I’m trying a new style of reviews with this movie…We’ll see how it goes!
Happy 4th to you all! This (extremely hot) morning I woke up at 6:15 AM (CST) to watch The Howards of Virginia (1940) starring Cary Grant as Matt Howard and Martha Scott as his wife, Jane Peyton Howard. Directed by Frank Lloyd and lasting a grand total of one hour and fifty-four minutes (according to IMDb) here’s the synopsis:
Against the backdrop of the events leading up to the American Revolution, Matt Howard builds a fine plantation, Albemarle, in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia out of love for his wife, only to see it crumble under the strain of events and differences in their upbringing.
This cute fictional story about America’s founding brings in a few important historical figures to, perhaps, make it more believable. The cast of historical characters include: a young Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, John Walker, and Patrick Henry. Matt Howard, a form of “white trash,” as Jane first refers to him as, slowly climbs up the ladder of respect within the movie, first by destroying social boundaries by marrying Ms. Peyton, a high-class lady.
Though not the best movie I’ve ever seen, it was still enjoyable to watch. Gowns were designed by Irene Saltern. Though I thought sometimes the skirt of the more formal gowns looked a little flat, here are some pictures of the costumes:
High social class vs. "white trash"
I read that Grant believed he was miscast in the part, and I can almost whole-heartedly agree. Seeing him first walk in wearing buckskins did not fit anything I’ve ever seen him in, or ever imagined him wearing. He almost made the movie awkward; everyone else seemed to fit in, for the most part. Another thing that got under my skin was the fact that Matt Howard yelled almost all of his lines. I get it’s part of his character, but several times I found myself telling him to quiet down because he was being a disturbance.
However, every place the story was set looked completely genuine. The Howards go out to Albemarle and end up creating and building a beautiful plantation, starting from a measly log cabin. Strangely enough, thinking back this reminds me of The Unsinkable Molly Brown and how they went from a shabby cabin with plans to expand and renovate to an expansive mansion. On top of that, both men (in these two movies) seem to have trouble accepting their new social status, while their wives are born with said status (The Howards…) or have eagerly accepted it (Molly Brown).
But beyond production details, this story also focuses on the…hardships and stubbornness of the family. Being thrust into a lower social class put Jane into an entirely different situation and Matt was not always the best at making her feel more at home. While probably trying to do what he thought was best, Matt was almost always too stubborn to change his ways and this resulted in several disputes. The need to fight for the colonies, combined with his stubbornness, forced Jane to move herself and their three children (one of whom was portrayed by Rita Quigley, sister to child star Juanita Quigley) to live back at her own home and split from Matt. Luckily for them and all other intensely-involved audience members, the couple agrees to get back together at the end.
All in all, this wasn’t a too shabby movie. I’m not sure if I would watch it again, but I would recommend it to anyone wanting to see a movie focusing on families during the founding of America. I’d give it a 3 out of 5, at best.
Synopsis from Wikipedia
Pictures from Google