52 Code Films – Week #29: “Colonel Effingham’s Raid” from 1946

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Today is Sunday, so it is time for another article in our weekly series 52 Code Films. I started this series at the beginning of 2019 to make myself commit to watching many new Breen Era films this year. I have agreed to watch at least one new film from the American Code Era (1934-1954) every week, thereby expanding my list of watched Code films. After all, no one can never have seen all the great classic films ever made! I have had a great time discovering new movies through this series.

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Today’s topic is Colonel Effingham’s Raid from 1946. I often try to choose themes for my weekly articles which will qualify to participate in blogathons. This weekend, Crystal Kalyana of In the Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood is hosting The Joan Bennett Blogathon. It’s not in honor of the actress’s birthday, but who says that you need a birthday to celebrate a wonderful classic star? I decided that I wanted to join this celebration of Miss Bennett’s career, so I looked for Code films she made which I hadn’t seen yet. I found that this movie with her, Charles Coburn, and William Eythe was free on Prime Video, so I made it my new Code film for this week. I watched it yesterday, and now I am excited to review it for you!

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Plot

A determined Army colonel returns to his small hometown in Georgia after being retired at sixty-five. He moves in with a kind old female relative of his and quickly locates his young cousin, a reporter on the local paper. He has heard of his military relative but has never met the old gentleman. When they do meet, the youth is concerned by the stubborn, eccentric goals of his cousin to increase voter involvement in politics and prepare the city for war. Meanwhile, the newspaper on which the young man works is becoming complacent, as the editor bows to the wishes of the town’s tyrannical mayor. The only person who cares about continuing a policy of editorial truth is the society reporter, the former editor’s daughter who doesn’t get along with the other journalists because she is disgusted by their indifference. All that is about to change, as the colonel storms the office and demands that his volunteer services to write a war column be accepted. At first the editor is reluctant, but his assistant eventually convinces him to accept the old gentleman’s offer. It’s a decision which he will live to regret, since the colonel immediately begins using his column to call the public to action against the political injustices of their city. He is outraged that the Confederate Monument Square is to be renamed in honor of a deceased and unworthy local politician. His biggest fight, however, is over the plan to tear down the historic courthouse and have it rebuilt by the mayor’s brother-in-law, since he says that the building could be repaired and restored. Through his words and actions, he tries to alert the citizens of the Georgian town to the corruption in their city and to inspire them to take arms to reclaim their rights and preserve their history. Meanwhile, his cousin is torn about his stance on the fight and his opinion toward the female society reporter, whose beautiful legs he is just beginning to notice!

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Cast

The determined retired colonel is Colonel Willie Effingham, played by Charles Coburn. His young journalist cousin is Al Marbury, played by William Eythe. The beautiful society reporteress and daughter of the former editor is Ella Sue Dozier, played by Joan Bennett. The frustrated editor is Earl Hoats, played by Allyn Joslyn. His assistant is Dewey, played by Frank Craven. The tyrannical mayor is Ed, played by Thurston Hall. The kind relative who lives with Colonel Effingham is Cousin Emma, played by Elizabeth Patterson.

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Production Notes

This film was directed by Irving Pichel. It was produced by Lamar Trotti. The film company was 20th Century Fox. The screenplay was written by Kathryn Scola. It was based on Berry Fleming’s 1943 novel of the same name. Additional uncredited writing was contributed by contract writer Frank Gabrielson.

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Code Compliance

This is a good Code film. It is completely free from objectionable qualities. It has a military man who uses his principles instead of rough language to encourage action. It features a wholesome love story. It shows the corrupt officials of one town to encourage citizens throughout the United States and everywhere else to fight the complacency which allows such tyrants to control communities. It inspires us to protect our history and, above all, to remember those who fought for our freedom.

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My Opinion

I really liked this movie. Several reviews which I read on IMDb were tepid or unfavorable, but I found this film very enjoyable. The acting is really good. I particularly liked Charles Coburn’s character as the stubborn colonel. He brings great pride and dignity to the role. I don’t believe I’ve ever seen the young leading man, William Eythe, before, but I liked his performance in this film. Joan Bennett was very good in her role, as well, although I wished there was a little more of her character. The supporting cast contained many familiar faces, and the well-known character actors did excellent jobs in their respective parts. I found the script to be unusual and very entertaining. I found this story’s conflict to be extremely pertinent to current times. The mayor and his cronies want to change the name of the town’s Confederate Monument Square to one which honors a recent politician. This is very offensive to Colonel Effingham and many of the other residents. The colonel writes in his column that it would be a great injustice to remove this memorial to the honored dead of the great lost cause. This was very pertinent to me in light of the recent removal of statues and monuments honoring Confederate soldiers in the South. In the last few years, people seem to have taken a new and very strong dislike to the Confederacy. Naturally, I am not in favor of the Confederacy, since it was open rebellion, and its success would have broken up the Union. However, it was a very important part of the history of the American South and the entire United States of America. Our country would not be as great as it is today without that trial. We must never forget that, nor should we condemn all the Southerners who participated as treasonous rebels. This film depicts Southerners who love the United States of America with their whole hearts even as they take pride in the memory of their antebellum glory and Confederate dreams. After all, the greatest contribution of the Civil War to our country was the patriotism it inspired throughout the nation. Although the Confederates were wrong, we shouldn’t try to erase that chapter of America’s past, since our history is something to be cherished. As Colonel Effingham wisely states: “A community’s history is its family tree.”

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Recommendation

I highly recommend this film to my readers. It is a light and fun movie. I especially recommend it to fans of Charles Coburn and Joan Bennett. It isn’t an epic masterpiece, but it is a good, entertaining movie. Classic film fans should enjoy this optimistic tale of political corruption at the beginning of World War II in the Deep South.

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For the Blogathon

Joan Bennett is very charming in this movie. I haven’t seen her in many films, but I have liked every performance of hers which I have seen so far. Whether she is a witty manicurist as in Big Brown Eyes from 1936 or a loving mother as in Father of the Bride from 1951, she always dazzles. In the role of Ella Sue, she is somewhere between these two types. She has a bit of the sarcastic, biting truthfulness of her earlier reporteress characters opposite Cary Grant, yet it is tempered by the sweetness and gentleness of her later roles. Joan doesn’t get a lot of screen time in this film, but she brings a lot to the film in her brief scenes. She is very beautiful, and she wears some simple but lovely clothes. Ella Sue is a singular member of the cast in the fact that she is the only character aside from Colonel Effingham at the beginning of the film who isn’t contented with or resigned to the undemocratic political system in the city. She may not start the fight against corruption, but she immediately joins it. It isn’t her largest or grandest role, but even lesser roles in shorter films like these can be great tributes to the talent of wonderful stars!

Happy #CleanMovieMonth85!

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By the way, please join our month-long celebration of Code films, #CleanMovieMonth85! Throughout July, we are going to watch nothing but American Breen Era films, and we are inviting participants to do the same. Writers can join this celebration with articles about their own favorite films and discoveries during the month, and we will republish them on our website. Here’s to 85 years since the formation of the Production Code Administration!

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