Readers Write In #491: Classics on YouTube #2 – All My Sons (1948)

Posted on September 18, 2022

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By ​Vijay Ramanathan

Note: YouTube’s vast repository includes a multitude of wonderful movies in many languages – some hidden gems, and some that are hard to find elsewhere. In this series of articles, I will share some of my favorite classic movies freely available on YouTube, along with a brief analysis. The videos are not posted by me, and I do not benefit from anyone viewing them.

The principal force propelling All My Sons is the  stellar performance by Edward G. Robinson as Joe Keller, the patriarch of the Keller family. Joe is a self-made man; he has seen it all in life and his priorities are clear – the safety and well-being of his family. Robinson embodies the spirit of Joe Keller magnificently, and delivers a masterclass in cinematic acting in this lead role.

Director Irving Reis, and his screenwriter, Chester Erskine, retain the tense atmosphere of the source material – a play of the same name by Arthur Miller – while introducing enough dynamism to keep the movie from feeling like a play-on-film, or a chamber drama. They give Robinson and his co-actors the room to deliver their best while removing any sense of monotony or repetition in how the film is staged.

The central issue in this riveting drama is the real-world tension between one’s broader social responsibility and what’s best for him and his family. There is also a dissection of family loyalties clashing against “doing the right thing.” This big clash of interests plays out within the construct of the Keller family and its impact on those that are near and dear to them. The screenplay is wonderfully structured; we discover the underlying conflict in layers – embedded in conversations between the characters. The characters know what has happened and the viewer is slowly brought into the fold. Loyalties are tested. Treachery is uncovered. Joe firmly believes he did what was best for his family. But we see his position weaken slowly as his son, Chris (an impressive Burt Lancaster), starts questioning his father’s story, and digs deeper for the truth. Indeed, it’s a letter from his other long-lost son that shakes Joe’s inner foundation, and pushes him toward his inevitable end.

Edward G. Robinson carries this movie on his shoulders, and it deserves a viewing for his acting alone.

You can watch this classic Hollywood movie for free on YouTube at
https://youtu.be/AjCb0euLJzU