At the Paramount and Fenway
By dint of some ingenious rewriting, and considerable skating on thin ice, Hollywood has produced a version of Kings Row which retains that novel's main outlines without arousing the censors. This is no mean feat, since the book bore down on sadism, incest and assorted abnormalities so heavily that its liberal admixture of seduction seemed a welcome note of normalcy. Although the grislier aspects have been glossed over prettily in deference to the family trade, the picture is still moderately worth-while entertainment.
"Kings Row" is a study of the abnormalities beneath the surface complacency of a middle western town in the horse and buggy days. Robert Cummings plays a local boy who returns to Kings Row after studying the newfangled field of psychiatry and uncovers aberrations by the dozen in the minds of its citizens. His best friend, for example, Ronald Reagan, is being driven mad by morbid reflection on the loss of his legs. And Reagan's former fiance is going mad too, which causes no little worriment to her father, who is a sadistic doctor, and to her mother, who is a vengeful religious fanatic. And then there is another doctor, Claude Rains, a misanthrope who keeps daughter Betty Field from all human association. Miss Fields overacts this simple part so elaborately that it becomes embarrassing. In contrast, Claude Rains' characterization of the recluse doctor is the best thing in the picture. Ann Sheridan is second best with her surprisingly good portrayal of a girl from across the tracks.
"Kings Row" drags fearfully at times and is handicapped by several lead actors more at home in lightweight playboy roles; but it is undoubtedly worth seeing.