Four childhood friends grow up an a typical American small town in the early 1900’s. Paris (Robert Cummings) is raised by his grandmother, pursues his dreams of becoming a doctor and studies under Dr. Tower (Claude Rains), father of his sweetheart, Cassandra (Betty Field). Paris hasn’t actually seen Cassy since they were kids, her father has mysteriously kept her in their house these past years and now Paris tries to reconnect with her. Meanwhile, Drake (Ronald Reagan) is Paris’s best friend and hopes to become a businessman, but until then he’s taking all the girls out to ride in his buggy. Everything seems small town hunky-dory until an unbelievable tragedy strikes, motivating Paris to study psychiatry in Europe and leaving Drake to discover more startling secrets within their happy little small town of Kings Row.
Things change on a dime every act or so in this film. That’s good news if you get bored, bad news if you’re attached to anything. Parts of this film feel like a mystery, we find clues and can piece them together at the end, but other than that it’s a straight up drama. I don’t want to give away any of the surprises, so we’ll just keep that air of mystery.
Oh, by the way, Drake is played by Ronald Reagan. He’s really enjoyable in this film, but I’ve got to admit I was a little distracted. The whole time I kept thinking, “This guy taking all the girls out on a buggy, no one suspects him to become President.” All in all, he was my favorite actor in Kings Row, he’s lively and uplifting, especially toward the end.
Honestly, I liked these people better as kids. When little Cassy is crying because no one showed up at her party, I was honestly sad, never again did that feeling return through the entire film. Later when she’s been a recluse for years I don’t understand her and her wild eyes don’t convince me of anything other than paranoia. Same with Paris and Drake, when the boys run scared of the doctor I understand their fear, but as grown men trying to overcome their circumstances I don’t believe a word they’re saying. Are they trying to convince me or themselves?
Kings Row has a little bit of everything: drama, romance, mystery, small town secrets, so it should appeal to a wide audience. On the flip side, it can seem too spread out and thin. Then there’s that whole psychiatric notion thrown in that Paris has to deal with that tries to make everything make sense, but can just confuse some viewers. All in all, I enjoyed the film enough but was able to poke some holes through, so I don’t encourage trying to over think this film. Just relax and enjoy a Reagan film.
“Where’s the rest of me?”