The Human Comedy
In 1943, critic/screenwriter James Agee wrote, “The Human Comedy is an effort to create, through a series of lyrically casual, almost plotless scenes, the image of a good family in a good town in wartime.... as a mixture of typical with atypical failure, and in its rare successes, it interests me more than any other film I have seen for a good while.... with few exceptions,...it tries on the whole to be ‘faithful' to Saroyan; not invariably a good idea....” (“Agee On Film”).
While critical of both author Saroyan's original story and MGM's interpretation, and the film's “neglect of some magnificent opportunities,” Agee praised the sound casting and performance of Jack Jenkins as the four-year-old Ulysses so highly that he fervently hoped Jenkins would “not be used again; otherwise he will become just another actor.”
William Saroyan's story is set in Ithaca, California, where the Macauley family (Mom, Marcus, Homer, Ulysses and Bess) become disturbed when the eldest son must go off to war. Son Homer (Mickey Rooney), who attends high school by day and delivers telegrams at night, must now act as the male head of the family.
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