Last February (the 18th when this post was originally published) I watched a movie written by Robert Riskin, best known for his "visions of an idealized America as represented in his collaborations with director Frank Capra." This one wasn’t directed by Capra, but it certainly had that Capra ‘feel good’ quality. It’s called Magic Town and was made in 1947. Directed by William A. Wellman, it brings Capra’s favorite leading man, Jimmy Stewart, together with Jane Wyman, a perfect match, or as the tagline goes, "the guy with the dynamite heart meets the girl with the firecracker eyes!" (IMDb) She’s an acting newspaper editor for her late father’s paper and he is an undercover pollster. He discovers that Grandview, the town where Mary (Wyman) lives mirror exactly the nation’s views on everything, down to the decimal point – a mathematical miracle. Rip (Stewart) is quickly accepted as part of the community - even coaching the school's basketball team - under the guise of being an insurance salesman. However, Mary discovers his secret and uses her position in the paper to unmask him. This causes a spiraling of events as Grandview is hailed as the nation’s perfect town. Hundreds of families move in every day and business is booming – but not for long. Now that the people are conscious that they are being polled, the results no longer match the nation. Its short-lived glory turns to embarrassment and the town quickly becomes bankrupt and becomes a laughing-stock. Rip must now figure out how to undue the damage he caused and win Mary back.
Looking at Mary's model of the new Grandview
Coaching the boys
Romancing the editor
Reciting "Charge of the Light Brigade"
The scenes of the town at the beginning reminded me of the town in Theodora Goes Wild (1936). The way the town works together reminded me of several films. The school scenes were reminiscent of The Bells of St. Mary’s (1945). The part where it sweeps the country and pulls apart and then reunites the town is very reminiscent of Meet John Doe (1941). It even has Bert and his wife in it (renamed Ed)! All in all it was an extremely enjoyable movie and one that I hope to add to my collection one day. I highly recommend it to anyone who is a Frank Capra fan.
Stewart and Wyman with Director William A. Wellman
Lawrence “Rip” Smith (to the Town Council when he first arrives in Grandview): I've been searching for a town like this for years. You know, when I got off that train this morning, I said to myself "This is it." I've just walked through your town, folks, with its shade trees and its lovely parks. I stood before your impressive buildings mellowed with age, and I said to myself "Here is a sturdy challenge to the evils of the modern era." I watched your people on the street, and I felt their vitality and their sense of security. Your children are happy. They're happy. You can see it in their dear little faces, and hear it in their wholesome talk. There's beauty here. It's almost indescribable. You're used to it, you're all a part of it, you take it for granted. But to me, it's a hope and a dream of a lifetime. I too want to become a part of it. Please don't change it.
All images (excluding title screen) found via Pinterest
This post is part of the 1947 Blogathon hosted by Shadows & Satin and Speakeasy. Be sure and check out all of the other great films from 1947!