Since legendary and iconic director John Ford considers The Sun Shines Bright to be one of his personal favorites of his own movies, one approaches it with high expectations. Unfortunately, despite Ford's expert work and the admirable leading performance of Charles Winninger, modern viewers are likely to wonder at just why Ford ranks it so high in his list. The problem, as you may have guessed, lies primarily with the screenplay which is mawkish and overly sentimental, as well as often too predictable. Worse for latter day viewers, the film indulges in some racial stereotyping that is patently offensive. Still, Bright does have Ford at the helm, and his love for the film and for the simple-but-wise judge that is its lead comes through quite powerfully. Ford' incredible skill also comes through, albeit in spurts. He gives in to the sentimentality a bit too much, but he also knows the most powerful way to frame a shot and just how to pull forth a reaction when he wants it. And the funeral sequence is stunningly realized. The film also benefits from Winninger's jim-dandy performance, the glue that holds the picture together. His natural warmth is there, of course, but he finds layers and nuances to the man that are a tremendous help in getting the film over its rough spots. Adding together the film's pluses and minuses, the result comes across ahead, if not the meaningful work it was to its creator.
by Craig Butler review