Sunday, 26 October 2008

A Man to Remember (1938)

Until I received this year's programme for the London Film Festival I had never heard of this film, which was hardly surprising... Classified as a B-movie, produced by RKO, until recently it had never been shown since its original release in the late 1930s. Why? Well, mostly because it has a complicated story behind it. It was part of a set of 6 films given to producer Merian C. Cooper (of "King Kong" fame) as part of a dispute settlement. Later these 6 films got involved in further rights complications only sorted as a result of a request by a TCM viewer in the US (The full story can be found here). While the family of Merian C. Cooper had copies for 5 of the films, one was missing - "A Man to Remember". The only known copy belongs to the Dutch Film Museum - and despite the dutch subtitles and cards, it is the copy that has now been shown.

And Hurrah! for film preservation - this is indeed a wonderful film. It was scripted by Donald Trumbo and directed by Garson Kanin (more famous as a writer himself, especially for a number of Tracy/Hepburn films for director George Cukor). It doesn't have any famous actor, the leading man played the famous thin man in "The Thin Man", but there he's only onscreen for a couple of minutes. It also has an Olivia de Havilland lookalike as his adoptive daughter. The film tells the story of a small town doctor, starting with his funeral, and the immense respect that almost the whole town devotes to him. In a series of flashbacks we are told why. And he truly deserved it - and I must admit I shed a few tears.

Today's screening was at 11am, and if not for the change of the hour I might have missed it (and I can't do the next screening on Thursday). There was a very good introduction by a researcher from the Dutch archives and there about 15 people in the cinema. I hope the next screening is a bit fuller. As for me, I am truly glad that I went.

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