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The Howards of Virginia is a disappointing film. It is about an aristocrat's daughter who marries a man from humble beginnings. Cary Grant and Martha Scott give horrible performances. The screenplay is badly written. Frank Lloyd did a terrible job directing this movie. I was not impressed with this motion picture.
A good cast and handsome production but there wasn't enough of drama to the Revolutionary War they had to throw in a family soap opera too?
This movie is based on the book "The Tree of Liberty" by Elizabeth Page. I enjoyed this story of a Virginian farmer who marries a wealthy plantation owner's sister. It's a story of class and culture as the two collide in the marriage. As the years pass and the couple bear children until the war with England breaks out. This causes a bigger rife between the couple. The story is great despite the flaws and this isn't Cary Grant's best performance. He is still great to look at, though, and the story concludes all is well.
Well,Cary Grant has a ponytail. They take extreme liberty with factual events. And made in 1940 it was probably meant to be patriotic and inspiring. That's it.
This was on very late the other night, so I watched most of it, but I didn't get to see the end, I was too tired. Grant is energetic and sexy in this historic film of a man who is pursuing his dreams in America, and the wife from an aristocratic background that conflicts with his lifestyle. I liked this movie so far, but I really need to see how it ends, I hope they play it again sometime.
Who Cast This Thing?
The first thing anyone says about this movie is that Cary Grant was terribly, terribly miscast in it. This includes Cary Grant. It's not like [i]Arsenic and Old Lace[/i], where he thought his acting was too far over the top and he should have turned it down a notch. It is that it flatly doesn't make sense to have put him in the role. Gary Cooper? That would have been worthwhile casting. Doubtless a little thought could come up with a dozen or more people better suited to the role. Indeed, we're skipping over the whole British issue. For a large amount of the movie, we are dealing with people who still consider themselves British. (Hence the foolishness of believing that Paul Revere shouted "the British are coming!") It's the personality and station of the character which suggests he should have been played by someone else.
You see, Matt Howard (Grant) is neither dashing nor debonair. He is a big, broad backwoods man and has been since his father was killed years before. (In battle, but I'm not clear on what kind.) He was at the time schoolmates with young Thomas Jefferson (Buster Phelps, then Richard Carlson), and that friendship remains in place into adult life. Jefferson sets him up with a surveying job for Fleetwood Peyton (Sir Cedric Hardwicke), wherein he meets the lovely Jane (Martha Scott), his sister. He persuades Jane to marry him, only she is horrified to discover that this includes traveling to his backwoods estate, Albemarle, and being surrounded by his backwoods neighbours. And then they have children, and he goes to war, and stuff happens.
So you see how it doesn't work. The Matt Howard who goes to represent his area in the colonial government, maybe. But the one who spends his winters cutting down trees? The one who drinks out of a jug? Not so much. Oh, you can see Cary Grant playing a character who doesn't like all the pomp of Williamsburg, where his in-laws live, but not one who goes out into his neighbour's field to remove a big rock. The character shows little in either dignity or humour, and certainly there is no savoir-faire. It is, I think, evidence of the studio system's failings that he was cast. You kind of keep waiting for it to be just a joke, and it's not. There he is, building a plantation and fighting the Redcoats, and it just feels silly.
What they touched on but mostly ignored was Matt's relationship with his elder son, Peyton (Richard Lyon then Phil Taylor). Peyton was born crippled in some way I don't entirely understand. For most of the rest of the movie, Matt essentially pretends he doesn't exist. This is of course a major thing in a boy's life, knowing that he isn't good enough for his father. There's a scene when the family comes to join Matt in Williamsburg, and he greets everyone but Peyton. However, later in the film, Peyton stands up for his father with great devotion. No one then mentions their entire emotional background. It's quite silly and almost as jarring as Grant's casting. There is never a confrontation, never a comment at all. It's almost as though it's entirely taken for granted (ha!) that this is the way things should be.
All in all, it's a very dull film. I suspect the history to be dodgy at best and completely terrible at worst. There is no real Matt Howard listed in Wikipedia, at least not one who isn't a baseball player, and of course it seems reasonable they made him up, made up the entire family. (Then again, the page doesn't link to Thomas Jefferson, either, so what do I know?) It feels rather like one of those dreadful films made to pretend we're interested in history when we aren't. It's more accessible when it's about Real People, right? For some people, this may even be true. It wouldn't surprise me. However, these so-called Real People aren't, and they don't act like them. They're paper cut-outs, really, just shadows. Things happen because the screenwriters want them to, not because they're logical to the characters.
This is a solid movie that stars Cary Grant. The basic story is about a man named Matt Howard from Virginia. Also set before the American Revolution the Howards build a life and want the best for their country. A decent period piece. Grant is solid in the main role. Not a role I am use to seeing him in but he of course is such a talented actor he pulls it off. A bit of American history in this. Not sure how accurate it is but it works for the story told. This is a film for Cary Grant fans or for those who enjoy period pieces with a bit of history.
As a huge fan of Cary Grant, this is hard for me to write, but he was a liability to the movie in every way. He does not depart from his overacting, comic ways for this movie, which called for a much more subtle hand. His mannerisms remind me much of those that he used in Arsenic and Old Lace, but this is a period drama, not a screwball comedy.
Other than that miscasting, the rest of the movie was par for the course. The costumes were good, so was the story-line (though fairly formulaic). The other characters were cast well, but they can't make up for Cary's acting in this one.
The Howards of Virginia (1940) -- [4.0] -- Cary Grant is out of sorts in this Revolutionary War epic that highlights the trials and tribulations of a frontier family. Grant's character isn't well-written or realized, and all the characters play second fiddle to a plot that unfolds like a history lesson. The story spans decades, skipping years and spending so little time on the family relationships, that there isn't much to keep you interested or engaged.
I love these old movies...a soft spot in my heart. Cary Grant is pretty funny in this...very excitable!