The Silver Cord ( 1933 )

FERNANDO’s CORNER ~ posted April 2, 2018 Santiago Metropolitan Region, Chile 

THE SILVER CORD (1933) (RKO Radio) (Dir: John Cromwell)
This an excellent film adaptation of Sidney Howard’s stage play about really sick and vicious motherly love as portrayed by Laura Hope Crews character (Mrs. Phelps). The film shows its theatrical roots, but nevertheless is totally engrossing, with great performances by the three women involved in it: the aforementioned Crews, Irene Dunne, who plays the very modern and independent (for 1933) Christina, a scientist, and lovely Frances Dee as Hester. Joel McCrea and Eric Linden play Mama’s boys.
This adult drama easily contains Laura Hope Crews’ best performance of her career. A mother that literally loves her children too much. But she’s not a one-dimensional character. In spite of the monster she is, you tend to feel sorry for her near the end of the picture. She’s a bitter, selfish, self-centered woman who had a terrible marital experience. A woman whose romantic dreams were shattered and who developed romantic attachments to her two sons, manipulating them to her better advantage.
Eric Linden is very good as Rob, the more embittered, insecure and jealous of her sons; a no-good cad who has the luck of having the beautiful and good-natured character played by the always lovely Frances Dee love him, in spite of himself and his horrible, disdainful mother. Frances Dee gives one superb performance as the absolutely shattered, broken down Hester.


Irene Dunne, as I mentioned, is wonderful as the career woman who marries Crews’ older and favorite son David, played by Joel McCrea, whose role is rather colorless. The
brilliant dialogue and the swift pacing are most effective and lead to a tempestuous climax. There is manipulation galore by Mrs. Phelps and the story is indeed very Pre-Code.

As a side note I must admit that when watching it for a second time with my wife, who also loved the film and was impressed by Crews’ character’s monstrous and devouring expressions of motherly love, we both realized that we know a lady that’s quite exactly as Mrs. Phelps in this day and age, who has her own Rob (and his family) tied to her skirts, so it’s quite timeless…

Recommended viewing.

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