Monday, October 5, 2009

Adam Had Four Sons: A Minute by Minute Review/Analysis



NOTE: I love how corny this film is, I am mocking it a bit because it's not a masterpiece by any means, but I do it in jest and out of love. I also assume you have seen this film or are going to watch it so SPOILER ALERT for EVERYTHING ahead.

First of all, let's discuss the historical/biographical context of this film (regarding Ingrid Bergman's life).
When Ingrid Bergman came to work for David O. Selznick in the U.S. in 1939, she was contracted to work for him. She worked on the English version of Intermezzo: A Love Story and then hit a lull. Selznick didn't have any quality pictures for her to work on because he was busy with films like ("his masterpiece") Gone With the Wind. Ingrid did a play in NYC and some work in Germany, but then, just when she was contemplating leaving the states, Selznick got her a gig playing Emily in Adam Had Four Sons. Selznick new the film wasn't going to be a hit, but he wanted to keep Ingrid listed for future parts. Selznick actually lured Ingrid into the part because he promised her that he would eventually give her the part she had always wanted to play; Joan of Arc. The real reason Ingrid locked in this part was Gregory Ratoff, who begged Selznick to loan him Ingrid after he had worked with her in Intermezzo...
Adam Had Four Sons was a B-movie made at a B-film Studio (at the time), Columbia Pictures. I am telling you this because it is why a lot of my play-by-play is sarcastic and comical rather than insightful, meaningful or historical (which I feel like my Notorious minute-by-minute was more of the latter).
The best thing I think Ingrid said about this film is the following (just another reason to love her):
"I am one of the few actresses who really thinks movies are wonderful, and absolutely with no eye to money. A good part on the screen in is just as good [as on the stage]--that's my idea."

Ingrid's long time friend and agent, Kay Brown, had this to say about AHFS
"She survived Adam Had Four Sons, and anyone who could come through a stinker like that is destined for success."
So with all of this said, turn on your DVD's and enjoy this minute by minute commentary. :)
  • I like the clouds around the title-- quite fancy.
  • The photo album is creative underlay for the credits, and a nice transition into a corny joke-- but over kill for family history.
  • Great sneeze there. "Who care's about a new governess anyway?" -- haha if only he knew.
  • Does anyone find it funny that the youngest son is already in uniform?-- and that the mother is incredibly concerned that he is behind the wheel of something that he isn't old enough to handle? Foreshadowing at its most obvious and best. NOTE: I love how corny this film is, I am mocking it a bit because it's not a masterpiece by any means, but I do it in jest and out of love.
  • Adam asks Jack, the oldest, "You haven't touched those gears have you?" when the son just obviously was playing with them. If these things aren't telling of the future shenanigans I don't know what is.
  • Setting: "Dad, when are we going to get the new 1907 model?"
  • Car indicates status around the horses and buggies
  • Don't get too close to that train Phillip...
  • Get ready for it, a "French" governess
  • INGRID~!
  • Ingrid's supposed to be French--just in case you were wondering.
  • 1st born=Jack
  • 2nd=Christopher
  • 3rd=David
  • 4th=Phillip
  • Otto, the good old butler.
  • Did I mention that Ingrid's character is psychic in this film? She just knows this is home. If you're getting a cavity from the sweet nature of this film, pause the film and brush your teeth.
  • She knows exactly where everything is! This will make her job a lot easier. "Where did I put that hat?"
  • These kids are strong, chin ups all day long.
  • Dad was a football player
  • OH! Ingrid is stronger. Don't mess.
  • She can handle any kids, any day. Look out Mary Poppins (PS, I love Mary Poppins)
  • Emily is instant family.
  • Let's not forget how hilarious gender roles are. Papa can't stand the idea of being emasculated but it's going to happen for our benefit.
  • The Stock Market isn't doing so hot- a great crisis for a film about a rich family in Connecticut.
  • Especially when their business is called "Stoddard & Co. Members NEw York Stock Exchange: Philadelphia Boston Chicago"
  • I am not sure, but I think that this Stock Market trouble is alluding to the "Panic of 1907" and the troubled years before WWI in the U.S. stock trade. This will make more sense as the movie progresses. I researched it and that's what I found to be the answer that makes the most sense-- if you know otherwise-- feel free to leave a comment about it.
  • Isn't it cool how they used to have ticker paper? I love it.
  • "If the country is sound, business is sound"--he should have knocked on wood right there.
  • Ingrid does a magnificent job of taking an innocent, bland, goody-goody into a goody-goody with a real persona.
  • That is the lowest basketball hoop ever. I think Ingrid could dunk on it.
  • Let's remember their father is the ULTIMATE man. I think if Cary Grant, Gary Cooper or Gregory Peck played this role-- we would have bought it. (This was a B-film however.)
  • Uh-oh. Things aren't looking so sound or perfect after all. Should we panic? Not yet.
  • "Just a mild sedative" It was probably straight morphine. LOL
  • Thanksgiving with a Frenchwoman-- we are quite ego- and ethnocentric here in the U.S.
  • Mention of Cousin Phillipa, she's a grand old CREEPY lady.
  • Like Ingrid's wig? She HATED it. It was very uncomfortable.
  • Fay Wray kind of looks like Gloria Swanson.
  • Doctor's in, things aren't looking good. She needs an operation for a vague disease of which we will never be privy.
  • It's 1907 and she's having an operation, there's no way she's going to be alright.
  • This interaction between the mother and Emily is crucial to the plot. This talk gives Emily the right, privilege and will to protect and serve the family. There is not a drop of romance in her toward the father at this point, only loyalty to the mother of the children she watches. The mother has extreme trust in Emily. I think if anyone had played Emily as a dumb-dumb or just as a servant, this element could have easily been dropped from the character; Ingrid seems to carry this message for the rest of the film. She carries herself as if she's carrying the mother as well. Her looks are always reminiscent of the last moments with the mother as well as the guilt whenever things go wrong. She longs to keep her promises to the whole clan as well as protect all of their wishes and secrets.
  • "Emily I trust you."
  • Nice bow mom.
  • "Ah, my army."
  • This is a living wake if I've ever seen one.
  • Only three coins--someone's not going to come out of this plot too well. Lol
  • She's telling Adam that she's not going to survive. I'm sorry this is so obvious, but this movie is just that.
  • I feel like Ingrid looks much like the Ingrid that we see in later films in this scene. She has a shawl wrapped around her and just looks like she does in "Spellbound," "Elena and Her Men," "Viaggio in Italia" and "Autumn Sonata." Maybe it is her characters or her stance, but she just looks like the future.
  • Nope. She's dead. I just realized her name is Molly as well. I know that's bad, but I feel like they say "Emily" so much that her name was lost.
  • It's 3 AM.
  • "Things will never be the same but it will be filled I assure you."
  • Stocks are DROPPING (COINS are TOO)
  • Emily's seat has changed-- she's now in Molly's seat.
  • Cousin Phillipa is here! Emily is on top of everything, drink is in the living room after a hard day's work. Props.
  • Trading activities suspended, not a good sign for Emily.
  • I like the Cousin. She's creepy, but cool. She hooks the family up!
  • Send her home on the next boat?! She's not just any Frenchwoman! She's EMILY! Wow.
  • Emily should know what's happening, I mean she's psychic.
  • Emily really can do anything.
  • The French "accent" is hilarious.
  • Go home? This is Emily's home!
  • Check out that bow tie.
  • In case you were wondering-- that's her boat pass.
  • Emily goes into panic mode. I mean they are now in squaller (horse a buggy folk).
  • Ingrid is SO good. She can make this character cry. I mean, now, we should actually feel like something is happening and an emotional tie to the characters.
  • Longing look like no one else: Ingrid Bergman.
  • Oh, not only is it a horse and buggy, but it's a taxi! They're the lowest of the low. Lol.
  • They couldn't have rid of the furniture or something to keep Emily?
  • OH! Check it out, Phillip was wearing a "mourning band." This was worn by men on their arms or hats to signify that they were still in mourning when they went out in public. I'm not sure when this tradition ended or how long they were to wear them. I think it's 3 months, but if you know-please comment.
  • Adam keeps talking in cliches, it's a little annoying: "We're far from the mountain top" "The grass is always greener in the valley" "We're on our way up"- I'm glad he's staying positive, but some of this just adds to why this movie isn't a great film--the story needed some more grind. It needed friction and more turbulence.
  • PAY ATTENTION TO THESE DATES!
  • If you don't catch the flying dates you'll wonder what in the world happened. Ingrid doesn't look any older but all of the men and boys will. It's confusing as hell (because of her looks) if you miss the "1910, 1912, 1914"
  • The war helps to embed the idea that a lot of time has passed and that times are changing, but the movie once again skimped and didn't worry about making anyone look remotely "real."
  • This footage is a nice touch. It allows us to witness the upward turn in the economy, but through the "working man" point of view as opposed to just showing stocks going back up. The footage is pro-war of course, and though it's dealing with WWI, not WWII it's an interesting look in the American Ideals of the time.
  • Remember, at this point in time, the United States wasn't a true member of WWII yet-- Pearl Harbor had yet to happen. All of this propaganda-like footage is WWI.
  • (Okay--now I'll quit that redundant statement)
  • Look at that sweet reverse footage--the coins they are a stackin'!
  • "1918"
  • In this letter, Adam is writing to Emily, he states that they own "Stonehenge again." This kind of bothers me that it is so easy for them to just move right back to their old house. Though it makes for a gentle return for Emily to the family, it's just ridiculous. Please note that I'm not expecting reality in this film by any means. I just get annoyed when my willingness of disbelieve is put up to such a challenge. I just wish they had moved into a new nice house and not just the same set.
  • Otto's back too!
  • Anyone recognize that little lady? That's June Lockhart, yep, Timmy's mom from the television show "Lassie." She was also the mom in "Lost in Space."
  • Everyone's going to enlist. Good grief.
  • Phillip is old enough to have a demeaning tone towards the ladies. I mean he just made her sound like a complete idiot (sorry, that makes my feminist mind furious).
  • I like that Vance knew the whole story of the family so we don't have to recap for her.
  • Emily looks more well off than she did the first time she came to America.
  • I swear- Ingrid saves this film. I mean, Susan Hayward will do a good job in a few minutes of really revving up some conflict, but without Ingrid's face and her acting skills, this movie may not have made it to the big screen.
  • They made her look more mature, but not older by any means.
  • The boys are all men--well not Phillip--not yet. Lol
  • David is incredibly disinterested in Emily. Why would this be?
  • I like how they framed this shot. I think it's great that Emily is right in between David and Adam. It kind of sets up the idea that she is going to have conflict involving both of them. She will be between the sons and the father as a mother figure now. She took this role from Molly and we are shown this to remind our subconscious to pay attention and switch over to consciousness.
  • This part of the movie reminds me of a play--more so than the first part of the movie. All of the intro's have been like in a play--but this part has a lot of entrances, exits, through doors, proscenium framing and drama like a play.
  • Susan Hayward's character, Hester, is PURE EVIL!
  • Jack is handsome. Lol.
  • Ew, no one should kiss there sister like that. They're looking to do a private high five later.
  • Finally, David shows Emily some respect.
  • Emily's a thinker. She should be the woman of the house--but wait-- Hester showed up. DUN DUN DUN!
  • You could cut the tension between the women with a KNIFE!
  • I love how Ingrid makes Emily territorial. It makes her more believable as well as strong enough to take the evilness of Susan Hayward's, Hester.
  • OH! Call out- Governing "four grown men"
  • She really calls out the possible sexual attraction between Emily and the "boys" but we all know she's not into the younger crowd- She likes them with a grey streak.
  • Hester is awfully forward.
  • Phillipa is refreshing. All of the women control this story. Phillipa is a nice touch, she provides a comic relief as well as a chorus to reveal a moral compass.
  • The characters are always stating what they are doing, but only what they are visibly doing-- not the finest writing. Some of it's good though...idk
  • Susan Hayward is incredibly evil in this part- I still feel like she and Ingrid are the only reasons this was released.
  • Phillipa also contributes, but it's short lived, because she is a voice of reason and would put a stop to the problem. Her death helps to seal the conflict.
  • Where's Phillip? Necking with Vance? Nope- he's enlisted. This gives a true insight to WWI because it was harder to prove one's actual age so illegally enlisting was much easier. Plus, he's a true patriot (Unlike--"patriotism, waving the flag with one hand and picking pockets with the other"-Notorious)
  • Emily has to be the protector. When Phillippa dies, her spot is no longer secure, but she will fight tooth and nail to keep everyone protected.
  • David leaving leads to a bored, sexual, lazy, powerful Hester. Not a good combination when there are other men with which to mess around.
  • I do like the use of war footage, symbolism and letters in this film. They ad an air of legitimacy to an otherwise doubtfully well done film.
  • The letters also present the option of not loosing touch- so if you were wondering how they kept in touch all this time (whether it be the boys or Emily), that's how.
  • OOO! Vance has her hair up! She finally got her way. She just wants Phillip SO badly!
  • Emily fills the maternal situation- Hester doesn't. She is idle and says things like "This place runs itself so well there's nothing you can do to help," and "And Dad, I did want to do something to make you happy." It's like she's coming on to anything that has a pulse, except Emily of course. Lol.
  • Hester doesn't accept any responsibility on her own part. She even refers to herself in the 2nd person, unknowingly removing herself from any responsibilities-merely pretending.
  • Solitaire-----and DRINKS! Not a good sign when you're drinking alone in the middle of the day Hester!
  • She sees her potential prey in the picture, dirty hooker.
  • She's PLASTERED!
  • Jack is so cute. Too cute for his own good.
  • I wish Jack were a bit more scandalous- it's hard to believe that he's drunk enough to really take advantage of Hester's sexual exploits.
  • Playing solitaire and pacing the floor--someone forgot to say "drinking my face off."
  • She wants to go into New York when she's, as Jack says "...a little lit sister."
  • She is the devil. Lol.
  • Ripping stuff off of the U.S. uniform- that's not a good sign for a character. Instant bad karma.
  • She's just playing games. GRR! She's so evil!
  • "I've never loved anybody, the way you're talking about."
  • She is a crazy sado-masochist, and extremely verbal about it (especially for the time- just as codes were coming into play- I like it)
  • EMILY~!!! Perfect timing, yet, nothing she can do!
  • Ingrid playing piano! Always a good thing!
  • Does anyone else think it's weird when someone calls their in-laws "Dad" the 1st day they meet them?
  • Emily knows when to stop playing the piano.
  • Why does the script insist on telling us EVERYTHING? "It's a big day tomorrow with Jack home"= DUH
  • Aww, Adam and Emily are falling in love. She'll eventually be their real mother- maybe they'll make some babies. (just kidding guys... kind of)
  • She just can't help being amazing. Good grief!
  • Oh, Hester- you devil woman. She just can't get enough.
  • This is a great scene, a lot of shadow work and doors-- much like a play. A who's who? and in-and-out type of action.
  • Pay attention to the Silhouette in the window.
  • Adam doesn't like that AT ALL.
  • I feel like Jack would have been able to get rid of her, not be seduced.
  • Of course that's what she looks like right out of bed- no bed head. Lol.
  • Emily comes to the rescue!
  • Why would she rescue Hester? I would have thrown her down the stairs--sorry to be violent, but I hate her!
  • I mean he's not 12, he's like 20 something now. That's legit. Lol. Adam's like 80, so I'd go for Jack.
  • Hester is a lousy sack of poop. (I'm a highly educated person and proving it, no? j/k)
  • Oh, Emily totally could take her. Hester is satan though.
  • Uh, oh. Emily's love of Adam is revealed. Case of status- leave the old ways behind Emily, take what's yours!
  • "Armistice!" Will it be for everyone?
  • The boys are coming home! Look how excited Vance is. Lol.
  • There's Chris, breaking the lines.
  • I love Vance- she's hilarious.
  • Phil is hurt. Just his eye. He probably didn't write because his eye hurt. I wouldn't write if my eye hurt (hence this blog taking forever. lol)
  • So Vance and Phil will get married at age 14? Babies havin' babies.
  • OH NO! Hester's after Chris now. What a streetwalker!
  • Chris seems more likely to sleep with Hester than Jack. He's weaker.
  • Jack's setting her straight.
  • He should leave her in this field.
  • He feels remorse because he should as the admirable brother- she does not. This isn't a great quality- kind of a 19th century ideal again. The woman is portrayed as someone with no morals, her virginity is obviously far from in tact (has been for a while, previous to marriage) and she is luring men into her web. If it were a film noir, she'd be coined as a "spider woman"- if you want an example of a "spider woman" in film noir- check out Gloria Swanson's character in Sunset Blvd.
  • David is CLUELESS.
  • Hester should have learned to hold her booze. She's a slosh!
  • Adam notices her lushy qualities. I think he's noticing her flaws.
  • Emily and Jack are weary.
  • She's still trying to protect the family, and Adam.
  • Everyone but Emily and Adam know that they're in love.
  • Well, they know too, but they're not doing anything about it.
  • (I wish this movie weren't so corny)
  • Hester is about to make a BIG mistake--"JACK"
  • David's like "What the f*$&"
  • Nice mirror shot.
  • David sees it all now. He's hurting Hester, she finally feels pain.
  • She has no morals. Lol. The opposite of the "American Ideal" of this time.
  • Uh oh, it's raining. That's not a good sign, especially at the airport.
  • No one trusts you Hester. Blaming Emily's not going to help.
  • Blaming the war isn't going to work, Hester.
  • Emily is not fooling around anymore. Go Ingrid- acting CHOPS!
  • Phone ringing is not good timing right now. You guys know, because it's a movie. Lol.
  • He's unconscious but alive. That's what we need. He'll tell us once he sees Hester.
  • Wow, Hester is really dramatic.
  • Emily is going to be in charge of Emily. She's going to fix things like she promised Emily and Phillipa she would.
  • I think it's great when Ingrid takes on a look of determination. She gets an opportunity in every film. Just look for it.
  • "women like you" I love it.
  • Emily's bringing the HEAT.
  • Hester tries to pull hierarchy but she doesn't realize she has none.
  • Emily is snapping- she's put too much time and effort into this.
  • Girl fight!
  • Emily should just push Hester down the stairs.
  • Gosh! Hester makes me SO mad!
  • Silence is the cure. She's showing that the constant word diarrhea is the problem. Jack will set it straight.
  • Adam's getting his answers. Here's Jack to confirm.
  • Why would Adam believe her over Jack? She's CRAZY!
  • Aww, Emily! Don't pack your clothes. Don't cry.
  • He's come to ask you to forgive him and to marry him- DUH!
  • David and Jack are better than that. Emily knows.
  • Here it is- sappy ending that we were hoping for. Not to mention a real quick ending to a long movie.
  • "Adam"



4 comments:

Kate Gabrielle said...

It was so fun reading this! I'm glad you finished it. I haven't seen the movie in a few months, but I could picture the whole thing in my head while I was reading.

I love this: She can handle any kids, any day. Look out Mary Poppins (PS, I love Mary Poppins)

Emily said...

Hilarious!
This movie was so...not good, that you can't help but watch it to the end. Like a car crash - it's awful but you just need to see. But it was soooo melodramatic. love it!
On an Ingridly note, she had some fierce moments in there, eh? I think she was absolutely gorgeous in this film. Haven't seen it in a while - was she really wearing a wig?

Alexis said...

Kate-Gabrielle- Glad you liked my Mary Poppins reference. Lol. Glad you told me to finish the post when I was literally beginning to finish- nothing like that extra push! :)

Emily-
Yes. Ingrid wore an "uncomfortable" wig for this part. I'm quoting the Donald Spoto Biography "Notorious: The Life of Ingrid Bergman" so I'm not sure if he took artistic liberty or if she had actually complained. But yes, it was a wig. You'd think if they gave her a wig they would have made her look a little older than 25 when she came back to the family?!

Thanks for the comments! Feel free to keep the commentary going on this film...it's so bad it deserves what it gets. LOL

ma.labado said...

I had a fun time reading this, (:
Ingrid is the only reason i watch this movie, it's show how David Selznicks wanted her to be a always the nice girl..
(L)
thanks 4 this..

About Me

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An avid Ingrid Bergman fan, I am a student of her life and work as well as film, filmmaking and Classic Film in general. I have my M.F.A. in TV/Film Production from USC School of Cinematic Arts and have been making a living in the business they call show. Feel free to follow me on Twitter @alexis_morrell