One of the finest films of the 1930s, this classic Samuel Goldwyn production was based upon the hit Broadway play written by Sidney Howard, which had in turn been adapted from the 1929 novel by Sinclair Lewis. Ahead of its... more » time in dramatizing the disintegration of a marriage, the story centers on the title character (superbly played by Walter Huston, who originated his role onstage), a wealthy automobile manufacturer whose wife (Ruth Chatterton, in her final American film role) desperately craves an aristocratic lifestyle in Europe. Dodsworth indulges her fancies to a degree, but their clashing desires--compounded by her affair with a European baron and his affection for a sympathetic widow (Mary Astor)--create further tension and mutual rancor. Dodsworth was perhaps the first Hollywood drama of the sound era that maturely addressed the complexity of a failing marriage and impending divorce, made especially compelling since Dodsworth is such an admirable and upstanding character who means well and upholds the ideal of marital commitment. Sharply directed by William Wyler, the film is as relevant today as it was when released in 1936.« less
"Actors build up their characters at very close perfection in this outstanding film, which deals with the conflicts of a middleaged married american couple in an european-second-honeymoon trip. One wonders how such a poignant, adult film, could be made under the strictures of the Production Code, which reigned supreme from 1934.The cast is uniformly flawless: Walter Huston, as industrialist Sam Dodsworth, gives one of the most sincere and unaffected performances ever achieved by an actor on the american screen (he deserved an Academy Award for this role); lovely and very pretty Mary Astor, in a most sympatthetic role, as an american widow living in Naples, Italy, who falls in love with Huston, realizing they're soulmates; Ruth Chatterton, as Fran Dodsworth, the self-centered, snobbish, selfish, spoiled, manipulative, unnerving & ultimately flirtatious wife of Huston, who cannot cope with growing old and ends looking down on her husband, hometown friends, way of life, etc....yearning for the "european"chic & sophisticated ways of its idle upper classes; Paul Lukas, as the suave, continental man who uses his charms on Chatterton; David Niven, as one of Chatterton's suitors; a very young John Payne, as the Dodsworths' son-in-law; and character actress Madame Maria Ouspenskaya, making her american debut, as the old baroness who spoils Chatterton's wedding plans to her much younger son Kurt (played by Gregory Gaye), who not only is an impoverished nobleman, but cannot make decisions of his very own!Samuel Goldwyn, the legendary and indomitable Hollywood producer, must be given the praise for making the decision to film such a delicate and sensitive movie, with an "A" class treatment, in spite of its lack of commercial punch for regular `30s moviegoers.Really one of the best Hollywood movies of all time, and a truly timeless 1930s classic. Buying this dvd has been one of the smartest investments of my adult life."
A movie for a desert isle....
Usonian33 | United States | 12/22/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"If I can only have one movie to take with me to that proverbial desert isle, I pick this one. The play between Walter Huston and Ruth Chatterton is really something to see...they gave the best performances of their careers here (and I love Chatterton in a little-known Pre-Code film called "Lilly Turner" which you should definitely seek out). The script VASTLY improves upon the book by Sinclair Lewis, and fleshes out the part of, to quote Chatterton, "that washed-out ex-patriate" played by Mary Astor. Praised in its day for its maturity and its sumptuous production, it is still an absolutely perfect film. The final 5 minutes show what an intense climax a director can create from a relatively tiny story."
A movie for adults--in the best sense of the term.
Miles D. Moore | Alexandria, VA USA | 09/14/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"It is a stinging indictment of today's Hollywood that a movie like Dodsworth probably couldn't get made today. In its emotional richness and complexity, it demands an audience that doesn't expect an explosion or a poopoo joke every ten seconds. Walter Huston gives one of the all-time great performances as Sam Dodsworth, a self-made millionaire who goes to Europe searching for his roots. Unfortunately, his neurotic wife Fran (Ruth Chatterton, an unjustly forgotten actress) goes with him searching for something else entirely, and the movie is largely about the suffering her emotional games-playing causes him. Add Mary Astor as an elegant American divorcee, Paul Lukas and David Niven as shady Europeans, and Maria Ouspenskaya as a wise old Austrian baroness, and you have a great cast giving life to a screenplay of uncommon literacy and wisdom. Dodsworth is a movie for people who are willing to pay attention, who don't want everything spelled out in huge letters, and who agree with F. Scott Fitzgerald that action is character."
Director William Wyler Scores Again
James L. | 07/31/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I was surprised by how honestly and maturely this film dealt with its subject matter of a marriage slowly falling apart. It's not what I expected to see coming from 1930's Hollywood. Walter Huston and Ruth Chatterton star as the Dodsworths, a wealthy American couple who go to Europe after his retirement, and while there, discover how little they have in common with each other, and how quickly they are growing apart. She is a vain woman who wants to regain her youth and live a glamourous life, while he is a practical man who wants meaning to his life. Huston is excellent as the conflicted husband, while Chatterton unsubtly tackles her unlikeable character with some success. Mary Astor is terrific (as always) as the woman that Dodsworth should be with. Dodswoth's pain at his disintegrating marriage and life is honestly portrayed, and the ending is very satisfying. This is a terrific film from start to finish, and audiences today will find it both relevant and accurate."
A GREAT FILM FROM 1936.
scotsladdie | 07/09/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This movie holds a special fascination for me. First off, the little-seen-on-video actress Ruth Chatterton does a superlative job as Fran Dodsworth, the hopelessly vain forty-something wife of a successful American IndustrialistI love the remark Mary Astor makes to Chatterton when Fran states to the younger Edith: "I hope I look as good as you do at your age" - "You're almost certain to, my dear" replies Mary.As Dodsworth himself, Walter Huston is amazing: a brilliantly effective performance, simple, unaffected -- basking in its realism.Mary Astor is wonderful as the true blue widow Edith Cortwright. Astor plays her role with a sincere confidence and her character is a nice contrast to the foolish Fran (Who gets more ridiculously affected and flirtatious as the film progresses)Apart from the great Maria Ouspenskaya - who has one telling scene - David Niven is merely adequate here and the other supporting players (John Payne, Spring Byington, etc.) aren't particularly memorable.But Huston, Chatterton and Astor carry the film aided by William Wyler's superb direction. And that lovely semi-sentimental musical theme heard throughout doesn't exactly mar the film, either.DODSWORTH is an uncommonly adult film for the 193O's (Nineteen thirties Hollywood, anyway!) And it's a joy to relish for those interested in fine vintage performances from three pros doing some of their finest work on screen."