Good things, like bad things, seem to come in bunches. This week sees five of the "ten best pictures of 1946" on the silver screens of local movie houses--"The Best Years of Our Lives," "It's a Wonderful Life," "Open City," "Stairway to Heaven" and "The Well-Digger's Daughter," the last of which enters its third week at the Exeter. Most of these pictures out-distance by far the much less attractive wares which the legitimate theater is offering currently, with the noteworthy exception of the wise and witty "Call Me Mister."
"The Well-Digger's Daughter" is distinguished chiefly for its frank and humane treatment of the problem of illegitimacy, a treatment that is in marked contrast to the lecherous curiosity with which most Boston dailies (the writer knows of only one exception) exploit the errors and failings of private individuals for a reading public that seems to prefer its pornography in a journalistic form. With typically Gallie sense of proportion and balance, the French-made film concerns itself with the plight of the pretty young daughter of a well-digger who finds herself with child by the handsome son of the local hardware merchant, shortly after that worthy departs for the wars. The attitude of her father, an honest, independent man of simple and intense feelings, changes from shame at the slight on his family name to pride in his newborn grandson. Similarly, the cool indifference and suspicion displayed by the young man's parents toward the well-digger and his daughter is changed, upon the receipt of a false report of his death, into friendship and love for the infant who is their only link with their departed son. There is a happy ending to the tale when the girl's lover returns safely to make an honest woman of her.
Outstand in the film is the fine performance of Raimu, who, as the well-digger, is making his last screen appearance in this production. Raimu lends a fine mixture of broad humor and human dignity to the performance of his role. He is equally effective when pleading with the youth's parents for a righting of the wrong done his daughter or when describing the ample charms of his late wife. This blend of the humorous with the elements of human tragedy is characteristic of this fine film which retains both humor and dignity in its treatment of a human problem.