What I love about King Vidors H.M. Pulham, Esquire(1941) is that after all the times I’ve seen it the film never seems to lose it’s relevancy. The way the film goes about examining friendships, love, work and the day to day battle of life as seen through the eyes of a guy who grew up with a loving family and who just lives his life trying to be a good person, always inspires me.
|Robert Young contemplates the path not taken in H.M.Pulham Esq.|
Robert Young plays the title character, born into wealth but with a work ethic and a sense of honor, going with the flow, not quite sure of himself but always a gentlemen in every situation, something that father Charles Coburn teaches him from a very young age. Young has a good relationship with his father and while their communication might seem superficial, there is a deep love and respect held by Young for his father(as is the case with most father/son relationships). It’s heartbreaking when Young’s father Charles Coburn tries to convince Young to stay with the family and work at the family company. We can see Young just feel horrible about it yet he sticks to his guns none the less.
|Bonita Granville and Robert Young in H.M.Pulham Esq.|
|Robert Young and Hedy Lamarr|
|Van Hefflin, Robert Young and Hedy Lamarr|
|Ruth Hussey and Robert Young in H.M.Pulham Esq.|
Most enjoyable of all is Robert Young. What a superb performance he gives as the humble, awkward, kind, honest and at times charmingly oblivious Harry Pulham. Bonita Granville also has some fun moments as Young’s kind sister who shocks him by being just a little bit rebellious now and then yet sympathizing with the tough decisions and sacrifices her brother must make after their father dies. Hussey has what might have been a thankless role but she really sinks her teeth into it and manages to give the character a lot of depth. She’s supposed to be a bit abrasive and a bit patronizing but she manages to be both while remaining likable and sympathetic and their scenes together when they meet again after their respective break ups are fun and touching. Van Heflin is also very enjoyable as the college cynic who is repulsed by the obnoxious jock who tells football stories that Young is thoroughly intrigued by. I’ve always felt the mark of a great movie is when you wish the characters of the film were real and you knew them and you were friends with them. H.M. Pulham Esquire is that kind of film.
Turner Classic Movies will be showing H.M. Pulham Esquire this Saturday at 7:00 AM Eastern time.