For Reel

The Next Voice You Hear… (1950)
August 9, 2016, 5:22 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: William A. Wellman
4 Stars
The Next Voice You Hear...The Next Voice You Hear… is a nicely condensed transitional film in the popular depictions of American domesticity. The bulk of the film involves a typical struggling family that one might see in a post-war drama—the father (James Whitmore) is intimidating to both wife (Nancy Davis) and son (Gary Gray), the wife is loving but beaten-down and disenchanted by her marriage, and the son struggles to navigate the waters of a crumbling household. Director William A. Wellman, responsible for some of the grittiest pictures of the 1930s in particular, is keen on representing the realism of the details—in one scene, a son mimics his dad’s anger issues to the bemusement of the mother. When the family’s routine is shocked by a voice announcing itself as God appearing on the radio, they spend days in denial before sinking into self-loathing, shame, and fear. If this is the end of the days, they think, what do we have to show for it? And how can we justify the ways that we live? If the film’s ultimate statement of purpose is a hugely moralizing sermon about loving thy neighbor, the picture is redeemed by its messiness—only in the very final moments does the film begin to wear its message thickly, instead favoring the confusion of the phenomenon throughout. Ending with the family reunited and all problems put aside, the picture seems to welcome in the classic image of Americana that would be reinforced in the coming decade through the increasing prevalence of television, the popularity of domestic the sitcoms, and the advertising industry. And yet, as false as this image seems and as eager as the film is to perpetrate it, The Next Voice You Hear… involves the sly satire that the only thing out of the slump of an unhappy household is divine intervention.

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