Gary Cooper (The Pride of the Yankees and High Noon) plays a good-hearted man whose efforts to help others annoy most people, his wife (Ann Sheridan, They Drive by Night and The Man Who Came to Dinner) included.
Reaction & Thoughts:
Not unlike Leo McCarey’s Christmastime favorites, Going My Way and The Bells of St. Mary’s, Good Sam is an episodic, laid-back comedy-drama. McCarey was very adept at blending hilarity with sentiment, so I was expecting something really good. Good Sam ended up disappointing me; the premise of the film is interesting and there are some laughs, but the end result doesn’t hit the bull’s-eye.
Good Sam is an intriguing little film despite a flawed script by Ken Englund. It’s particularly interesting the way the film dissects the idea of altruism. I’m willing to bet that the film looks more interesting now than ever before because modern Christians tend to have a libertarian streak.
Gary Cooper’s Sam clearly believes in “spreading the wealth,” but what does that make him? A socialist, a Christian, a good man, or just a fool? Director-writer McCarey doesn’t have the answer, but I applaud him for exploring the positive and negative implications of selflessness in modern society.
Cooper has some great funny moments (he is a master at being funny without looking like he is trying to be funny), but the script is, unfortunately, not strong enough. But few actors can suggest basic human decency as well as Cooper, which is exactly what the role demands. Ann Sheridan’s cynicism cuts nicely through the sentiment. She and Cooper do a nice job representing contrasting points of view: self-interest vs. philanthropy.
The talented supporting cast includes: Ray Collins (Citizen Kane) as Reverend Daniels, Joan Lorring (The Corn is Green) as Shirley Mae, Ruth Roman (Strangers on a Train) as Ruthie, and Louise Beavers (Imitation of a Life) as Chloe.
Conclusions & Final Thoughts:
Today, moviegoers seem to get rattled by unbelievably good characters. I think most of us feel more comfortable watching films with characters that share our flaws — I guess it’s comforting to know that we are not the only ones with problems. Good Sam is a real curio in that regard. The title character is not just good; he’s out-of-this-world good. The “Old Good Samaritan” does manage to plant a nagging question in our heads: what’s the true meaning of the word “charity”? B&W, 114 minutes, Not Rated.