Smilin' Through (1932 film)

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Smilin' Through
Smilin' Through 1932 film poster.jpg
Theatrical poster
Directed by Sidney Franklin
Produced by Albert Lewin
Screenplay by Donald Ogden Stewart
Ernest Vajda
Based on Smilin' Through (play)
1919 play
by Jane Cowl
Jane Murfin
Starring Norma Shearer
Fredric March
Leslie Howard
Music byWilliam Axt
Arthur A. Penn
Cinematography Lee Garmes
Edited by Margaret Booth
Distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release date
  • September 24, 1932 (1932-09-24)
Running time
98 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$851,000 [1]
Box office$2,033,000 [1]

Smilin' Through is a 1932 American pre-Code MGM romantic drama film based on the 1919 play by Jane Cowl and Jane Murfin, also named Smilin' Through .


The film was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture for 1932. It was adapted from Cowl and Murfin's play by James Bernard Fagan, Donald Ogden Stewart, Ernest Vajda and Claudine West. The movie was directed by Sidney Franklin and starred Norma Shearer, Fredric March, Leslie Howard and Ralph Forbes.

The film was a remake of an earlier 1922 silent version also directed by Sidney Franklin which starred Norma Talmadge.


The film opens in 1898, with John Carteret standing by the grave of Moonyean Clare (1849-1868). At home, in his garden, he calls to her, and her spirit comes to him, wearing a wedding dress. He does not see her, but he does sometimes hear her. She tells him to be patient, the years will pass quickly.

John, a wealthy man, has become a virtual recluse since Moonyean’s death. His lifelong friend Dr. Owen brings Moonyean's orphaned niece to see him, hoping John will adopt her. Kathleen, who will be ”five in June“ does not take to him, and shakes hands goodbye; years later the three of them are celebrating her birthday, on June 7. She blows out the candles. Next a large cake is marked June 7, 1915. Kathleen, they both tell her, looks like Moonyean. She knows that John mourns her aunt, but nothing more.

Caught in a violent thunderstorm with her hapless and lovelorn childhood friend Willie, Kathleen breaks into the long-deserted Wayne mansion. They find an invitation for Moonyean’s wedding. A strange man comes in, and something passes between him and Kathleen when their eyes meet. A charming American who has come over to join the British forces, he behaves like a host, and at last introduces himself as Kenneth Wayne, Jeremy Wayne’s son.

Their romance develops quickly, but when Kathleen tells John of the meeting, he reacts with speechless fury. Kenneth’s father is John's long-dead mortal enemy: John has been deprived of his vengeance. In the garden, he tells Kathleen the whole story, shown in flashback.

At the party the night before their wedding, John only wants to listen as Moonyean sings “Smilin’ Through”, ignoring Owen as he tries to warn John that his rival Jerry Wayne has been drinking heavily. Jerry comes to the back gate to talk to Kathleen, desolate and raging: she should be his. He leaves when John comes out, and the lovers share some blissful moments in the garden. In the church the next day, Jerry, drunk, stops the ceremony and tries to shoot John. Moonyean rushes forward and the bullet strikes near her heart. She dies in John’s arms as he puts the ring on her finger.

When John finishes his story, Kathleen is on her knees, weeping. John makes her promise never to see Kenneth again. Kenneth insists on knowing why. He understands, but their love proves too strong and for weeks they meet in secret at Mrs. Crouch’s tea shop, the windowpanes shaken by the guns in France.

Kathleen asks Kenneth to take her to Dover with him when his leave is over. But when John says that he will not take her back if she marries, Kenneth can't bring himself to leave Kathleen alone and unprovided for and they part at the station. Kathleen returns home devastated. John has no pity: he wishes Kenneth dead. Moonyean comes to him, but his hate is standing between them. She tries to make him realize that unless he can right this wrong, he can never come to her.

With WW1 coming to its end, Kathleen goes to meet a troop train, but she can’t find Kenneth. He comes in that night with the wounded. Owen tends to the wounded and finds Kenneth. Both his legs are badly injured but he makes Owen promise he will not tell Kathleen. He has been discharged and plans to sail for America the next day. However, Owen does tell John of Kenneth's plan. Kathleen notices a light at the Wayne mansion and runs over; Kenneth hides his crutches and pretends he no longer cares for her. It is torture; after she leaves, he breaks down.

Finally letting go of his hate and desire for revenge, John tells Kathleen the truth and asks her to bring Kenneth back with her. On her way, she sees Owen and sends him to John. The old friends sit down to play chess, but John dozes off. Amused, Owen leaves him to his nap. But John has died; young again, he is reunited with Moonyean. They watch as Kathleen helps Kenneth walk to the house, then the ghostly lovers drive off in a spectral carriage, fêted by the spirits of their wedding guests.



There are significant differences in the way the story is presented in this film and in the 1922 silent film. The 1941 version, though not a shot for shot redo, does incorporate several key scenes from this film word for word, while adding material that focuses more on the war, including patriotic songs performed by Jeannette MacDonald.

The song “Smilin’ Through” was first published in 1919, while the original play was being written. It was used in the play and in all three film adaptions (It was in the musical accompaniment to the silent film.) When Norma Shearer sang the song as Moonyean, she was dubbed by Georgia Stark. [2]

The picture was re-released in 1934-1935. According to the M-G-M "Campaign Book,” it was brought back "by public demand." [3]

Box office

The film grossed a total (domestic and foreign) of $2,033,000: $1,004,000 from the US and Canada and $1,029,000 elsewhere. It made a profit of $529,000. [1]

Awards and honors

In 1934, Smilin' Through was nominated for the Academy Award for Outstanding Production at the 6th Academy Awards.

In 2002, the American Film Institute nominated this film for AFI's 100 Years...100 Passions. [4]

See also


  1. 1 2 3 The Eddie Mannix Ledger, Los Angeles: Margaret Herrick Library, Center for Motion Picture Study.
  2. "SMILIN' THROUGH - Lyrics - International Lyrics Playground". Retrieved December 10, 2019.
  3. "AFI|Catalog Smilin' Through". Retrieved December 10, 2019.
  4. "AFI's 100 Years...100 Passions Nominees" (PDF). Retrieved August 19, 2016.

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