The film version of Thornton Wilder’s Pulitzer prize play Our Town is an artistic offering, utilizing the simple and philosophical form of the stage piece, excellently written, directed, acted and mounted.
The film version retains the story and essentials of the play. Developed at a deliberately slow tempo, the simple and unhurried life of a rural New England village of 2,200 souls is unfolded without attempt to point up dramatic highlights.
The tale is divided into three periods, 1901, 1904, and 1913. It’s a plain and homey exposition of life, romance, marriage and death in the New Hampshire town. More explicitly, it concerns the intimacies of two families, the adolescent and matured romance and married life of a boy and girl. Tragic ending of the play is switched for picture purposes, the girl taking a nightmare excursion through the village graveyard and visions of death while going through childbirth. The ethereal expedition, running about five minutes, is the one false note in the picture.
Lesser drew heavily on the original stage cast for the film version. Martha Scott delivers a sincerely warm portrayal as the girl, displaying a wealth of ability and personality. In addition, Arthur Allen and Doro Merande are from the stage group in their original roles, Allen particularly effective in his brief professor appearance describing the geographic structure of the countryside.
William Holden is fine as the boy; Fay Bainter and Beulah Bondi provide excellent mother portrayals; while Thomas Mitchell and Guy Kibbee are prominent as heads of the two households.
1940: Nominations: Best Picture, Actress (Martha Scott), B&W Art Direction, Original Score, Sound