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My Son John

25 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Legendary director Leo McCarey (An Affair to Remember) took on this controversial and infamous drama about a conservative religious couple (Helen Hayes, Dean Jagger) that suspects their oldest son to be a communist. The arrogant and intellectual young man (Robert Walker), a worker in a federal agency, returns home from a long absence spouting pro-communism doctrine and deriding the beliefs of capitalism and religion. Things become very serious when an FBI agent (Van Heflin) shows up to tell the horrified parents that their son may be an enemy spy. Robert Walker (Stranger on a Train) died at age 32 due to adverse reaction to prescription drugs and before My Son John production was finished. Leo McCarey received a 1953 Oscarr nomination for Best Writing, Motion Picture Story.

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Product Details

  • Actors: Helen Hayes, Robert Walker, Van Heflin, Dean Jagger, Frank McHugh
  • Directors: Leo McCarey
  • Writers: Leo McCarey
  • Producers: Leo McCarey
  • Format: Multiple Formats, NTSC, Black & White
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.37:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: Olive Films
  • DVD Release Date: August 21, 2012
  • Run Time: 122 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B0086IMND0
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #39,970 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

19 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Kert Conrad on August 21, 2012
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
One of the best things to happen in the world of home video in recent days has been Paramount releasing a virtual explosion of classic titles on both Blu-ray and DVD under the Olive Films label. The stellar releases continue with MY SON JOHN, an anti-Communist picture from the early fifties that's part political thriller and part family drama, featuring an outstanding cast that includes Helen Hayes, Dean Jagger, Van Heflin and, in his final screen appearance (he died during the film's production), the great Robert Walker.
The story concerns some proudly patriotic and religious parents (Hayes and Jagger) who begin to have suspicions that their oldest son (Walker) is a Communist. Walker gives a fascinating performance, similar to his role in Hitchcock's STRANGERS ON A TRAIN but this time giving his character a kind of scoffing arrogance to go along with his sinister charm. You get the feeling that this guy is so much smarter than everyone else that he finds their beliefs and traditions rather amusing.
Script-wise, the film has some weaknesses. There seems to be a conscious effort to avoid any specific explanations of what's going on regarding unlawful activities: we never really learn exactly what John has done or get any insight into his political philosophy other than a few vague inferences here and there. One keeps hoping that John and his father will have a meaningful conversation about the relative merits of communism versus democracy, but it doesn't happen. This is one case in which some over-the-top patriotism would have added some punch to the story. Further, the fact that Robert Walker died before the film was completed (the shots of him in the last part of the movie are taken from STRANGERS ON A TRAIN) leads to a somewhat unsatisfying ending.
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10 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Robert L. Anderson on August 31, 2012
Format: Blu-ray Verified Purchase
I have just recieved and watched the Blu-ray version of "My Son John".. I'de seen it when I was a teen ager in the 50's and I thought it was pretty slow, but interesting. I went to see it because of Robert Walker who had been MGM'S Golden Boy next door. He was such a sweet charming guy in those Golden Age of MGM films. But of course Walker never got a chance to really act until he got from beneath MGM's grasp. Like he did in Hitchcock's "Strangers On A Train". And I don't believe that Leo McCarey produced or directed anything quite like this either. Poor Robert Walker had a sad personal life and I believe it showed in his face in this film. And it's a shame that he passed away, because he had just proven what a great actor he really was. But I don't believe they had the help back in the early 50's that they do now. Help that may have saved Robert Walker. Helen Hayes was also very good, but I thought that half her scenes were drawn out too long and very overacted. (excuse me Helen Hayes fans, but that's the way I saw it)
I know they probably didn't know really how to deal with communism on film 'back in the day', but some of the scenes were very vague. And like Kurt Corbin said in his review that it was hard to catch onto what Robert Walker's character "John" was really up to. And I really couldn't really tell if he was 'all that bad'. Because my open-mind is set in the new millennium, not in the early 50's. What was John really up to?
What were the unlawful activities? Yes it was rather vague. But I do remember as a child and teenager the sence of patriotism all around me. I sort of miss that 'long ago feeling'. I'm afraid with all that's going on today people don't know what to believe anymore and that's a damn shame. Dean Jagger was also very stong as a real old fashioned patriot.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By H.L. Bushart on February 28, 2013
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
Produced during the Second Red Scare and the McCarthy era, My Son John, embodies the patriotism and paranoia of the early fifties. Robert Walker's last role is intended as a moral lesson for "good Americans" but also panders to the fears of a nation fresh out of a world war with facism, entering a cold war with communism and engaged in a "non-war" police action in Korea.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By RJM402 on April 22, 2015
Format: Amazon Instant Video Verified Purchase
This is a three-star movie for me because of Helen Hayes and Dean Jagger both of whom delivered a stellar performance in spite of a smarmingly, patriotic script by Leo McCarey. It is telling of the political atmosphere of the time that McCarey actually received an Oscar nomination for the script, while Helen Hayes' performance was ignored. It is also not surprising that McCarey had an enthusiastic conservative bend in his character which led him to believe that he needed to instruct Americans on their moral responsibilities.
Sadly, Robert Walker died during the filming of this strange movie. His disagreements and disgust with McCarey's directing certainly must have played a part in Walker's nervous breakdown.
It is heartening to see that movie critics gave it poor reviews mostly for the script. I think it is appropriate that it is in black and white as the tone of the movie is dark and disturbing. It was a time when Joseph McCarthy was ranting about the infestation of communists everywhere, and people were generally frightened and unsure of the future. If nothing else, the movie is part of the historical record of how close America came to becoming a fascist state or worse - a state of paranoia that existed in the very communist nation it feared.
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