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February 15, 1947

developed when he ,worked with The


Group; some undoubtedly goes to an
excellent cast, in which the long-experienced Beth Merrill gives a perform ante as the half-insane but desperately
ruthless mother which is, rather sur;prisingIy perhaps, equaIed by that of
the radio actor Ed Begley as the dis; honest manufacturer. But there must be
something unusually genuine in the
writing, also.
All this is not to say that All My
6ons is perfect. For one I thing, the
neat pIot is almost too neat. The pieces
fit together with the artificial, interlockI ing perfection of a jig-saw puzzle, and
toward the- end one begins to feel a
little uncomfortable to find all the im,,plicit ironies so patly illustrated and
/ poetic justice working with such me: chanical perfection. For another, Mr.
j Miller seems rather unnecessarily careful to express explicitly his warm
respect for all the leftist pieties. Sometimes this leads him to work in sweep
ing but rather dubious generalizations,
as it does, for instance, when he permits one of his characters to explain
that anyone who made war profits is,
in some manner not made quite clear,
just as guilty as those who deliberately
made defective equipment. Worse than
this, he seems unaware of one fundamental incompatibility between the logic
of his story and the logic of his doc;trine. The play jis a play about persona1
guilt and -personal atonement; and it is
difficult to see how either can have
any meaning if, as the author seems
anxious elsewhere to proclaim, men are
not what they make themselves but
what the system makes them. It is,
one is bound to. conclude, rather a pity
that Mr. Millers intellectual convictions
are so much more stereotyped than his
dramatic imagination, but it is also only
fair to add that these blemishes are .for
the most part pretty much on the surface. In any event, those theatergoers
who have got in the habit of assuming
that leftist pIays can be interesting onIy
to ,those who have sternly disciplined
themselves to a point where they are interested in whatever they think they
ought to be interested in can get a
pleasant surprise at All My Sons.
INtTRUCTOWS!
Take Adrahtage

of The Naiioas

SPEiCL4L CLASS-ROOM RATE


%6Bc WIZlontlaay Per StiEndewrP
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193

makes choices, usually for the good and


to his own material.disadvantage; but it
is also shown that the whole community
depends on his example and on his de,fense of the heipless.
Yet at its best, which is usua.IIy inextricable with its worst, I feel that this
movie ,is a very taking -sermon about the
feasibility of a kind of Christian semisocialism, a society. founded on atfection, kindliness, and trust, and that its
chief mistake or sin-an enormous one
+s its refusal to face the fact that evil
is intrinsic in each individual, and that _
no man may deliver his brother, or
make agreement unto God for him. It
interests me, by the way, that in repre.
senting a twentieth-century American
town Frank Capra uses so little of the
twentieth and idealizes so much that
seems essentially nineteenth-century, or
prior anyhow to the First World War,
which really ended that century. Many
small towns are, to be sure, backward
in that generally more likable way, but
I have never seen one so Norman-Rockwellish as all that. Capras villainous . capitalist-excellently
played, in
harsh Mack and white, by Lionel Barrymore-is a hundred per cent Charles
Dickens. His New Capitalist-equally
well played by Frank Albertson, in
f
fashionable grays-makes his fortune,
appropriately, in plastics, is a blithe,
tough, harmIess fellow, and cables the
.hero a huge check, when it is most
needed, purely out of the goodness of
his heart. Like Stewart, he is obviously
the salt of the earth. Some day I hope to
meet him.
I am occasionally mystified why the
Catholic church, which is so sensitive to
the not very grave danger to anybodys
soul of wabching Jennifer Jones trying
to be a sex actress-roughly
the
equivalent of the rich man worming
around in the needles eye, or Archbishop Spellman as Christs Best Mannever raises an eyebrow, let alone hell,
over the kinds of heresy and of deceit
of the soul which are so abundant in

TS A Wonderful Life is a movie


about a local boy who stays local,
doesnt make good, and becomes at
length so unhappy that he wishes he
ha< never been born. At this point an
angel named .Clarence .shows him what
his family, friends, and town would
I have been like if he hadnt been. As I
mentioned several weeks ago, this story
is somewhere near as effective, of its
kind, as A Christmas Carol. In par-,
titular, the hero is extravagantly well
played by James Stewart. But as I also
mentioned, I had my misgivings. These
have increased with time.
One -important function of good art
* or entertainment is to unite and illuminate the heart and the mind, to cause
each to learn from, and to enhance, the
experience of the other. Bad art and
entertainment misinform and disunite
them. Much too often this movie appeals to the heart at the expense of the
mind, at other times it urgently demands of the heart that it treat with
contempt the minds efforts to keep its
integrity; at still other times the heart
is simply used, on the mind, as a
truncheon. The movie does all this so
proficiently, and with so much genuine
warmth, that I wasnt able to get reasonably straight about it for quite a prhile.
I still think it has a good deal of charm
and quality, enough natural talent involved in it to make ten pictures ten
times as good, and terrific vitality or,
rather, vigor-for
much of the vitality
seems cooked-up and applied rather
than innate. (The high-school dance
floor coming apart over a swimming
pool is a sample of cooking-up that no
movie has beaten for a long time.) But
I mistrust, for instance, any work which
tries to persuade me-or rather, which
assumesthat I assume-that there is so
much good in nearly all the worst of us
that all it needs is a proper chance and
example, to take complete control. I
mistrust even more deeply the assumpEducational
programs clre most
tion, so comfortably stylish these days,
effective
when au
that whether people turn out well or ill
depends overwhelmingly on outside circumstancesand scarcely if at all on their
own moral intelligence and courage.
cent intercultural, social and enterNeither idea is explicit. in this movie,
taining releases. Consult us at no
but the whole story depends on the
obligation for your next program.
strong implication and assumption of u
Easy on the budget rates.
both. Stewart, to be sure, is shown as an
115 WEST 44th STREET
I
New York City
_
exce$ionaI man-that is, as. a man
often faced with moral alternatives who
s*mm~wuBliinmti

294

The NATION

Columbia Bas issued a new recording into as superb a ~msisian2s he is B


of Strausss Tod und Vaedcklkung by violinist.
Jacques Abr+s perfarmances of the
thePhrkdelphia
Orchestra underQrmandy (et 613; $ 3 . 8 5 ) . The perform- Chopm waltzes he has recorded for
ance 1s good, and is well-reproduced by Muslcrafr (Set 7 6 ; $3.85) havent any
the records, except for wooden-sounding of the relaxed grace and plasticity which
kettledrum-beats and poor balances that the pieces call for, but are, instead, hecobscure solo instnunents QII the first tic and tense, with extravagances and
side, and a leveled-off dimax on the last violences that impress me as utterly capricious, wilful, and perverse. The
side. I t is certainly to be preferredto
the
lurid
Stakwski
performances, sound of his piano 1s excelIently reproespecially the m e that is atrociously re- duced, but with distorticm in same of
the fortisslmas; and h e r e axe also some
corded m the alder Columbia- set.
Brahrnss Pram Concesto No. 1 has sides with noisy surfaces and same with
been recorded for Columbia by Serkin wavering pitch.
with the Pittsburgh Symphony under
Twelve- of the songs af FaurE that
Reiner (Set 652; $6.85); and 1 have were sung by Isabel French and Olymforced myself to listen to a few sides in pia & NapoLi in the Earn& Festival at
order to report to those who love this Harvard University in 1945 have been
dreadful work as I once did that the recorded for Technichord by the Same
performance is good but is poorly re- singers with piano accompaniments by
corded-with its sound dulled and con- Paul Daguereau (Set T-7:3 vinylite
fused by the poor balance of piano bass records; $7.93). Reheaeirrg the songs I
with treble and of piana witkarchestra. find them no more interestingthan I
Victor has issued a volume of folk did then; and their sameness of style is
unrelieved by the unvarying-though
songs and ballads sung by SusanReed
(Set 1036; $3), who is charming when agreeable-coIar of the voices that
she sings simply, but who often sings are used with musical intelligence and
taste. The performances are weheproHE people all over the country who artily.
Vox has issued a pre-war Polydor duced; the vinylite records have occaBeard MarianAnderson
on the
Telephone Hour In January-who, that recording of Busanis arrangement of sional noisy defects which are more
is, heard how fresh and brg and beau- the D mmor Concerto of Bach, played noticeable because- af their quiet at other
tihl her volce sounded at close-micro- by Alexander Borovsky with the La- times. The French texts and English
phone range-had
no idea of how dif- rnoureux Orchestra under Bigot (Set translations are provided; and there are
dis- again instructians forthe care of the
ferent it had sounded the night before 162; $4.05). I havelearnedto
approve of Busonis amplification of records that still pernita pickup weight
in Carneggle Hall. If I hadlefther
recital a t the intermission I would have Bachs writing, and advise anyone who up to two ounces.when they should
carried away an impression of great de- is interested m this concerto, m e of forbid anything over one ounce; -and
that warn against dust without menteriorationfrom her singing of Bach, Baichs greated i n s m . e n t a l workqto
Schubert, and a Tchaikovsky operatic acquire either the original clavier ver- tioning that it has to be cleaned aut of
aria, which had been lrfeless successions sion recorded by F isher ot the violin the grooves of red vinylite records with
version recorded by Szigeti. Boravskfs a soft brush beyare each playing.
of tones that had lacked theirformer
lustrous beauty and power, had been playing is straightforward; and the per8fflicted with a strong vlbrato, and occa- formance is clearly reproduced.
Another Vox set (617; $2.93) offers
sionally had even sagged in pitch. Only
CONTRIBUTORS
with the French songs afterthe inter- Debussys Ponr le piano: Prelude,
mission did the stnglng begin to gain in Sarabande, and Toccata, performed by
rtnimatmn, the voice in warmth and Gaby Casadesus. 1 enjoy the effective SIDNEY HOOK, head of the departvolume-until
inthe
aria from De- writing for the piano in the Prelude ment of philosophy at New York Unibussys LEnfant prodiguethere was and Toccatzi, but dont care or the Sa- versity, is the author of The Hero in
Education for Modern
something hke the exciting vocal sound rabande; I also like Mme. Casadesuss Historyand
more spiritedplaying better than her Man.
and intensity of former occasions.
On the Telephone Hour Miss An- husbands; and the sound of her piano
derson
sang
Brahmss Sapphische is well reproduced, but there is leveling DAVID T. BAZELON is a frequent
Ode, a splritud,andan
aria from uff and limiting of volume at some of contributor tQ The N d o n .
Massenets Herodiade-which
the the climaxes, and loss of volume also at
producers of the program seem to have the ends of sides, and the surfaces are HARRY M. JOHNSON is assistant
professor of socioIogy at Simmons Colconsidered so staggering a burden to poor.
&e rzdio audience that even after playStill another Vox set (614; $4.05) lege.
ing a dame from Delibess Coppelia offers a number of piecesby Paganini
and a little piece by Tchaikovsky the which are occasions for violin-playing RUSTEMVAMBERY, former professor
orchestra had to show that music alsu by Ruggiero- Riccl that is breath-taking of criminal lax and &minology at the
can relax by playing Robert Russell in its technical brdliance and its vitality. University of Budapest, has written
Bennetts variat~onson My Bonnie Lies When Ricci records some better music extensively on the pmblems of the
Over the Ocean.
we wlll know whether he has developed Balkans.

films of this sort-to say nothing of the


ideas given, in such films, of the life
after death. Fortunately, I dont have
to wait for ecclesiastical permission to
say that I am getting beyond further endurance sick and tired of angels named
Clarence, Mike, et cetera; I am not even
sure I tuant any furthertrnck with
Israfel. These John Q. Public, commonman insults against the very nature of
the democratic spirit are bad enough,
applied to the living. If the after-life is
just a sort of St. Petersburg oveuun by
these retired Good Joes,- taking steam
baths in nebulae, saakhing themselves
with stars, andforeverand ever assurin g themselves and Almighty God that
they are every bit ?s good as He is and
a damn sight more homey and regular,
then heaven, so far as Im concerned,
can wait indefinitely.