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
August 7, 2012
Very well made and scandalous for the times. Unfortunately, this movie also made Reagan a star.
August 5, 2012
Old Strange, but a great old film.
One of Reagan's best.
August 5, 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.
June 6, 2012
One of the most articically perfect melodrama's ever put on screen.
November 19, 2011
Reagan outshined the rest of the cast in this little town of secrets.
July 27, 2011
I just gotta see what the heck Ronald Reagan is doing there!
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 November 24, 2010
Good movie with some twists which keep it interesting. Ann Sheridan is great. Funny to see Ronald Reagan young and being kept down by the man. Also interesting to see how lack of FDIC and disability could destroy someone at the turn of the century. We've come a long way. The intro to psychiatry as seen as a medical field is crazy. You do get a great sense of progress. I always love Claude Rains.
August 29, 2010
Decent melodrama that suffers from being too long and more overwrought than befits the material from time to time. The performances are decent across the board, with Sheridan and Reagan giving the best two.
½ December 30, 2009
One of my favorite movies of all time. The story and the timing as it unfolds is perfect. I've never been a big fan of old movies, but I watched this with my father once. Just watched again with my girlfriend and she thought it was good too. She pointed out an interesting feature of old movies - that they speak their feelings directly to get the story out, rather than using imagery to communicate.
November 27, 2009
Slow moving, slightly boring, overacted, yet completely engaging film about turn of the century small town folks and what becomes of them growing up. Very dramatic, and fun to see Ronnie Reagan as a spry, young, wipper-snapper! Interesting film.
½ November 12, 2009
fantastic!!! hidden secrets, tricks, deceit, and decisions of the mind. incredibly well done!
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+
½ September 7, 2009
Very good story and well written screen adaption from 1942 starring Ronald Reagan & Robert Cummings in the male leads and Betty Field and Ann Sheridan in the female leads. The story of friends who all grow up together in the small town of King's Row and what becomes of their lifes and dreams as adults. Ronald Reagan gives the performance of his life here I believe and so do many others. Where Robert Cummings is charming he does seem to over-act the part at times and Betty Field certainly does as his mentally disturbed love interest. But Ronald Reagan and Ann Sheridan are wonderful together and for me their paring in this film is what was most enjoyable to me as well as the most interesting story.
June 4, 2009
Very intriguing. I liked how there were multiple tragic storylines involving people in the same town and how not everything is as nice as it seems. Its so weird seeing Reagan as well, but unlike people like Schwartzenegger, Reagan is actually a good actor! Not bad looking either. The psychiatric theme really made it interesting, especially for a movie thats nearly 70 years old
½ January 23, 2009
Darker than I expected. Kinda long. Still enjoyed it for the crazy twists.
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.
½ August 23, 2008
Ronald Reagan gets repeatedly screwed over by rich people in this movie - which is a strangely fresh premise for a movie that's 66 years old.
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