John Huston Bosley Crowther - Essay

Bosley Crowther

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

"In This Our Life" is neither a pleasant nor edifying film: It is, again, one of those Snow-White-and-Rose-Red sister yarns, in which the evil and mischievous sister … deserts her loving fiance and runs off with her good sister's spouse. Then, when she has driven the latter to suicide by her selfish and frivolous ways, she returns home and tries to lure her old flame away from her sister, with whom he has taken up. And finally she reaches rock bottom when she tries to escape a hit-run killing charge by brazenly alleging that the deed was done by a local Negro boy.

This last, as a matter of fact, is the one exceptional component of the film—this brief but frank allusion to racial discrimination. And it is presented in a realistic manner, uncommon to Hollywood, by the definition of the Negro as an educated and comprehending character. Otherwise the story is pretty much of a downhill run, with [the evil sister] going from bad to worse in her selfish pursuit of "happiness" and the good people growing better and more beatified in marked contrast.

The effectiveness of such a picture, in which a problem of personality forms the core, depends both upon the central character and upon the establishment of an atmosphere. Director John Huston, unfortunately, has not given this story sufficient distinction—such, for instance, as was given by William Wyler to "The Little Foxes." The telling of it is commonplace, the movement uncomfortably stiff.

Bosley Crowther, "'In This Our Life'," in The New York Times (© 1942 by The New York Times Company; reprinted by permission), May 9, 1942 (and reprinted in The New York Times Film Reviews: 1939–1948, The New York Times Company & Arno Press, 1970, p. 1864).