Smilin’ Through (1932)
Smilin’ Through is a remake of a silent film of 1922. The main character is obviously Kathleen / Moonyeen, played by Norma Shearer, though Leslie Howard’s interpretation of the Sir John character was praised by critics.
Considering the time when the film was made, the effects used to create the ghost Moonyeen are remarkable. The film is rich in sentiment and Leslie Howard’s role is a very sad one, almost tragic; yet he is able to give the character of the old sir John some lightness and vivacity, as in the scene between Sir John and the little Kathleen.
Seeing Leslie disguised as an old man always seems very sad to me and always makes me feel uneasy, as I cannot forget that his tragic fate did not allow him to become an old man.
After his fiancee Moonyeen was murdered at the altar, Sir John Carteret had lived alone for thirty years, with the only company of his friend Dr. Owen. When Dr. Owen persuade Carteret to meet Moonyeen’s niece, Kathleen, she soon becomes Sir John’s reason of life. Kathleen meets a young American, Kenneth Wayne, and falls in love with him; but Sir John soon realizes that the young man is the son of the man who killed Moonyeen, and forces Kathleen to break her engagement. When Kenneth has to join the army, she would marry him against Sir John’s will, but Kenneth decides not to ruin her. At the end of the war, Kenneth returns home on crutches. He does not want Kathleen to see him; he wants to leave for the States alone, but Dr. Owen reveals the truth to Sir John who, in the end, lets Kathleen to follow her heart. While the two lovers come home, Sir John’s spirit joins Moonyeen’s who had waited for him.
It is a beautiful production, too immaculate, if anything, in its scenes of the past. It is rich in sentiment, but Mr. Franklin has permitted sufficient gentle comedy to relieve the romance and the tragedy of bygone years. It is another venture that benefits by expert photography, particularly in those scenes in which a wraith-like figure appears and talks. […]Mr. March is very good, although a trifle too flippant at times. He is, however, far better than the ordinary choice for such a role. He does make the character determined and sympathetic. Miss Shearer is no less beautiful than she is in “Strange Interlude,” but here, occasionally, she is almost too careful about her personal appearance. Mr. Howard’s performance is splendid, even though his voice belies his disguise of old age. He is, however, so nicely restrained during his scenes that it is a joy to witness his interpretation at all times. And his chess partner, Major Owen, is admirably acted by Mr. Heggie.
(Mordaunt Hall, New York Times, October 15, 1932)
It is based on the stage play in which Jane Cowl appeared a number of seasons ago, and the experts tell me that Norma Talmadge once appeared in it in a silent version. In spite of which it still remains a good story, and in Sidney Franklin’s capable direction and the excellent performances of Miss Shearer, Leslie Howard and Fredric March, the picture at the Capitol comes as a refreshing and affecting variation on the run-of-the-mill product.
(Thornton Delehanty, New York Evening Post, October 15, 1932)
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer have given it a beautiful production; delicacy and sympathy distinguish the direction of Sidney Franklin; the dialogue is completely admirable, the performances are all thoroughly excellent, and there is a sustained mood of softeness and earnestness which strikes a responsive chord in the audience. […]
Norma Shearer, since she isn’t required to be brittle and sophisticated, is honest, appealing and, at times, very effective. Leslie Howard, he of the magically soothing charm, is unobstrusively perfect as sir John, young and old. Fredric March, O.P. Heggie, Ralph Forbes, Beryl Mercer and an engaging child who was the best part of “The Strange Case of Clara Deane,” but whose name we don’t know, complete a thoroughly admirable group of players who do much to make “Smilin’ Through” the fine production it is.
(Martin Dickstein, Brooklyn Daily Eagle, October 17, 1932)
This title is grotesquely unsuitable to the film. Even in full it would be misleading, but the omission of the final consonant of the first word gives it an unbearably arch air of facetiousness, while in fact the film manages to be both a sensitive and sentimental account of the conflict between young love and old feud. […]
Up to a certain point the film succeeds in being at once rational and moving, and it owes not a little to the acting of Miss Norma Shearer as Kathleen. […] Only in the last few minutes does it collapse into an abyss of bathos, and for that the director is to be blamed, first, for not knowing when to stop, and, secondly, for allowing a passion for tidying up loose ends to betry him into an absurd, as well as a faintly offensive, climax. Mr. Fredric March, as Kenneth Wayne, supports Miss Shearer adequately, while Mr. Leslie Howard, as John Carteret, makes a highly credible pretence of being an old man, although he is actually at his best in those “flash-back” scenes which show him as a young and ardent bridegroom.
(The Times, November 14, 1932)
Director: Sidney Franklin
Writers: Jane Cowl, Jane Murfin, Ernest Vajda, Claudine West, James B. Fagan, Donald O. Stewart
Cinematography: Lee Games
Film Editing: Margaret Booth
Art Direction: Cedric Gibbons
Costume Design: Adrian
Norma Shearer (Kathleen / Moonyeen)
Leslie Howard (Sir John Carteret)
Fredric March (Kenneth Wayne / Jeremy Wayne)
O.P. Heggie (Dr. Owen)
Ralph Forbes (Willie Ainley)
Beryl Mercer (Mrs. Crouch)
Margaret Seddon (Ellen, the Maid)
Forrester Harvey (Orderly)