The Eugene O’Neill play, Ah. Wilderness with its account of a turn-of-the-century smalltown New England family, provides admirable setting, story, color and mood for the musical numbers and script. The musical numbers, tastefully chosen and skillfully staged, are not spotted arbitrarily, but stem naturally from the situations.
For example, the film is introduced by a song called ‘It’s Our Home Town’. Walter Huston sings the first chorus, as the newspaper publisher, with the other characters taking it up to identify themselves and plant the general story line.
The story emphasizes the puppy-love romance between the publisher’s son and girl across the street. Respectively Mickey Rooney and Gloria de Haven. Except for some laughable mugging by the former, they make an appealing pair, and their musical numbers are nicely done.
Huston is fine as the understanding Nat Miller, the boy’s father. Frank Morgan achieves a nice blend of comedy and pathos as Uncle Sid.
Mamoulian’s direction has style, is well paced and without sacrificing story credibility makes the songs stand out.