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Keeper of the Flame
IMDB Rating: 6.9/10 from 1,427 votes
Release: December 1942 (USA) /

Keeper of the Flame

Genre: Drama, Mystery, Thriller
Director: George Cukor,
Stars: , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Synopsis: Journalist Steve O'Malley wants to write a biography of a national hero who died when his car ran off a bridge. Steve receives conflicting reports and tales that make him question what the truth about the hero is.

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Critic Reviews


I first saw "Keeper of the Flame" a few years after its original release (1942), probably around age 13, which would make it 1946. At the time of its release, it received mixed reviews at best. I, personally, was quite moved by it. Now, 53 years later, I've seen it again. Although the film is a bit dated and its central theme was better hyped at the time of its release, I believe it holds up fairly well. The film concerns itself with blind hero worship, as a mesmerized nation mourns the sudden accidental death of a national icon. A much respected reporter (Spencer Tracy), just back from Europe where he's witnessed the early horrors of World War II prior to U.S. entry into the conflict, has arrived just after the great man's tragic auto accident. He decides to write the hero's biography, so to immortalize his memory. While he manages to distance himself from the jostling pool of reporters, his biggest challenge is in seeing the great man's reclusive widow (Katharine Hepburn). In short, once the contact is made and the research process undertaken, we see the deceased as through a prism of characters: the eerily effective secretary (Richard Whorf); the down-home philosopher-cab driver (Percy Kilbride); the laconic and somewhat cynical doctor (Frank Craven, who observes of the mass hysteria: "Some of us held out;" a pouting cousin (Forrest Tucker), and an embittered caretaker (Howard Da Silva) who had been the hero's captain in World War I. Now, restricted physically by wounds he suffered, he has served the man he once commanded. He seems resentful of the man who saved his life in combat. The effect of unbridled hero worship on an impressioable young mind is captured in the caretaker's son (Darryl Hickman), convinced he is responsible for the death of his idol. His role becomes tedious, but is critical to the underlying psychology of the film.

Like the peeling of an onion, the film reveals layer after layer of the people in the life of a giant, his relations with them, and the passions stirred by his presence ... and his causes. We see that it is wise to temper emotion with information in selecting our icons. While Tracy and Hepburn are quite good in their roles, it is the supporting cast which drives the film. Whorf, Da Silva and Craven are outstanding in key roles. The Bronislau Kaper score and excellent black and white cinematography preserve the quality of the drama and help it through its dated moments.

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