The Human Comedy (1943)

Genres - Drama  |   Sub-Genres - Americana, Family Drama  |   Release Date - Mar 2, 1943 (USA - Unknown)  |   Run Time - 118 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - NR
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Review by Craig Butler

The Human Comedy is a marvelous film, an achievement made all the more impressive by the fact that portions of it are unbearably, sometimes laughably corny. Many viewers will have a very difficult time with the incredibly optimistic, overly sentimental tone of much of the film, and for good reason. In William Saroyan's screenplay, there are virtually no characters who are not good at heart, and even those who occasionally behave poorly manage to have a change of heart after having their flaws gently pointed out to them. Yet Saroyan clearly believes in what he has written, and as a result, some of those sequences overflow with a transcendent humanity that makes them both heartwarming and heart wrenching. Clarence Brown is the perfect man to direct Comedy, seeming as he does to share Saroyan's sensibility down to a "T;" if he can't redress the tendency to over sentimentality, he also deserves partial credit for those moments that give the film its glorious glow. And he gives equal emphasis and strength to the film's tragic moments, providing a very necessary balance. Credit is also due to Mickey Rooney, giving arguably the finest performance of his career. He carries the film on his small but sturdy shoulders, always keeping in check his tendency toward overplaying and cuteness and is rock solid. Rooney is greatly aided by a supporting cast that is an embarrassment of riches, from Van Johnson and Donna Reed to Frank Morgan and James Craig. (Watch out for a lovely, giddily quirky turn from a young Barry Nelson.) For those willing to overlook its occasional excesses, Comedy is richly rewarding.