Thursday, July 5, 2012

"Four Daughters" 1938: Reviewed

Last night I decided that Priscilla Lane was pretty.  Well, no; I take that back.  Miss Lane is gorgeous--so gorgeous I deemed her Myrna Loy gorgeous.  (I assume we’ve all seen Myrna, so you know that’s saying something.)  And so that's what drove me to watch “Four Daughters” last night.  Before I go on, I want to point something out: when I watch a movie on this site, I normally have 3 tabs up.  The 1st tab is, of course, the movie.  The 2nd is its Wikipedia page.  And the 3rd (which I pull up after I finish the picture) would be the IMDb page.  Anyway—According to Wiki, “Four Daughters” is a musical drama.  I slightly disagree with this.  I would not say this movie is a musical (so musical-haters, you’re all set), although it does have a few songs here and there.  It stars 3 of the 4 Lane sisters: Lola Lane, Rosemary Lane, and Priscilla Lane.  The 4th, Leota, did audition for a role in this film but did not make the cut.  She was instead replaced with Gale Page.  Combined, these four make the four daughters, the movie’s namesake.  Alongside them are Claude Rains, Jeffrey Lynn, John Garfield, Dick Foran, Frank McHugh, and May Robson.  Four Daughters was nominated for 5 Academy Awards but did not receive any.
“Four Daughters” opens with the opening credits (as is customary) over bits of video of the four daughters.  Funny side note—as they announce the actresses for the four daughters you see: Priscilla Lane, Rosemary Lane, Lola Lane, and Gale Page.  Cut to a lovely looking house from which lovely signing and instrument playing is coming from.  See, the Lemp family is very musically talented.  Ann Lemp (Priscilla) plays the violin and is the youngest.   Kay Lemp (Rosemary) is the singer and guitarist in the group and 3rd to be born.  Thea (Lola) plays the piano and is second older, and Emma (Page) is a harpist and the oldest of the four.  Their father is Adam Lemp (Rains) and we are inclined to think that he, too, is a musical prodigy who conducts and plays a flute-looking instrument.  He much prefers classical music over modern swing, unlike his daughters.  After an angry outburst about his daughters’ musical talents he heads downtown to ‘remove his name from his daughters’ birth certificates.’  His sister, Aunt Etta (Robson), accuses him of purposely getting angry for the pampering he gets from his daughters, receiving laughs from the four.  We then meet our first love interest for one of the girls—Ernest Talbot (Foran)—who has come to deliver flowers to both Emma (his crush) and Thea.  We then learn that Thea has met a wealthy man by the name of Ben Crowley (McHugh) who has invited her out to a country club dance that evening.  Ernest bids the girls farewell and we soon find them scampering around up stairs preparing Thea for her date.  Thea, wearing Emma’s slip and Ann’s scarf, refuses her sisters’ requests to meet her date (“What?  And have him wonder why he picked me?") and heads out.  We find the girls in the kitchen a few nights later preparing dinner for the family and Ben.  After an awkward silence, everyone is seated at the table and ready to eat, only to discover that Ann never lit the oven under the duck for that night’s meal.  A few nights later the girls learn that Thea is engaged to Ben!  Hurrah!  Ann and Emma decide they'll grow old together and have a pet cat since neither of them have any love interests.  The next day Ann is practicing her violin when she hears squeaking noises.  She at first thinks it's her playing and starts her scales over.  But she soon discovers it's their fence gate being swung on.  We now meet Felix Deitz (Lynn) who declares, after a short swinging lesson from Ann, he'll be joining them for dinner as soon as he speaks with Daddy Lemp.  Sure enough, Adam and Felix show up together later that night and, after some quick introductions, it's announced he's been offered a job at Adam’s job and will be boarding with the Lemps.  He's invited along to the family picnic and it's clear all the girls are a little in love with him.  But Felix only has eyes for Ann and declares it by giving her a charm bracelet while on a grocery run.  Later, Felix is working on composing a composition for a competition with a grand prize of $1000.  This is where we next meet Mickey Borden (Garfield), a poor, pessimistic man who hasn’t had much luck in life.  Aunt Etta and Ann declare him impossible, but Ann starts in on improving his look on life and lightening his mood altogether.  They take him in.  When decorating ginger bread cookies around Christmas time, Mickey gives Ann a nice peck on the cheek.
"I don’t want you to think that was a spur of the moment kiss.  I planned it for a week."
**Spoilers** A couple hours later we catch Ann getting ready to go home after buying presents for Christmas and Daddy Lemp’s birthday.  Felix catches up with her, and on the walk home he proposes; Ann accepts.  The news is announced later that night, much to the obvious discontent of Emma and Mickey.  Emma goes off into the kitchen to get more coffee, but we find her crying.  Ann soon finds her too and they have a short heart-to-heart talk.  On the day of Ann and Felix’s wedding, Mickey reveals to Ann that not only does he love her, but Emma loves Felix.  This makes Ann feel very guilty, and she ends up marrying Mickey so Emma can have Felix all to herself.  Four months later, Thea is married and everyone but Kay is gathering for Christmas.  Kay is instead singing on the radio and they all tune in to hear.  Felix then excuses himself to leave for the train station because he won the composition competition and is going to be in an orchestra.  Mickey offers to drive Felix to the station and they have a short talk on the drive up.  Before leaving, Felix gives Mickey some money to support him and Ann.  On the drive back, Mickey is clearly distraught and is seen driving faster and faster down the road.  The scene switches back to the house and we hear Thea scream.  Ben has been in an accident!  Everyone rushes to the hospital, only to find that Mickey was the one who was in the accident; he was driving Ben’s car.  The accident is fatal and he leaves behind a crying Ann.  However, in the end, Ann and Felix are once again reunited on their swinging gate.
This movie has a few funny quotes and lines, which I tried to put into this review.  Five stars; I highly recommend it.  And if you’re feeling enticed, go out and buy the book; it's called "Sister Act," by Fannie Hurst.  Also, this movie has 3 sequels: “Daughters Courageous,” “Four Wives,” and “Four Mothers,” all of which are coming out July 1st in a 4-disc pack at Barnes and Noble.  If you're looking for some teaser clips, under the 'Tributes' section, David used some bits from this movie in 'Classic Stars--In Memoriam,' 'Classic Heartbreaks,' and 'My Love For You Goes On and On.'


  1. I haven't seen any of the films in this series, but I have seen the remake of "Four Daughters", "Young at Heart" (1954) with Frank Sinatra and Doris Day. I highly enjoyed it; and it's really good. If you haven't already seen it, I recommend that you do.

    1. David at least used to have Four Daughters up and working on the site. I think the fiasco around Christmas shut it down, though. I own all 4 of these movies on DVD. And I have not seen the remake, but I will have it put it on my list! Thanks!