Prefiguring Peyton Place (mark Robson, 1957by over a decade, and like that film based on a popular best-selling novel, King’s Row dissects a small, turn of the century American community through the eyes of young, idealistic medical student (Robert Cummings, surprisingly intense and convincing in the part). In the process, he discovers and confronts sadism (local surgeon Charles Coburn “punishes” certain patients who have incurred his moral disapproval through unnecessary butchery), madness, murder-suicide, and emotions that run high on both sides of the tracks.
One of the film’s major assets is Ann Sheridan as the spunky Irish girl from the wrong side of the tracks. Her characterization showcases her warmth and intelligence, and she makes the most of her emotionally demanding scenes with Ronald Reagan. Some of Warner’s best scene-stealers in the business are also prominent in the cast, among them Claude Rains as the tortured, ill-fated Dr Towers; Betty Field plays the mentally ill Cassie Towers whose fate determines the Cummings character to take up medicine. Charles Coburn contributes an atypically dark performance as the chilling surgeon who “punishes” Ronald Reagan for his “sins”, and Judith Anderson is genteelly complicit as Coburn’s wife. But best of all is Ronald Reagan, bland and opportunistic but crossing one too many psychotic doctors to end up leglessly shouting “Where's the rest of me?”
|Ann Sheridan, Robert Cummings, Ronald Reagan, Kings Row|