Playwright Eugene O'Neill's only comedy, Ah, Wilderness! was filmed by MGM in 1935. Impressionable turn-of-the-century lad Eric Linden, whose knowledge of the ways of the world has come from French novels, is anxious to taste life to the fullest. Linden's father Lionel Barrymore sternly advises the boy to be good and be careful, while Barrymore's shiftless, bibulous brother-in-law Wallace Beery (replacing MGM's first choice, W.C. FIELDS) encourages Linden to get out, get drunk and get...you know what. After a frightening encounter with lady of the evening Helen Flint (a surprisingly frank characterization for a Production Code film), Linden runs home, nursing a monster hangover the next day. The boy eventually accepts the sedate affections of his childhood sweetheart Jean Parker, while a chastened Beery promises to mend his ways--and Barrymore decides to be more of a father and less of an autocrat to his son. Ah, Wilderness would be musicalized (and bowdlerized) by MGM as the 1947 film Summer Holiday.
by Hal Erickson synopsis