Sunday, October 4, 2009

Song O My Heart (Frank Borzage) ***1/2

Director: Frank Borzage

Cast: John McCormack, Maureen O' Sullivan, Tommy Clifford, Alice Joyce, John Garrick, JM Kerrigan, J. Farrell McDonald

Background: Borzage was well known for directing romantic melodramas. McCormack was a world renowned Irish singer who performed in many operas and recorded several hit records, including the WW1 ballad "It's a Long Way to Tipperary". This was Maureen O' Sullivan's film debut.

Story: Sean (McCormack) is a well known singer who has retired to a small village near the woman he always loved (Joyce). She was forced to marry someone else, but he has left her and her children alone. Sean becomes somewhat of a father figure to her two children, and makes a career comeback at her urging.

Thoughts: This is a criminally underrated Borzage film that features a splendid performance from John McCormack. Despite not being an actor, McCormack gives a more polished performance than most other actors at the beginning of the sound era. His line delivery is fluid and he has the perfect look of a man who's experienced alot of sadness in his life. Of course, much of the movie consists of McCormack singing, but that's not a complaint because he's incredible to hear, his wonderful voice punctuating some powerful songs that are a perfect fit for Borzage's romantic melodrama. It's actually surprising that the main romance is between two supporting players and is only mildly interesting, despite a solid early turn by Maureen O' Sullivan. My favorite supporting characters are two charming old men (Kerrigan, McDonald) from the village who show up throughout the movie, sometimes commenting on the events and often getting into amusing spats. The film does feel a bit lighter than what you usually get from Borzage, but the sad, regretful nature of McCormack's character is right up his alley.

Postscript: This would be the only film John McCormack would make. Maureen O' Sullivan would quickly become a star, playing Jane in several Tarzan films in the 30s. Her successful acting career would last for another 50 years.

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