Monday, March 30, 2015

Movie Review - Of Human Harts

Of Human Hearts, starring Jimmy Stewart (1937 or 1938, depending on your source).

This movie is a who's who of stars who appear in Frank Capra films. But don't let that statement confuse you, because Of Human Hearts was directed by Clarence Brown. It stars Jimmy Stewart (It's a Wonderful Life, You Can't Take it With You, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington), Guy Kibbee (Mr. Smith Goes to Washington), Sterling Holloway and Walter Houston (both from American Madness), and Ward Bond (It's a Wonderful Life).

It also stars Beulah Bondi, who, as she does in It's a Wonderful Life and several other films, portrays Stewart's mother. Her name is Mary in the film.

Early in the film, there is a collection in the church to pay the pastor's yearly salary. While it is paid mostly with second-hand clothing and food, each resident of Pine Hill, a pioneer village along the Ohio River, walks to the front of the church and adds to the collection pile. It is reminiscent of the last scene in It's a Wonderful Life, when the residents of Bedford Falls collect money for George.

Also like It's a Wonderful LifeOf Human Hearts opens with a bell. There is a Potter-like character named George. Another character, Dr. Shingle, drinks like Uncle Billy, and wears a monocle "to remember." There is even a reference to using the monocle as a reminder like Uncle Billy used strings tied around his fingers to try to remember things.

It has a taste of the 1939 classic The Wizard of Oz, when one character gets a distant look in his eye and tells Stewart's character Jason that he can see Jason's mother, and her heart is breaking because she misses him. It is very much like when Professor Marvel (Frank Morgan) tells Dorothy that he can see her Aunt Em in the crystal ball.

Also like It's a Wonderful Life, there is a call to war. Only this time, it is the Civil War, not World War II. Both films look at personal yearning. Of Human Hearts, however, focuses more on the selfish aspect of this desire, whereas It's a Wonderful Life is more selfless.

In a bit of far-fetched story telling, Stewart returns home after an encounter with Abe Lincoln and a discovery of a long-lost friend. This film pretty much falls apart when the Civil War starts. Luckily, it is mostly over by the time that happens.

Of Human Hearts is often very funny, but at other times, it is harsh, examining the struggles inherent in family relationships.

Overall, I give this film 3.5 stars out of 5.

Be sure to check out my blog on Wednesday. Beginning April 1, 2015, I will participate in the Blogging From A-Z Challenge. I will post every day except for Sundays, one letter for each day. And every day will be related to It's a Wonderful Life. I am really looking forward to this challenge. It has allowed me to make new discoveries and approach the film from angles I have never before considered. Be sure to follow me or sign up for my e-mail updates so that you don't miss anything.