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 obsession not only destroys his son but also his wife (Deborah Kerr, End of the Affair).
Reaction & Thoughts:
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.
The film 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.
Even though she only appears in four (long) scenes, Deborah Kerr was nominated for an Oscar in the Best Actress category. The fact that she was perceived as a lead speaks volumes of the power of her performance. 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 the 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!
Spencer 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 (the film explains 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 it also happens to delve 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.