From the Chicago Reader (January 1, 1992). — J.R.
It’s a critical commonplace that the only good film of William Faulkner’s work is The Tarnished Angels (from Pylon) though some critics give an additional nod to Tomorrow for Robert Duvall’s performance. I would add this 1949 adaptation of Faulkner’s early response to southern racism, improbably made at MGM, though shot mainly on location in Faulkner’s hometown of Oxford, Mississippi. Perhaps because he was a southerner himself, Clarence Brown, best known as Greta Garbo’s favorite director, brought an unusual amount of feeling and taste to the material. An uppity black man (Juano Hernandez) is accused of murder, a potential lynch mob forms as he refuses to defend himself, and a white boy he’s befriended tries to get to the bottom of what actually happened. The story is treated with an unsensationalized and unsentimentalized clarity that seems unusually sophisticated for the period, and the other cast members — David Brian, Claude Jarman Jr., Porter Hall, and Elizabeth Patterson — are almost as good as Hernandez. 87 min. (JR)