bill Ryan was to be the film's assistant director, but he apparently was replaced by Lew Borzage. Although some sources list this film as child actress Jackie Horner's motion picture debut, she had appeared previously in the 1940 Laurel and Hardy picture, Saps at Sea (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1931-40; F3.3902). Cameraman Oliver T. Marsh was assigned to photograph the film, but died of a heart attack in the M-G-M studio commissary on May 5, 1941. It is unclear whether or not Marsh had actually started shooting the film prior to his death.
       Prior to the 1932 M-G-M adaptation of the play, Associated First National Pictures released a version starring Norma Talmadge as "Kathleen/Moonyean," Harrison Ford as "Kenneth/Jeremy" and Wyndham Standing, who had a small role as a doctor in the 1941 version, as "John." There were three Lux Radio Theatre adaptations of the play, on November 4, 1934, starring Jane Cowl and Wilfred Seagram; on April 29, 1940, starring Robert Taylor and Barbara Stanwyck; and, January 5, 1942, starring MacDonald, Raymond and Brian Aherne, recreating their roles from the 1941 picture. MacDonald and Raymond were married from 1937 until her death in 1965. Smilin' Through was their only film together.