It was considered a disaster upon its theatrical release in 1944. It stayed that way for many years to come. Even its home video releases proved to be unsuccessful, and None But The Lonely Heart has only recently found its way to disc — albeit via the DVD-R format of Warner Bros. “Warner Archive” label. But, never let poor a box office run and a shifty home video history fool you: some movies simply take time to be acknowledged for the achievements that they truly are.
And None But The Lonely Heart is truly one of those underrated achievements. But, please note: I referred to it as an “achievements,” and not a “classic.” More on that later.
Based on Robert Llewellyn’s novel of the same name, None But The Lonely Heart owes some of its infamy due to the casting of Cary Grant. Audiences around the world (well, mostly America) had come to know and love Grant as the star of many screwball comedies over the years. He was always chasing the girl — or she was chasing him. Chaos always ensued, but, in the end, everything worked out fine and every theater patrons left the cinema with a smile on their face and maybe even a song in their heart. In None But The Lonely Heart, however, Grant had finally been given the chance at a deeply serious role (which he had been waiting for, as he was a bit frustrated with being typecast in one funny flick after another).
Here, Grant plays Ernie Mott: an ambitionless (yet extremely talented), wandering tomcat type of fellow, who returns to the Cockney surroundings he grew up in during the years following World War I. His mother (Ethel Barrymore, credited with a “Miss” at the beginning of her name), whom Ernie never really had a good relationship with, runs a second-hand store — but is having a tough time with it all since she is nearing the final stages of her life. Although he’s always yearned for something better, Ernie isn’t the type that goes out looking for it.
Deciding to finally be a good lad at long last, Ernie sticks around to help his mum out with the shop. And, while the tomcat in him may get him in a pickle or two with some of the local ladies (good girl Jane Wyatt vs. bad girl June Duprez), there will be more trouble brewing for Mr. Mott once the local gangsters learn of Ernie’s many skills.
As I had previously mentioned, None But The Lonely Heart really isn’t the type of film that should be hailed as a “classic.” Sure, it’s a classic if you judge by its age (such as Axel Foley’s crappy blue Chevy Nova), but, in a truly cinematic sense, None But The Lonely Heart often gets too involved with itself. The film’s screenwriter and director, writer/socialist Clifford Odets, had never made a feature film, and seemed rather intent on filming it as he had written it — hence, some segments are rather tame or just go on for too long.
It’s still a very good film, though, and anyone who has chuckled at the humorous onscreen antics of Cary Grant should give it a look so that they can see how well he could deliver the serious type of goods, too (his performance here even resulted in one of two Academy Award nominations the actor received in his career).
As I had also mentioned before, None But The Lonely Heart is part of the Warner Archives Collection, a series of titles that are manufactured on demand to DVD-R for consumers and available solely through www.warnerarchive.com. Unlike many other Archives titles, though, None But The Lonely Heart has been remastered for a better-than-you’d-expect audio/video presentation. The film is presented in its original Academy aspect ratio with mono English sound, and exhibits some occasional source damage (it’s been remastered, not restored).
Ultimately, any flaws in the A/V departments should not deter potential viewers from picking this one up.