5 Feet of Fury

‘William Wyler’s ‘Dodsworth’ (1936) (…) is the perfect film to pair with the beginning of a new year’

Fran’s resistance to growing old, coupled with her constant attempts to distance herself from her past life backfire spectacularly. Her dyed hair, revealing evening gowns, flippant attitude and phony continental-sounding accent show her desperation. Many of the acquaintances she makes in Europe easily see through her shallow and vapid personality. One of these acquaintances is the American expatriate Edith Cortright (Mary Astor), a woman roughly the same age who is all the things Fran hopes to become but never will. One could argue that the unfair double standard often applied toward women is ultimately to blame for Fran’s stuffy attitude and pathetic overcompensation, but Edith’s positive attitude toward growing old proves otherwise. That cheery, carefree outlook is exactly what Sam has long desired but can’t share with Fran. Even at middle age and facing a major upheaval in his personal life, Sam faces the changes eagerly and with great optimism.

(I wrote about Dodsworth here…)


When the great films of the 1930s are discussed, one rarely hears much about Dodsworth. Yet this overlooked movie is one of the most literate, sensitively acted and beautifully directed of its time. In fact, the film has barely dated at all; thanks to witty, insightful dialogue, restrained and natural performances on the part of the entire cast (especially star Walter Huston), and a production that does justice to the engaging, still relevant themes of the source material, Sinclair Lewis’s 1929 novel, Dodsworth holds up remarkably well today as an adult drama with just the right mix of conflict and gentle humor.