“You always pass failure on the way to success”–Mickey Rooney
Mickey Rooney has died at age 93. Many of his performances were in great Cinematherapy movies, including the Love Is All Around You movie The Human Comedy, which is truly “Cinematherapy for the Soul.”
The Human Comedy (1943)
Stars: Mickey Rooney, Frank Morgan, Van Johnson, Fay Bainter, Donna Reed
Director: Clarence Brown
Writer: Howard Estabrook, based on a story by William Saroyan
Sometimes it’s nice to curl up with one of those unapologetically sentimental classics and escape to a world where people always speak in a loving manner, pray simply and eloquently when they are afraid, and seem to exist in a perpetual state of grace. But be forewarned: You’ll either let forth a waterfall of tears when you watch this one or get antsy with its old school pacing. Take a breath and consider it a meditation, and you’ll be able to truly enjoy Mickey Rooney’s Oscar-nominated performance as a boy on the verge of manhood trying to make sense of the rhythms of life and the madness of war.
Many of the residents of Ithaca, California, know that music brings comfort to the poor of spirit: The Macauley girls and their mother play the harp and sing to harmonize away the pain of losing their father. Their brother (Van Johnson) plays “Danny Boy” on the concertina to his army buddies as they wait to ship out, knowing many of them won’t return. And when middle son Homer (Mickey Rooney), a telegram messenger, is aching to inform a Mexican-American mother that her only son has died in action, she comforts him and herself as she plaintively sings a folk song from the old country in a musical thread weaving birth, life, and death together in the space between them.
Now, you know that with a main character off at war, and another who is the town’s bearer of all those “The War Department regrets to inform you” telegrams, and a small town quiet that goes on for reel after reel, the war is going to bust in like an unwelcome guest. And it does, injecting a harsh dose of reality that can only be alleviated by a reminder that at these times, unexpected visitors show up to remind us that from death comes life, from despair comes gratitude, from loss comes renewed hope, and from slow-moving 40s movies comes a reminder that moving slowly alerts us to what really matters in life. So open the door to Homer and his family when you’re feeling cynical and reconnect with the force of love that joins lonely melodies in harmony.