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The Howards of Virginia
IMDB Rating: 6.2/10 from 736 votes
Release: 19 September 1940 (USA) /

The Howards of Virginia

Genre: Drama, History, War
Director: Frank Lloyd,
Stars: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Synopsis: Beautiful young Virginian Jane steps down from her proper aristocratic upbrining when she marries down-to-earth surveyor Matt Howard. Matt joins the Colonial forces in their fight for freedom against England. Matt will meet Jane's father in the battlefield. Written by Anonymous

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Critic Reviews

Movies about the American Revolution for some reason have never succeeded as well as those about the Civil War. My guess is that the best of them is Drums Along the Mohawk and that was about one of the more obscure theaters of that war.

Like Gone With the Wind, the Howards of Virginia is taken from a rather sprawling novel. But Gone With the Wind was very faithful to the original and managed to hold interest even given its length. The Howards of Virginia is a condensed version of the novel and some of the characterization has been sacrificed in the screen translation.

Nevertheless it's a good story about a fictional Matt Howard from his days as a youth hearing the news about his father's death with Braddock's army in the French and Indian War to just before the Siege at Yorktown. Of course growing up with Thomas Jefferson, it's not surprising that Howard develops the opinions he does.

Cary Grant is cast against type as Matt Howard. Takes a bit of getting used to in buckskins, but I like his characterization. In point of fact if you want to see the real Cary Grant on screen look at None, But the Lone Heart, Gunga Din, or Sylvia Scarlett. That's where you see the real Archie Leach. Cary Grant was the best role Cary Grant ever played.

If The Howards of Virginia were made 10 years later, Burt Lancaster would have been spot-on in terms of casting.

Martha Scott is fine as the Tory girl that Cary Grant woos and wins. It's quite a culture shock for her coming to the mostly unsettled Shenandoah valley among Grant's frontier friends and neighbors, but her best scenes in the film are at that point.

Of course I think both Grant and Scott are acted off the screen when Cedric Hardwicke is on. As Scott's older brother Fleetwood Payton, Hardwicke is easily the best in the film. He's a privileged Virginia aristocrat and loyalist supporter of the crown. He's an aristocratic snob to be sure, but he's also a tender and loving brother to Martha Scott. Hardwicke managed to capture all the elements in Fleetwood Payton well as well as his losing his mind as his well ordered aristocratic world tumbles down about him.

Richard Carlson is very much what I picture as the young Thomas Jefferson, full of new ideas and quite the rebel against his own class. Of course Patrick Henry and George Washington make their appearances as well in colonial Virginia. My guess is that in the book a whole lot of familiar names made it there, but were not in the screenplay.

This is not the American Revolution's Gone With the Wind, but taken on its own terms The Howards of Virginia is good entertainment and does capture some of the motivating spirit behind the Virginia patriots and tories.

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