Credit for The Power and the Glory is usually assigned to its famous screenwriter, Preston Sturges, who based this story of an American tycoon’s rise and fall on the biography of C.W. Post, a breakfast food magnate to whom Sturges had been briefly related by marriage. Yet the film’s bold, flashback structure – so clearly influential on Orson Welles – has several precedents in Howard’s work, going back to his 1922 Deserted at the Altar.
More important, in its tenderness and concern for its flawed or damaged characters, its sense of lost happiness linked with an irrecoverable past and a present fraught with fear and regret, and supremely in its insistence on mercy and forgiveness as the highest human values, The Power and the Glory is of a whole with Howard’s deeply felt, almost painfully sensitive work.
As the railroad tycoon Tom Garner, Spencer Tracy has the first role of his film career to reveal his full range and power as an actor; as his wife, the great silent comedian Colleen Moore finds unexpected dramatic depths in what would prove to be one of her last starring roles. Rich in deep focus effects, the cinematography is again the work of James Wong Howe.
Granted that the so-called ‘narratage’ treatment of the film The Power and the Glory, which is now on exhibition at the Gaiety, is interesting as a novelty and eminently well suited to this particular story, it is a question whether it will prove as successful with other productions, except possibly, as one studio official pointed out, in the picturing of biographical stories. It assuredly will not revolutionize the producing of films, any more than did Eugene O’Neill’s Strange Interlude, with its spoken asides. This comment, however, is not intended to detract from the excellence of The Power and the Glory, for Jesse L. Lasky, the producer, has made it an emphatically compelling and stirring work. The original method of story development certainly enhances the value of this production. It lends to it strength and saves the narrative from any possible bromidic or stereotyped turns, which might have easily occurred in such a drama had it been filmed in the ordinary fashion. It also gives an opportunity for contrasting incidents, which would not have been possible in the usual chronological fashion of telling this story. In fact, Mr. Lasky is to be congratulated for his boldness in sponsoring such an idea, for anything new is welcome, even though it may not be destined to change the whole scheme of things in the talking picture studios.
Mordaunt Hall, “The New York Times”, August 27, 1933
Cast and Credits
Sog., Scen.: Preston Sturges. F.: James Wong Howe. M.: Paul Weatherwax. Scgf.: Max Parker. Int.: Spencer Tracy (Tom Garner), Colleen Moore (Sally Garner), Ralph Morgan (Henry), Helen Vinson (Eve Borden), Clifford Jones (Tom Garner Jr.), Henry Kolker (signor Borden), Sarah Padden (la moglie di Henry), J. Farrell MacDonald (Mulligan). Prod.: Jesse L. Lasky per Fox Film Corp. DCP 4K. D.: 80′
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Dave Kehr (MoMA)