For Reel

Mary Jane’s Pa (1935)
March 27, 2015, 10:16 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: William Keighley
3.5 Stars
Mary Jane's PaCharacter actors Aline MacMahon and Guy Kibbee would star together in a total of ten films after their memorable pairing in Gold Diggers of 1933. They were often utilized in domestic comedies that showcased the plights that parents went through in the domestic setting, particularly regarding the ungratefulness of children and the increasing lovelessness of a long marriage. Mary Jane’s Pa is very much about bandaging a ravaged nuclear family, but it also has a terrific romantic core. Kibbee plays a newspaperman with a severe case of wanderlust and, in the opening scene, he abandons his wife and children for a life on the road. A decade later, he returns and eventually finds his way back into the house as a cook, desperately trying to win back the good graces of his family. It’s one of Kibbee’s finest performances of the period–he’s not saddled with the usual task of playing a blowhard, rather he gets to play a deeply flawed, but ultimately sympathetic man. The opening sequence, involving MacMahon discovering that her husband has left her, is hugely effective. She plays it as more of an inevitability than a shock, but that doesn’t make it hurt any less. The frequency of the train whistle on the soundtrack seems to taunt her, a brutal reminder of her husband’s desertion.

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