“If I loved someone I’d love them forever.”
If there was ever a classic film that deserved to be released on DVD that for some unknown reason has never been it is Smilin’ Through. Smilin’ Through was such a popular hit that it became one of a very few films that MGM would rerelease in the 1930s from time to time. It has a very good reason because the story is so good and the acting so fantastic by every single lead.
The story is of both the past and present. In the past a man named Sir John Cartier (Leslie Howard) has lost the love of his life Moonyeen (Norma Shearer). Through the years and even in the present he has not been able to let her memory die and even believes he sees her. A few years after Moonyeen's death her sister and brother-in-law have passed away leaving behind a daughter named Kathleen. Sir John is asked to raise her, at first he is reluctant but finally agrees to once he talks with her.
Kathleen (Shearer again) has grown into a beautiful young woman. She reminds Sir John so much his lost bride. He has never told her what happened to Moonyeen and she does not bring it up. One day while walking through the country the weather turns and it begins to poor while Kathleen is out walking with a local young man. They find shelter in an abandoned old house. Kathleen does not know who the house belonged too but she finds a fifty year old wedding invitation on the floor addressed to a man named Jeremy Wayne. She thinks that Jeremy was in love with the bride and killed himself when she was to marry another and that is why the house was abandoned. Outside they hear horse hooves and then a young man enter the room. His name is Kenneth (Fredric March) and his father was Jeremy Wayne. Kathleen is taken with Kenneth, he is a nice handsome young man with a good sense of humor.
The next day, Kathleen runs into Kenneth while horse riding. She gets off her horse and goes for a bike ride with him into town for some tea. Eventually Kathleen tells Sir John she has been seeing Kenneth. The old man has a fit telling her that she is to never see Kenneth again. He tells her the story of why she is to no longer see him: fifty years prior Sir John was set to marry Moonyeen. They loved each other more than anything in the world but she had also been in love with Jeremy Wayne (March again). Jeremy was devastated that his love was marrying another man he could not bear it. He went to the church where the wedding was taking place with a gun in his hand meaning to shoot John but instead Moonyeen ran between John and the bullet and was shot. She died in Sir John’s arms. Sir John makes Kathleen promise never to see Kenneth again. She tells Kenneth, at first they say they are fine about the whole matter but they are clearly not.
Kenneth and Kathleen begin meeting in secret. He is to be sent to the front (the story takes place during WWI) suddenly and their time together is cut even shorter. The only way Kenneth can get more time is if they were to get married. They tell Sir John of their plan and he is obviously not very happy. He tells Kathleen that she will be cut off from everything if she goes with him. Kenneth takes this to heart and he does not want to see Kathleen cut off from everything while he is away. He tells her they will be married when he comes home. When the young couple has left Moonyeen appears to Sir John telling him that he must change his ways or he will never see her again.
Four years later the war is over. Kathleen in those four years has waited patiently for Kenneth to come home so they could be together again. She goes to the train station to look for him but he is not on the train. A night train comes in with wounded soldiers. Kenneth has been wounded in the legs and walks with crutches. Kathleen finds him at his father’s house and cries into his chest with relief that he is home and they can finally be together. Kenneth pushes Kathleen away because he does not want her to see him wounded. Kathleen goes back to Sir John in tears. He has learned that Kenneth was wounded and tells her so. Sir John tells her to go bring Kenneth back to the house where he can stay.
Before Kathleen and Kenneth can come back to the house Sir John dies and is reunited with Moonyeen after more than fifty years apart.
It sounds like mushy romantic melodrama but trust me the story is so excellent. I was not bored for one second of the whole film.
The acting by the three leads was fantastic. With Norma Shearer in most of her films has moments where she is good and then goes completely over the top or gets really annoying. Not once did I think Shearer went over the top or became annoying. Along with The Women this is Shearer’s best acted film without a doubt. Honestly the woman never acted better than in this film she was so wonderful and looked stunning in all her costumes. Fredric March fit perfectly in his role. With March you were not just watching an actor play the characters you were actually watching the characters as if they were real people and you felt terrible for them both. Leslie Howard I am not too much of a fan of he went over the top too much in his performances and his characters to me just always suck. No difference here but I have no complaints because he was good with Shearer and March.
Smilin’ Through was such a great film to sit through. I am very happy that TCM aired it not too long ago and I got to see it. I cannot understand why Smilin’ Through is not available on DVD when it was so popular when it was released in 1932 and was rereleased so many times. I can only hope that TCM airs the film again for those fans who missed it the first time and for the fans who have seen it already and want to see it again.