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A woman secretly suffering from kleptomania is hypnotized in an effort to cure her condition. Soon afterwards, she is found at the scene of a murder with no memory of how she got there and seemingly no way to prove her innocence.
Philadelphia in the summer of 1876 and lots of celebration to mark America's first hundred years. The Rogers family are visited by their aunt Zenia (Constance Bennerr), who brings with her a young Frenchman, Philippe Lascalles (Cornel Wilde), who is in charge of the French pavillon. Rogers family daughters, Julia (Jeanne Crain) and Edith (Linda Darnell), fall in love with Philippe, while their father, Jesse Rogers (Walter Brennan), tries to promote his inventions and hang onto his railroad job. With Zenia's help, he does both, while Julia wins the love of Philippe and Edith finally says yes to her devoted suitor Dr. Ben Phelps (William Eythe).Written by
Les Adams <email@example.com>
The film was a blatant attempt by 20th Century-Fox to duplicate the success of MGM's Meet Me in St. Louis (1944) and Fox's own State Fair (1945). Michael Kanin's screenplay appears to be a deliberate hybrid of the two earlier films. See more »
Glorious, enchanting, warm-hearted musical--Jerome Kern's last, haunting score.
If remembered at all, "Centennial Summer" is generally dismissed as 20th-Century-Fox's failed attempt to copy "Meet Me in St. Louis."
I'd like to set the record straight, and urge Fox to release this neglected treasure on VHS, DVD, cable-TV, whatever, so today's movie-lovers can savor one of the most endearing, original, lovingly crafted musicals ever made.
This lavish Technicolored production is indeed a visual knockout, but what truly matters is so much more than its dazzling visuals. Set against the 1876 Philadelphia Exposition, this exquisitely designed valentine to a bygone era focuses on a suburban middle-class family's troubles and turmoils, highlighted by Jerome Kern's final (and one of his finest) scores.
Jeanne Crain and Linda Darnell are the daughters of railroad/laborer aspiring/inventor Walter Brennan and his understanding wife, the lovely Dorothy Gish in one of her rare film appearances. Their humdrum lives are sparked by the arrival of a glamorous Parisian relative (the dazzling Constance Bennett)and a dashing young French man (Cornel Wilde) in charge of setting up his country's exhibition at the Centennial.
That's the plot, and it's a more-than-sufficient frame for a charming, low-keyed, often surprisingly moving dramatization of a family in crisis. Ms. Crain & Ms. Darnell are heartbreakingly beautiful as the sibling rivals in romance; Otto Preminger's direction is subtle and refreshingly modest; and though none of Kern's songs became hits, the underrated score includes some of the loveliest ballads ever written--Listen closely to the melodic "The Right Romance," "In Love in Vain" and "All Through the Day." "Up with the Lark" is as captivating, tuneful, brilliantly photographed and sung a showstopper as one could wish for. And the rousing "Railroad Song," plus an unexpected diversion "Cinderella Sue" (performed by Avon Long and several black children, sans one iota of the racial condescension typical of films of its era) are two more rousing highlights.
The cast is uniformly superb (Ms. Crain's plaintive beauty and heartfelt sincerity set the screen aglow; William Eythe, a talented, appealing actor whose life and career were tragically short, adds a special poignancy as Ms. Darnell's spurned suitor), the production design exquisite, and the screenplay (based on a long-forgotten novel) will touch you in ways you wouldn't expect from a movie musical.
"Centennial Summer" deserves stature as one of the finest musicals of all time. That few people have even heard of it, much less seen it, is sad indeed. It deserves to be revived, re-evaluated and cherished for the work of art it most certainly is.
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