Friday, April 6, 2012

¡Scudda Hoo! Scudda Hay! (1948)

June Haver, Lon McCallister, Walter Brennan, Anne Revere, Natalie Wood, Robert Karnes, Henry Hull, Marilyn Monroe  Girl in Canoe (uncredited)

June Haver, Natalie Wood and Marilyn Monroe


George Agnew Chamberlain's book about determined farm boy in rural small town America training two prize-winning mules to drive; pretty soon, he and the two stubborn creatures are hauling out logs from the forest and making fifteen dollars a day, which irks the man he bought them from as well as his own evil step-brother. Director F. Hugh Herbert, who also adapted the screenplay, does a terrific job setting the mood of the piece--frisky but also angst-ridden. Lon McCallister is the polite juvenile battling with his father's crude wife and her son for his dad's respect, later butting heads with farmer Tom Tully (in a convincingly angry, blow-hard performance). Although this is ostensibly a simple tale of a boy's love for two mules, there's a lot of busy melodrama going on. The scenario isn't overly-folksy, and the villains (including Anne Revere, in her least-sympathetic role ever) are surprisingly effective. The romance sub-plot between Tully's blonde, beautiful daughter June Haver and skinny McCallister doesn't quite work as well (she seems a bit out of his league); thankfully, little Natalie Wood is around a lot, spying on her neighbors and getting all the juicy gossip. Good contract-picture from Fox has an undeserved poor reputation (with its title causing most of the derision), but I was entertained from start to finish. Look fast for Marilyn Monroe as 'Betty' on the church steps

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