3 comments on “The Human Comedy (Found from 1943)

  1. One of my favorite, lesser known, small town, home front movies displaying some of the “mythological” life in the US during that worldwide conflagration known more popularly as World War II.
    I say mythological life on the home front during the war, because several real-life aspects of it were left out of the plot lines. There is nothing shown, not one scene, dealing with the shortages and rationing of so many of the necessities of life, nor the likelihood that Diana Steed’s parents would have seen their household staff disappear from domestic service in favor of better paying, and better scheduling of life working in the many industries of war located in that state which seems to have been overflowing with opportunities for war work, not to mention the intense and constant propaganda being spread on wide and thick by the government to do so. We see at least four members of that crew in the uniforms of domestic staff, and performing in those roles in the Steed’s home during the evening dinner party, where Tom is introduced to Diana’s parents.
    That dinner party also shows the kitchen staff decorating what looks like a large ham {?} or perhaps a beef roast, and another male staff member gulping down drinks the guests have not yet consumed. Hams or roasts like that would certainly been extremely difficult, if not impossible, to acquire under rationing, and alcohol production for domestic consumption was stopped completely in favor of production of industrial alcohols for use in ammunition.
    It’s possible that the drinks were fruit juice base combined with soda, but unlikely.
    The thing that I enjoy the most about this movie doesn’t feature people but props and set decoration ~ the Steed’s bedroom suite. Not the furniture ~ the entire room. It’s also a part I am having the greatest difficulty capturing any information about or photos of.
    We see this in a good bit of detail when the Mrs. comes up to fetch the Mr. down to dinner on Tom’s first evening there. There are others there of Diana’s contemporaries, but more in her social set than Tom Spangler. This bedroom suite has been beautifully done, with entry through a regular door into a very small vestibule space, into a large rectangular room divided by furnishings and a small corner break, into a sitting room/library end, and a bedroom and dressing room area at the other end, by the windows.
    There is a large fireplace on the wall by the doorway, a couch up against one wall on the long side, perpendicularly placed to the fireplace, with a small lamp and table at the end and a coffee table at its front, all nearest the door, and facing large bookshelves almost ceiling height across the room on the other side. There are two framed, matted paintings hung end to end above the fireplace, which seem framed in by large fluted square columns on the wall, topped by carved rosettes, and this wall treatment is repeated around the room, in corners and at room divisions.
    There is a table lamp between the fireplace nearest the bookshelves and a desk with chair facing the shelves. There appears to be an overstuffed chair in front of the fireplace, quite comfortable in that position, with its back angled away from the fireplace, and facing towards the bedroom area of the room.
    The bedroom area appears to take up the other half of the room, divided to the eye with a corner break on the bookshelf side, and on this wall are the headboards of the two obligatory twin (or slightly larger) beds, in a dark heavy wood, perhaps mahogany or dark walnut. (In black and white movies, it’s hard to tell.) There is a nightstand with a radio, on which Mr. Steed is listening to the war news when Mrs. Steed enters, and lamp between the two beds, and a small table lamp on the other side of the headboard farthest from the camera. At the foot of both beds is a chest of drawers up against the far wall for Mr. Steed, and next to that is the door to a large dressing room, with built-in double wardrobe with sliding doors. The rest of the dressing room is a mystery, left to the viewers imagination, because it’s not shown beyond Mrs. Steed selecting clothing for her husband from the wardrobes, so he could dress and come down to dinner.
    I would certainly imagine a beautiful dressing table across from the double wardrobes, and the entrance to the private en suite bath.
    It certainly is a room in which I could imagine spending a great deal of my time! The only thing missing is a small fridge for juices, soda and water, and a small microwave for warming up snacks or popping popcorn to eat in front of the fire! Of course, a medium sized flat screen TV would be mounted on the wall someplace visible from most of the room, especially the beds and the sofa by the fireplace!
    And before anyone says that’s too much comfort and convenience for one room in the house, take into account that I am disabled almost to the point of being homebound, and that would be the most comfortable environment I could possibly imagine to have for myself. I read a great deal, hence the need for bookshelves for the books I already have. The fireplace would make a wonderful fall and winter evening space for my husband and myself to spend our time together, and the rest just goes on from there.
    This is one of the movies I watch the most, as I have it recorded (and locked in) on my DVR, and it’s a great one to play at night, when I can’t get to sleep and my husband can, because it’s relatively quiet, and in black and white there is no flickering or abrupt color changes to disturb his sleep. And I just love the story, in spite of its possible shortcomings! Show me a movie without a few. They don’t exist!

  2. Wow, I see you have a real love for this movie and have taken in the details deeply. You make me want to go back and watch it again. Thanks so much for commenting, I wish you all the best!

    • Thank you, Alyson. I do indeed enjoy this movie greatly, and have watched it so many times that the details are pretty much committed to memory!
      Next time you do watch it, compare my description to that room as you see it, and see if I missed anything! I bet, if I did, it wasn’t much!
      Another part I like, and will mention only briefly, is where Tom Spangler and his new wife, Diana (of course) go on that little drive through the park area where there is a fund raising picnic for the Red Cross, being held by all the different cultural groups represented in the area. They drive very slowly, pausing at each different group, and identify and discuss each one individually, talking about the special characteristics of each. We also get the briefly mentioned, offhand account of the fact that Diana is expecting a baby, letting us know its been at least several months since their wedding (which they did not portray, much to my dismay) except for them leaving from her parents’ home after the reception, and being showered with rice. We also find at this point that Tom has not yet been drafted, but has decided, apparently without even discussing it with her, to enlist in the Navy. She is surprised to hear that he’ll be leaving within a month, and even which service he has chosen.
      Seems odd that a man whose wife is expecting his child would go through the enlisting and selection process without her knowing anything about it! It sounds from the tone of the conversation that he will be an officer of some kind, since his departure from home is delayed by as much as a month. Her attitude towards the whole thing seems very much more mature and focused, than the flighty girl she used to seem. The word “fool” was used more than once by different characters to describe her prior to this point, and Tom even brings it up, and apologizes for having thought of her in that way. She doesn’t take it at all personally, in fact seems rather matter-of-fact about the whole issue, perhaps having realized that her previous flighty, less than serious, and self-focused attitudes may have been responsible for that perception, through no one else’s fault.
      It’s kind of a shame we don’t see their characters more fully developed before the end of the story, but this movie was much more focused on Homer’s development as a young man, especially through his involvement in running the 220 on the track team, and his bosses, relationship with his Ancient History teacher; his sister’s and their mother’s, as well as Tobey’s at the end, when he “comes home” to a strange town he’s never been to before, knows only in the stories and anecdotes told him by Homer’s older brother, Marcus. But Marcus made it seem like the home Tobey never had, but really wanted when he was a boy growing up in the orphanage, even if he didn’t know it at the time!
      Well, I guess “briefly” has been certainly surpassed, once again! I get rolling on a subject I have a passion for, and frequently can’t find a stopping point! My apologies!
      Have a wonderful Holiday Season!

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