Every Mother's Son (1918)

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While director Raoul Walsh's film was released after World War I, when audiences had grown tired of the subject, the way he approached it is notable. It's refreshingly devoid of propaganda and there are no cliched evil Prussians to be found. It's the simple tale of a mother (Charlotte Walker) who is afraid to let her boys go off to battle. Her eldest (Edwin Stanley) enlists and is reported missing the day after the middle son (Ray Howard) has left for Europe. When the middle boy is seriously wounded in action, the mother desperately clings to her youngest (Gareth Hughes), determined to keep him home. The father (Percy Standing) becomes disgusted when she spirits the youth off to their beach home to avoid the draft. The parents are arguing over this when refugees from a torpedoed ship are brought to town. They stay at the family's beach house and their suffering turns the mother around. Finally, she lets her last boy go. And her faith is rewarded: On Christmas all her sons return. The eldest, who was found, has been promoted to Captain and he brings home as a wife the French girl (Corone Paynter) who saved him from the Germans; the middle son comes back safe and sound, and the youngest receives a leave of absence for the holiday. This film could have been sickeningly saccharine, but, for the most part, Walsh's talent kept it grounded in a real emotional base.