In this film version of the Pulitzer Prize winning stage play by Thornton Wilder we have somethings that make sense but there is one glaring problem with the film. The film has music by some guy named Aaron Copland as well. It was the play we did my senior year in high school so it holds a special place in my heart. Spoilers to follow.
The plot follows that of the stage version but there are actual props and more scenery as opposed to what we see on the stage. We begin with an overview on the “Daily Life” in Grover’s Corner, New Hampshire in 1901 with the Gibbs and Webb family much of this is provided by the Stage Manager. We meet Doc Gibbs, Julie his wife and their children George and Rebecca as well as Editor Webb, Myrtle his wife and their children Emily and Wally. This covers the first third of the movie. The next part is a couple of years later and could be called “Love and Marriage” the story turns to Emily and George as they prepare for their wedding. We see how their relationship begins at a soda fountain and the wedding as well. The final third of the film focuses on “Death and Dying” we begin is part in the cemetery where there is a new arrival. it’s Emily she has died in childbirth. She is joined by other people in town like Julie Gibbs and Wally Webb. Emily asks if she can ever go back and relive a day and Mother Gibbs and other who are dead tells her to pick not a special day but just a regular day to go back to after urging Emily not to go back. Emily goes back to her birthday and soon enough it it too much for her and laments that we don’t look at one another and we never notice all that’s going on. This is the part which feels odd as for the film they change the ending up a bit as in the play Emily actually dies and it isn’t just some dream that she has during childbirth.
The story is something that seems fresh even almost a eighty years as Emily’s laments are perhaps the same that we have today. If you haven’t seen the play before I’d suggest watching the 2003 version with Paul Newman which is a recording of the stage production or going out to see the play before watching this film. There is also a musical version with Frank Sinatra, it is also where the song Love and Marriage originated, and an Opera version as well. The film is in the public domain so you can download it and watch it for free. Our Town (1940)