Kings Row - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Kings Row Reviews

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November 10, 2016
Strong realistic drama with theatrical acting, but remarkable performance from Ronald Reagan. Themes are important and i guess were timely at the time.
February 19, 2016
The film comes across at first like very pleasant romantic melodrama with charming performances by Reagan, Cummings, Sheridan and Fields. But it becomes a tense, tragic story with malevolence yet somehow uplifting in the end.
January 22, 2016
This is a coming of age story about a group of friends who grow up on or near Kings Row. Ronald Reagan gives a charismatic performance as Drake, the strong-willed, neighbourhood rogue. The movie is nicely sequenced and there is the odd beautifully scripted line. At times it teeters on the brink of melodrama and the script gets stuck on some overbearing soliloquys. Overarching themes include: heroic perseverance in the face of nonsensical violence; a romanticized past in contrast to the fear of an uncertain future and the understanding that mental illnesses can be more difficult to heal than physical wounds. Context is everything. Given when this movie was made (1942), it is quite understandable that thematically it would reflect what was happening in the world at the time and it would do so with a skyward looking approach.
December 31, 2015
I consider this to be Reagan's best film.
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.
½ June 12, 2015
Kings Row is a film that was largely ahead of its time. Coming out in 1942 you'd rarely expect a film that focused on such dark themes as mental disorders, suicide, murder, and more. Not only that but Kings Row also has a nontraditional narrative structure. The story is about a handful of young people who grow up in a small town at the turn of the last century. It shows how, even in the most quaint of locales, there can be a lot of dark things going on behind closed doors. I struggled at times with the roaming plot because I'm more comfortable with a story that follows a single protagonist, but this film makes it clear that there is not an individual who is the main character in the film. I found I was most interested in the story of Drake, played by Ronald Reagan. His struggle later in the film, after an accident threatens to ruin him, is emotional and touches on some really interesting differences between modern times and how life was back then. Speaking of that contrast, Parris is the other lead character (played by Robert Cummings) and his story shows how the world behaved before psychiatry became a regular field of study. Parris is kind of the glue that holds all the disparate stories together, and he has his own tragedy that serves as an inciting incident which was quite traumatic.

The early scenes are one of the areas that I struggled with. It did a great job of establishing the characters before the big events started to occur in their lives, but I had difficulty liking some of them because the child actors were not great. There performances weren't a big detriment to my appreciation of the film, because they did enough to display the personalities of the characters, I just wish the line delivery wasn't so flat from some of them. I did not have this problem with any of the adult actors. There was some real talent in the cast of this film and most of the acting increased my rating. Another interesting aspect of the film is the deft way that Kings Row utilized innuendo in order to imply certain things they could not say or show. Modern cinema seems to struggle at times with the idea of restraint because they can and will do whatever they please. But thanks to the code for films in the 40s, they were forced to use subtle visual cues and carefully scripted dialogue to get an idea across. This was never more evident to me than in Kings Row where lots of extremely dark things occur, but they are heavily restricted in how they can convey that information to the audience. This made it a meticulously crafted film, and one that I am glad I have watched. It might have contained some moments that were a bit too saccharine and idyllic, but it took chances almost from start to finish. I might not rush to watch Kings Row again, but I can recommend it to fans of classic film, because this is a winner.
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 January 21, 2015
'Kings Row' (1942) is a eulogy for the well-mannered lifestyle of the Victorian era. The film gradually reveals that all is not idyllic in this sleepy American town. Beneath the film's surface of quaint nostalgia and small-town melodrama appear signs of widespread malaise, revealing the community of Kings Row as a melting pot of gossip, jealousy, mental illness, possessive parents, class-rivalry, murder and suicide. The film's tragic plot twist provides Ronald Reagan with the greatest acting opportunity of his career and his most memorable line: "Where's the rest of me?"
½ October 30, 2014
Soapy as hell, and not exactly subtly performed (it's saying something when Ronald Reagan gives Claude Rains a run for his money for the most memorable performance), but this is still a compelling tale of four or five young people growing up on both the rights and wrong side of the tracks in a small town at the turn of the century (19th to 20th, that is). Elements of Great Expectations, elements of It's a Wonderful Life, elements of Peyton Place. It's really dark and kinda sick at times, and melodramatic throughout, but it's rarely boring and at least a couple of characters engaged my sympathies enough to hang with it. Best part is the strength of the central male friendship. Really nice to see an example of (supposedly) hetero blokes mean so much to each other and be there for each other.
½ October 27, 2014
Probably Pres. Reagan's best performance and it was definitely the most memorable.

The plot alone is fascinating, filled with class struggles, career choices, love, intrigue, hints of incest, malpractice, Vienna, the disabled, psychiatry and sanity. Great cast, directing and good music also support.

Crazy to think that this was actually shown on the big screen, this is a hidden gem in the sea of classics.
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
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.
½ June 29, 2013
Small town Americana, from the greatest representative of all.

Actually, it's an incredibly odd film. Morbid. Schizophrenic, even. It goes from one emotional extreme to the next, never really sure of exactly what story it wants to tell us. The child actors were all great, and it was extremely beneficial that the child Parris & the adult Parris looked so much alike. The child Cassie was incredible...but the adult Cassie was unimpressive. And it was harmful that she looked absolutely NOTHING like her child version. So that whole aspect was unconvincing. This may be Rains' best performance. I've never seen him so powerful. Robert Cummings is very good, too. Great music. There is some beauty to be found here, in a perverse way, if one looks hard enough.

Yet most impressive to me was Ronald Reagan. It was my first Reagan film. He was mesmerizing. Presidential. Oozed charisma. Top notch performance, in this "slightly sordid but moving yarn" that made him a star. I would've preferred a better film in which to see him, but he carries it, much like he did his country decades later.
April 16, 2013
Each mini story within this movie is great. However it tries to tell too many stories about too many people spread over too long a period and so all impact is lost.
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...
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
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