Brigham Young (1940)

Genres - Epic, Historical Film  |   Sub-Genres - Biopic [feature], Religious Drama  |   Release Date - Sep 27, 1940 (USA - Unknown)  |   Run Time - 114 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - NR
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An epic film that has sweep but not quite sufficient scope, Brigham Young is a moderately entertaining historical piece fairly effectively crossed with elements of the traditional western film. Perhaps most surprisingly, Young is fairly accurate in its historical details (though certainly not in all of them), which is quite rare for a Hollywood biography. It also manages to downplay a number of the more controversial issues associated with Mormonism and its founding, which works both to its advantage (by avoiding raising issues that might prejudice viewers against its characters) and its disadvantage (by robbing the characters of an extra dimension and avoiding potential new dramatic conflicts). The film also employs a "double thread" narrative, emphasizing two different plotlines. The more interesting of these is that involving the title character, as the secondary plot, involving Tyrone Power and Linda Darnell, is a bit pedestrian and predictable. As a result, the film lacks cohesion and loses impact through much of the middle and later sections. Fortunately, it has a strong cast with Dean Jagger especially good in the title role, providing the strength and force that the film needs. Also noteworthy is Vincent Price, turning in some of his finest work in the lesser role of founder Joseph Smith. Young's flaws keep it from being a great film, but it has many fine moments.