Jesse L. Lasky’s production for Fox, is unique through its ‘narratage’ style of cinematurgy. Its treatment has been consummately devel- oped by director William K. Howard and scenarist Preston Sturges. The four principal characters are performed by Spencer Tracy, who has never done better; Colleen Moore, whose come-back is distinguished; Ralph Morgan, ever-effective; and Helen Vinson, at her best.
Film starts with its ending – the ecclesiastic services for the dead. Showing the finale of the life span of your central character is something that is by no means easy to offset. And that’s where the ‘narratage’ comes in. Morgan is the narrator, detailing the highlights in the career of his friend (Tracy) who, even in death, is much maligned.
Morgan undertakes to show that Tracy, who fought his way up from an ignorant, unschooled trackwalker to the presidency of railroads, and a tycoon of industry, was not the bad egg everybody painted. He argues that his strike-breaking methods, which cost many railroad workers’ lives, had another element to it; that his turning out his first wife (Moore) in favor of Vinson might have had extenuating circumstances, etc.
It’s well done in every respect. Casting right down the line is punchy for performance. Howard’s direction is truly unique and distinguished. His favorite camera-man. James Wong Howe, manifests indubitable artistry.