Cast & Crew
Music professor Adam Lemp lives in the small town of Briarwood, close to the families of three of his four daughters. Ann and her husband, Felix Dietz, a composer, have a small daughter, as do Emma and her inventor husband, Ernest Talbot. Kay and her husband, Clint Forrest, a doctor researching a disease that is killing the town's factory workers, live among the workers in a small house. Thea, her husband, Ben Crowley, and their twins live in Florida where Ben has made a fortune selling real estate. One night, when the entire family is together, Kay breaks down in tears because Clint's dedication to his work frequently keeps him away from home. Later that night, the family learns that a hurricane and tidal wave in Florida have completely destroyed Ben's real estate development. Not only have Thea and Ben lost everything, but Adam and his sister Etta have invested heavily, and many people in town, having purchased land on Adam's advice, are also affected. Ann suggests that they recoup some of their losses by selling land that they own in Briarwood, but Ben proposes that they develop it instead. No one in town will buy these new lots, however, as they hold their Florida losses against the Lemps, particularly Adam. Guilt-ridden, Adam decides to reimburse the townspeople out of his own pocket, but when he tries to borrow money, the bank refuses the loan and suggests instead that he sell the family home. Then Adam is dismissed by the music foundation because they find his taste for Beethoven old-fashioned. Meanwhile, the daughters' husbands decide to earn the money to pay back the townspeople themselves. Felix will take a job in Chicago rather than compose his new symphony. Ben and Ernest each find jobs as well. To Kay's delight, Clint agrees to leave the factory and go into practice with his father. On the day that they move from the worker housing, however, Clint notices that the ceiling crumbles slightly each time a train rattles the foundations. Convinced that he has at last discovered the cause of the workers' illness, he goes straight to his laboratory, once again leaving Kay alone. Fed up, Kay joins Felix in Chicago to look for work as a singer. Despite his family's efforts, Adam sells the house to an investor who plans to destroy it and build apartments. The family tearfully stores their favorite things, and Adam and Etta leave town to live in a small apartment. The family seems to have fallen apart, but things look up when Clint confirms that the disease is caused by particles of the walls in the workers' houses. Kay and Felix return from Chicago, then Adam is appointed the head of a Beethoven festival, and after his successful performance as conductor, is rehired by the Briarwood music foundation. Ben's development is now successful and when Adam and Etta return to town, they discover that the old Lemp house has been reconstructed on a new lot. The family's joy is complete when Kay reveals that she is pregnant.
Stephen Morehouse Avery
Ludwig Van Beethoven
Leo F. Forbstein
Jack L. Warner
Four Mothers was the last of three popular films made by Warner Bros. inspired by the sentimental 1937 Fannie Hurst story "Sister Act" beginning with 1938's Four Daughters and followed by Four Wives in 1939. All three films starred Claude Rains in the father role and real-life actress siblings the Lane sisters -- Priscilla, Rosemary, and Lola -- as three of the four Lemp daughters, with Gale Page filling in as the fourth.
Michael Curtiz had directed the first two films in the series, but for Four Mothers William Keighley (The Adventures of Robin Hood , The Man Who Came to Dinner ) took up the directing reins. Julius J. Epstein, who had written the Academy Award-nominated screenplay for Four Daughters and its follow up, Four Wives, was replaced with writer Stephen Morehouse Avery this time out.
Producer: Hal B. Wallis, Henry Blanke
Director: William Keighley
Screenplay: Stephen Morehouse Avery, based on the story "Sister Act" by Fannie Hurst
Cinematography: Charles Rosher
Art Direction: Robert M. Haas
Music: Heinz Roemheld
Film Editing: Ralph Dawson
Cast: Priscilla Lane (Ann Lemp Deitz), Rosemary Lane (Kay Lemp Forrest), Lola Lane (Thea Lemp Crowley), Gale Page (Emma Lemp Talbot), Claude Rains (Adam Lemp), Jeffrey Lynn (Felix Deitz), Eddie Albert (Clint Forrest), May Robson (Aunt Etta).
by Andrea Passafiume
According to the Hollywood Reporter review, this film was the first to use a new RCA sound process called Vitasound. Modern sources note that "Moonlight and Tears," a song by Jack Scholl and Heinz Roemheld, is heard in part in the film. Fannie Hurst's story was also the basis for the Warner Bros.' films Four Daughters, directed by Michael Curtiz in 1938 and Four Wives, also directed by Curtiz, in 1939 (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1931-40; F3.1452, F3.1460). Four Mothers was the last of the films Warner Bros. made about the Lemp family. All three starred the Lane sisters as three of the Lemp sisters. The first film in the trilogy earned John Garfield an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor. Although Garfield's character dies in that film, he was so popular that he was revived in a flashback in Four Wives. Many of the same cast also starred in the Warner Bros. film, Daughters Courageous, released in 1939, which had a similar plot line (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1931-40; F3.0970). Hurst's story also inspired the 1954 Warner Bros. musical Young at Heart, starring Doris Day, Dorothy Malone, Elizabeth Fraser and Frank Sinatra and directed by Gordon Douglas.