review for The Howards of Virginia on AllMovie

The Howards of Virginia (1940)
by Craig Butler review

The movies have never produced a more talented leading man than Cary Grant, but as The Howards of Virginia regrettably demonstrates, not even Grant could do everything. This may imply that Grant is bad in Howards, but that's not necessarily the case: he's merely miscast. The audience is asked to accept that Grant is an unsophisticated, Revolutionary War era man of the people, but Grant's debonair quality still comes through. It's curious exactly why he can't keep this under control in Howards, for there are one or two other films in which he more convincingly portrays a man of simple means, but for whatever reason, it's beyond him here. That said, Grant's enormous charm is still present, so even though his performance is at odds with the character, it's still pleasant company. There's no problem with Martha Scott, who plays his soul mate as if she were born to the role, and Cedric Hardwicke is equally at home as her loyalist father. Unfortunately, Sidney Buchman's screenplay comes across as rather tired and requires the viewer to make an effort to follow it, and Frank LLoyd's merely okay direction doesn't help matters.