Edward, My Son (1949)


Opportunistic and unethical businessman Arnold Boult (Spencer Tracy, Bad Day at Black Rock) is obsessed with giving his son all the things he never had. Arnold’s behavior has devastating effects on his family.

Reaction & Thoughts:

“In my business, I never admit failure.”

Depressing, talky and overly theatrical, Edward, My Son does, at the very least, feature two themes that will pique the interest of modern viewers: parental overindulgence and the ethics of capitalism. Both themes seem more relevant today than ever.

George Cukor (My Fair Lady) directed from a screenplay by Donald Ogden Stewart (The Philadelphia Story). The script is based on a 1947 play by Noel Langley and actor Robert Morley (The African Queen and Who Is Killing the Great Chefs of Europe?). No attempts were made to reshape the material for the big screen.

Edward, My Son preserves the play’s main gimmick: the title character is never shown. This and the fact that one character breaks the fourth wall and talks to the audience only serve to remind people that they are watching something that originated on the stage. Depending on your movie sensibilities, this is either a flaw or an artistic choice. Putting that aside, the dialogue is often sharp and most actors are great.

Although she appears in only four scenes, Deborah Kerr (The Innocents), who plays Spencer Tracy’s wife, was nominated for an Oscar in the Best Actress category. The fact that Kerr was perceived as a lead speaks volumes of the power of her work. Her transformation from joyous housewife to dipsomaniac matron is hard to watch.

Kerr doesn’t even look like the same person and I’m not talking about aging make-up. Her walk, posture and manner of speech convey the idea of a broken older person. She also portrays an addict in a super-realistic manner. The word alcoholism is never used, but you understand her problem just by looking at her — Kerr is simply brilliant!

On the other hand, Tracy is (surprisingly) off his game here. He sticks out like a sore thumb and this has nothing to do with him being the only American in an all-British cast (we are told that Tracy’s character is a Canadian expatriate living in England)

I tend to like Tracy but there was something about his performance that didn’t ring true to me. Tracy looks stiff and self-conscious. Kerr wipes the floor with him and it’s fascinating to see this young British actress take down one of the sacred cows of American cinema. Also with Ian Hunter (The Adventures of Robin Hood) as Dr. Woodhope, Mervyn Johns (Dead of Night) as Tracy’s ill-fated business partner and Leueen MacGrath (Three Cases of Murder) as Tracy’s secretary and mistress.

Conclusions & Final Thoughts:

Edward, My Son isn’t a pleasant movie. It’s dry and downbeat. It’s also prone to verbosity. But the film delves into some important issues — the movie tackles many problems we are still facing today. For instance, the film shows you in gritty detail the harmful effects of “helicopter parenting.” Above all, Edward, My Son gives us a chance to see the great Deborah Kerr at her very best. B&W, 112 minutes, Not Rated.

This is my contribution to The 2nd Deborah Kerr Blogathon, hosted by Maddy Loves Her Classic Films.

13 responses to “Edward, My Son (1949)

  1. Pingback: The 2nd Deborah Kerr Blogathon Begins – Maddy Loves Her Classic Films·

  2. Great piece, Eric. This is one I’m desperate to see, It sounds like Deborah really gets to sink her teeth into a very juicy part indeed, and I can’t wait to see her performance. I’ve seen others dislike Spencer’s performance here, maybe someone like Robert Donat or Laurence Olivier would have been better in the role?

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Great review that makes me know I’m best to leave this one alone but still intrigues to me to wanna see it, one for a rainy day perhaps. Well I gotta get through the 1000 plus other films on the “to watch list”.
    Going through Deborah Kerr’s films I’ve only really seen the big ones. (apart from The Innocents which I’ve just given myself a right talking to about). I need to have a little deeper dig into her work.

    Liked by 1 person

      • Awesome. Thank you for both of those recommends. I notice I have The Gypsy Moths of my list already. That does sound very really interesting. And Eye of the Devil sounds brill too. Well you can’t go too wrong with Donald P and I’m very interested to see Sharon Tate. Top buzz EB thank you.

        Liked by 1 person

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