William Saroyan’s initial original screenplay is a brilliant sketch of the basic fundamentals of the American way of life, transferred to the screen with exceptional fidelity by director Clarence Brown and cast headed by Mickey Rooney.
Saroyan, after being promoted by Metro to write an original screenplay, reportedly wrote his script in 18 days. Studio heads acclaimed it a ‘masterpiece’, until advised that yarn would consume nearly four hours of running time, and then chilled on the tale.
Figuring the picture would never be produced by Metro, Saroyan returned to northern California and battled out a novel of the yarn. But Clarence Brown, assured he could obtain Mickey Rooney to handle the lead, as originally intended by the writer, decided to get front office approval to make a film version of the Saroyan tale.
Script is episodic, but this is easily overlooked in the entity of the production. Sorayan’s original script was lengthy for current picture requirements, and even when it was in rough-cut form for initial sneak review ran about 170 minutes. Editing required that whole chunks and episodes be lifted out, and this was accomplished without detracting from the entertainment factors remaining.
Rooney is the major breadwinner of his little family following departure of his older brother (Van Johnson) into the army service. Rooney, displaying the strongest performance of his career under the Metro banner, shines brilliantly as the boy of Saroyan’s tale.
1943: Best Original Story.
Nominations: Best Picture, Director, Actor (Mickey Rooney), B&W Cinematography