Our Town Change comes slowly to a small New Hampshire town in the early 20th century. People grow up, get married, live, and die. Milk and the newspaper get delivered every morning, and nobody locks their front doors.
The Mind of God
OUR TOWN is a timeless classic, and this 1940 film version captures the major themes from Thornton Wilder’s great play.
At once simple and profound, unsentimental and heart-breaking, the story of Grover’s Corners, New Hampshire, and its citizens is a time capsule of early 20th Century America. Two neighboring families are examined in their everyday lives, and we especially follow George Gibbs (William Holden) and Emily Webb (Martha Scott) as they grow up and marry.
A stage convention, the Stage Manager (Frank Craven), acts here as a tour guide and talks directly to the audience and tells them the history of the town and stories about the characters. Independent of time, the Stage Manager can also see into the future and matter-of-factly see the various deaths of several characters as well as their pasts.
The scene from the cemetery is chilling yet is quite wondrous as the characters there ponder the timelessness of the universe. Also great is Emily’s visit back to her family on her birthday, where she finally understand that life is made up or so many small and insignificant details that we hardly notice as times flies by.
The film boasts a terrific cast with Fay Bainter and Beulah Bondi outstanding as the mothers , Thomas Mitchell and Guy Kibbee solid as the fathers. Also notable are Doro Merande as Mrs. Soames, Arthur Allen as the professor, Philip Wood as the organist, Spencer Charters as the constable, Stu Erwin as the milkman, and Ruth Tobey as Rebecca, who gets to tell the “mind of god” anecdote.
The ending is different from the play’s but works well in this version.