Kings Row - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Kings Row Reviews

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Super Reviewer
January 13, 2013
Based on a dark, soapy bestselling novel, this is definitely one of Ronald Reagan's best performances, if not THE best. Like "Peyton Place", the original novel focused on the dark secrets underlying an outwardly nice, moral, family-oriented town. Unfortunately, unlike "Peyton Place," the subject matter had to be way watered down to get past the censors at the time this was made, leaving one of the key storylines - a doctor's incestuous relationship with his daughter - so vague that the first time I saw this film prior to reading the book, I didn't understand what was going on with that subplot. The other weird thing about this movie is that Kings Row manages to have not one, but TWO messed-up doctors: one's the aforementioned incest committer (played by Claude Rains) and the other (played by Charles Coburn) is a sadist who enjoys amputating limbs and wreaking vengeance on patients he doesn't like. Reagan plays "Drake", a dashing rich party-boy who falls victim to the sadistic doc but then manages to have a decent life thanks to the tender mercies of his childhood friend "Randy" (Ann Sheridan), the girl literally from the wrong side of the tracks. I thought Reagan and Sheridan pretty much carried the film, with the other main part, their friend "Parris" (Robert Cummings) finishing a very distant third. As someone else noted, the amputation theme was timely due to WWII even though this book is set in an earlier era. A decent soap opera for its time, but not quite as good as the book due to all the controversial (for then) issues that had to be presented very obliquely or left out entirely.. 5 Stars
Super Reviewer
½ March 18, 2008
Good film could have been great with better male leads, the female stars are excellent though.
Super Reviewer
November 15, 2013
Reagan's leap to stardom through this? Well its okay. It's a bit too much like a soap opera but we have passable acting with neurotic folks throughout.
August 3, 2012
a bizarre movie that took me several viewings b4 i got it. I've heard this compsred to 'payton place' but this reminds me of 'the magnicent ambersons' which was out about the same time. i've often wondered why this hasn't been remade.
October 20, 2008
A classic. An intriguing look at small town America. Utterly believable and for that reason alone, pretty scary. Former President Reagen's finest film appearance.
January 9, 2008
really great movie, Ronald Reagan at his best,the line in the movie, "where's the rest of me" was title of his autobiography
½ April 20, 2007
Very intresting pretty tame for our standers but a heck of a movie back then. Still a good movie today.
½ February 3, 2007
Ronald Reagan is wonderful in this movie and very young. Who would have known he would become a great president?
½ August 22, 2015
Warner Bros. dark, moody adaptation of the best-seller is exemplary drama and contains Ronald Reagan's best on-screen performance.
April 24, 2015
This movie has one of the best opening chapters I've ever seen, introducing, with clarity and precision, all of the main characters as children and the nexus that will play out later in the story. Although the story covers a lot of time and dramatic territory I never felt that the movie was rushed or pared down. Every scene is remarkably efficient in the way it conveys information and dives right into the dramatic and emotional crux of the moment (the letter-writing segment is particularly brilliant), and every scene segues naturally into the next. The final two scenes, in one of which Parris recites part of William Henley's poem "Invictus", lift the movie into a kind of delirium. By the end I experienced, not exhaustion, but exhilaration by having gotten to know these people so well and having shared in their joys and sorrows. This is rare. In the end, the characters are so well defined that I wouldn't change a single performance by a single actor. All this AND the rich and detailed cinematography of James Wong Howe and the glorious, evocative music of Erich Korngold (the moment I heard the first chords I recognized him as the composer for "The Adventures of Robin Hood"). It's Warner Bros. all the way - bold and brassy. This is the kind of movie that provokes people to say, "They don't make 'em like this anymore." Old or contemporary, "Kings Row" stands alone. It is a wonderful movie.
½ May 2, 2014
Intriguing drama, but could have been better.

Builds slowly, initially quite innocently but then more and more with a sense of menace. Some sub-plots emerge along the way which obscure the main plot. Eventually they all tie together, but they provide too much of a smokescreen, ultimately.

This prevents Kings Row from being a great movie. The sub-plots create this rambling story with several climaxes. You want to build up to one climax, but instead you have several, and these make you feel like you've watched several stories back-to-back, rather than one story.

Ultimately, worth watching, but it could have been so much better. More intense focus on just one of the many and varied subjects and plots, and the dilution and even omission of the others, would have made this great.
April 29, 2014
My Favorite Film Is 1941's Citizen Kane.
½ December 18, 2013
March 20, 2013
This entire is amazing. It's a heartfelt film with a lot of soul. You'll enjoy it from start to finish.
½ February 24, 2013
Kings Row is an incredible film. It is about the dark side and hypocrisy of provincial American life that is seen through the eyes of five children as they grow to adulthood at the turn-of-the-century. Ann Sheridan, Robert Cummings, and Ronald Reagan give outstanding performances. The screenplay is well written. Sam Wood did a great job directing this movie. I enjoyed watching this motion picture because of the drama and romance. Kings Row is a must see.
February 2, 2013
I saw this film for the first time today and was very impressed by how dark the movie was. Enjoyed it alot...
March 3, 2011
excusing the hyperbole acting, the movie is exquisitly done.
it covers a gamut of thematic and relationship ground while still maintaing enough daylight between each to keep them distinct and discerable.
one of a handful of movies that depicts true affection and solidarity among men without pandering to pc mores.
March 3, 2011
How could you rate this 100%? Bosley Crowther panned it. It's an un-Freudian movie that should have been the opposite.
½ September 23, 2009
Kings Row (1942)

A fluctuating jumble of curious story, off-and-on acting, and near disastrous direction. The screenplay has the characters acting so blatantly phony that it is no chore to find a world of fantasy within the film ? the entire world.

The film itself ? the structure, the architecture ? looks beautiful on remastered stock, but creates an eerie glow as 1942 comes shimmering through as though it were 1997. Some effects, however, create obvious dating for the film: the special effects for a simple lightning storm, for example, appear as though Nazi Germany is bombing Paris in an evening blitzkrieg. Though these startling exaggerations hit the viewer as absurd, he is quickly returned to a world of plastic dialogue, contrived emotions, and a story that seemingly looks for direction like a ribbon in the wind.

The film?s most egregious absurdity is its exaggeration. The dialogue, coerced from some unreal aquifer, is occasionally broken by unbelievable displays of emotion. A scene in a matriarch?s chamber, for example, has the villa?s housekeeper weeping so vehemently that it is unclear whether the film will turn into an opera.

Ironically, the direction of Sam Wood throws some occasional medicine into the mix ? some brilliantly-framed camera shots occasionally resuscitate a film in need of serious medical attention. One shot in particular, in the film?s beginning, magically bridges ten years of time without a single word, a change in scenery, nor ever raising the camera above young Scotty Beckett?s feet. Though this is a credit to the film?s more effective participants, such gems are quickly overshadowed by its flamboyantly surreal counterparts until a viewer is again so cordoned off from reality that he can no longer feel his pulse.

The most vital instrument, the storyline, rubberbands between seasons of hot and cold but generally wanders back into a zone of interest. Static interest is generated in the first 60 minutes, for example, by the bizarre, unanswered behavior of a young woman?s father, and his impact which is both visible and ugly on her. When this extended tease wears down, however, the story degenerates into an amalgam of character profiles, in a town that none of us know, nor care to imagine.

In all, the film is a lot like its subject matter. The closing scenes, a twist on the emerging field of psychiatry, show a protagonist reveling not in triumph but false hope and denial, a pseudo-happiness generated by the sheer tragedy around him. Perhaps the producers, in the same vein, entertained denial as they lauded themselves for a film that couldn?t walk ? a film without legs.

Overall rating: C+
January 17, 2008
This film is pretty tame by today's standards, but back in the day this was controversial stuff. It holds up quite well and has probably Reagan's best acting job yet. Beautifully shot too.
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