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Tuesday, February 18, 2014

These Wilder Years (1956)

A steel tycoon (James Cagney) returns to his hometown to find the son that was given up for adoption twenty years ago. When the director (Barbara Stanwyck) of the adoption agency refuses to give him the information he wants, he takes her to court. But in doing so, he must confront his own past. This provocative (for its day) melodrama examines the options of the unwed mother in a repressive society that likes to point fingers as well as a look at man whose unfeeling behavior comes back to haunt him. The only pairing of Cagney and Stanwyck, it's unusual in that there's no romantic involvement between the two. The focus is on their opposing relationship. There's a subplot involving a 16 year old girl (Betty Lou Keim, SOME CAME RUNNING) who's pregnant and alone but the outcome of her story is telegraphed. There are no surprises especially in the film's last 20 minutes which are unsatisfactory and come off as contrived. Up until then, it remained eminently watchable, no surprise when you have troupers like Cagney and Stanwyck in the leads, who both bring decades of experience combing talent and star power. Directed by Roy Rowland (5,000 FINGERS OF DR. T) with a lovely underscore by Jeff Alexander. With Walter Pidgeon, Don Dubbins, Dean Jones, Edward Andrews and Dorothy Adams.

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