(1950)4Craig ButlerModern audiences may have little or no knowledge of Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, the "Great Dissenter" of the Supreme Court who is the subject of The Magnificent Yankee. And it must be admitted that after watching the film, such viewers will know little more about Holmes the jurist than they did going in. This points up what is just about the only failing in this otherwise excellent biopic: Yankee picks as its subject a man whose fame rests upon the decisions he issued from the bench, then proceeds to generally ignore those decisions. Fortunately, this flaw, while it will inevitably irk historians, will not detract the general public from enjoying a smooth as silk story about a wise, intelligent, stubborn and crafty public figure, the love he shared with his understanding and equally wise wife and the joy they felt in educating a score and more of judicial protégés during their score and more years in Washington. The screenplay is adept and quite well constructed, creating leading roles that are an actor's dream. As the title character, Louis Calhern is a quiet marvel, stepping into Holmes' shoes as if he were born into them and filling the screen with a portrayal that is gently heroic. Ann Harding is his perfect foil, his counterpart in everything, and the chemistry between the two is irreplaceable. John Sturges' direction is not as muscular as it is in other efforts, but it is handsomely solid and perfectly in tune with the proceedings.