Good Film Adaption of one of the Classic 19th Century Americ
"Tee" | LA | 03/27/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)
"The four stars are for the movie, not the film print of this DVD which has numerous scratches, sound drop-outs, jumps from repaired film, etc. - "good" is about as good as the print quality can be described. The movie, on the other hand, is an excellent little period drama with a fine cast. HOOSIER SCHOOLMASTER was a 1871 book by Edward Eggleston that instantly became a beloved favorite in America and remained so for many decades yet sadly it's reputation was already on the wane when this movie came out in 1935 and in another decade or so had finally slipped out of print and became one of those "literary classics" that ultimately lost their enduring fame and appeal.
Norman Foster stars as an ex-union solider who decides to pursue a new career as a schoolteacher in Indiana once the war is over. He finds a position and has much better luck adapting to life in the town than his solider buddies who have come to town in pursuit of the promised free land only to be told there is none available. The veterans discover some local crooked businessmen have stolen the land and engage Foster's assistance in contacting government officials.
This 66 minute movie is one of the best Monogram films I've ever seen, thanks to the unusually solid story via the book and a superior cast for a "poverty row" movie. Norman Foster was a promising leading man of the early 1930's who worked with many of the hot new female stars of the day including his then-wife Claudette Colbert, specializing in playing the fairly handsome but weak-willed no account. In HOOSIER SCHOOLMASTER, he is equally fine playing a honorable, idealistic young man who when he learns his best (albeit over-aged) student Fred Kohler Jr. shares his romantic interest in Charlotte Henry virtuously steps aside. Actor Kohler played little more than small parts and extra work in a long career going into the 1970's but he shines here as the handsome loudmouth hunk who underneath that bluff wants to learn and have a future. Charlotte Henry, best known for playing the lead in the 1933 ALICE IN WONDERLAND, does very well as does Tommy Bupp as her kid brother. An obscure actress named Dorothy Libaire is fun as a local girl in rather obvious pursuit of Foster.
SNOW WHITE AND THE SEVEN DWARVES fans might want to check this out to see Otis Harlan (the voice of "Happy") in one of his larger film roles, seeming almost like a living duplicate of his famous cartoon creation albeit a shady character addicted to 90 percent alcohol "cough syrup" but the real surprise is an atypical George Hayes, (later known as "Gabby Hayes" in countless Roy Rogers' westerns) albeit already speaking in his famous eccentric drawl, as Foster's best buddy from the war. Wallace Reid Jr. on the other hand receives similiar billing yet has a part that is little more than an extra.
HOOSIER SCHOOLMASTER is a classic bit of Americana in the tradition of LITTLE WOMEN and THE ADVENTURES OF HUCKLEBERRY FINN and while of course not as superb a story as those two legendary tales, it certainly deserves to be better remembered."
Light And Sometimes Bright, But Too Often Turns Its Back Tow
rsoonsa | Lake Isabella, California | 04/22/2007
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Edward Eggleston's novel, an American literary staple widely read well into the 1950s, was filmed three times, this production being the final attempt, a Monogram Pictures venture typical of that corporation's provincial subject matter prior to its being assimilated by Republic Pictures. The rendering here of the original is that wherein its narrative most clearly develops along lines distinct from Eggleston's work, often barely remaining within the Indiana author's figuration. Ralph Hartsook (Norman Foster), a Union Army soldier, is mustered out of service in Virginia at the termination of the War Between the States, and he with a large group of other freshly discharged Northern troops, while still in uniform, trod wearily into southern Indiana in search of alleged land grant opportunities for veterans of which they have been told are based in that State, only to be unpleasantly greeted by residents of the Confederacy supporting region. Ralph, however, utilizes a specific strategy in order to remain within the backwoods area and obtain farm acreage of his own, as he applies for a position as the regional schoolmaster, thereby hoping additionally to persuade a pretty indentured, or "bound" girl, Hannah Thompson (Charlotte Henry) to be his wife. Ralph's native ingenuity serves him well, but after he determines that a trio of prominent community leaders is fraudulently obtaining land grant funds solely for their personal use, his efforts to expose the scoundrels to public scrutiny costs him his personal safety and perhaps a good deal more. In order to infuse the scenario of this melodrama with added romantic appeal, injudicious alterations have been made to the source novel, including a transformation of Mirandy, sister of Jack Means (Jake here) into his daughter Martha (Dorothy Libaire), and mutating a false accusation of theft against Ralph so as to form his primary difficulty, into a failure to win first prize at a spelling bee! Although the film is somewhat shapeless, Foster is in top form, up to his established stage-trained standard, while Libaire is particularly effective creating a coquettish Martha. Alpha Video has provided a service through its reissue of this scarce piece; however, it is probably the worst of its recent releases in quality, marred by continual skips and jumps, along with plethoric elisions.