*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The Proud Rebel is directed by Michael Curtiz and adapted by Lillie Hayward & Joseph Petracca from the story "Journal of Linnett Moore" written by James Edward Grant. It stars Alan Ladd, Olivia de Havilland, Dean Jagger, David Ladd, Cecil Kellaway & Henry Hull. Jerome Moross scores the music and Ted McCord is the cinematographer. It`s a Technicolor production and the location for the shoot is Cedar City, Utah, USA.
John Chandler (A Ladd) is a proud Southerner, the Civil war war may be over but he is still finding hostility in the North. He is searching for a doctor who can help his mute son David (D Ladd) speak again, the youngster has been unable to talk since the death of his mother in a fire at the family home. After being taunted for his Southern roots, John gets into a fight that lands him a 30 day jail term. Luckily a kindly local lady called Linnett Moore (Havilland) offers to pay the fine to keep John out of jail, she can see that young David needs his father, and a man about her farm will come in handy. From here John gets involved with Linnett's struggle to keep her land from ruthless local landowner Harry Burleigh (Jagger). Burleigh and his sons will do what it takes to get their way. As bonds and affections are formed, some real tough decisions must be made, can the proud rebel, and those he cares for, triumph in adversity?.
Make no mistake here, this film is as formulaic as it comes, any fan of the genre that reads the plot synopsis will know exactly what to expect. That, however, doesn't mean this isn't a smashing film, because it completely is. It's the kind of film that that all family members can sit in front of the TV and enjoy. When a plot arc in a film involves the bullied standing up to the bullies it's always rewarding, but The Proud Rebel doesn't just stop at pulling that particular heart string, it pulls at a couple of others involving the quest for David to speak again, and a lovely emotive strand involving Lance the dog. Even tho the expected finally arrives, you would have to be made of granite to not feel like whooping with joy as you swat away that fly in your eye.
Michael Curtiz directs and does, as usual, a brilliant unfussy job, but even he would surely have acknowledged the integral part the score plays in this story. Jerome Moross' score is simply wonderful, every frame comes to life as the music itself envelopes the characters and brings hen to life. Gorgeous and at times desperately sad, it's a score very much to savour. Alan Ladd as John slips quite easily into Shane mode, acting opposite his son David, he emotes with great conviction, and during some of the more sadder scenes he is quite heartfelt and believeable. Olivia de Haviland as Linnett Moore is sturdy and tough, how nice it is watching de Haviland perform so well in this type of role. The supporting actors are all effective, most notably Jagger, Kellaway and of course young David Ladd, whilst keep an eye out for future great character actor Harry Dean Stanton.
If you like Shane and films of that ilk then this is for you, a perfect family picture that pulls at all the respective emotional threads. 7/10