The World Moves On (1934) Poster

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Interesting and sweeping in its scope.
MartinHafer13 May 2010
Warning: Spoilers
This movie reminds me a bit of the best picture film, "Cavalcade", that was made a year before "The World Moves On". Both stories are set over a very long time period and involve a wealthy family during good times and bad--the bad being WWI. However, there are also a lot of differences--enough that it's well worth seeing both films.

The film begins in the early 19th century. At the death of a so-called 'Cotton King', his will is read and it gives amazingly detailed instructions about his estate. To satisfy the conditions of the will, the family must make a business merger and then send its family members to set up a business empire in the major industrialized nations at the time--France, Prussia (later, to make up a large part of Germany), Britain and, of course, the United States. Through the decades, the family ties remain strong--even after there are distinct lines of the new family that speak different languages. The idea is that despite national interests, the family and the company come first. However, this is all complicated 90 years later when WWI arrives. And, surprisingly, the film continues from the end of WWI to the Depression and its impact on the family.

The film has excellent production values and clearly was a project that Fox Studio heaped a lot of money on--with lots of fancy sets, an up and coming director (John Ford) and a pretty good cast headed by Franchot Tone and Madeleine Carroll. For the most part, the writing was also first-rate and the film quite enjoyable. There were only a couple things I really disliked about the film. First, subsequent generations of family members are played by the same actors in several cases--as if descendants look EXACTLY like their parents, grandparents or great-grandparents. This is a stupid Hollywood cliché--as this does not happen in real life--even with families where incest is all the rage!! Second, for 'comic relief' for the WWI scenes, Steppin Fetchit is cast--even though he has NOTHING to do with the movie. And no, he does not play the 'black sheep' of the family! He is simply a walking, talking negative racial stereotype that was very popular in the 30s but which makes almost everyone cringe today (and it should). Also, the notion of a need for COMEDY during WWI is brainless and misguided to say the least! What part of 11,000,000 war dead is funny?!

Now you should be able to look past these two problem areas with the film and if you stick with it, the movie is pretty amazing for its scope, its very brutal scenes of warfare (some of the most harrowing of the era, in fact) and its rather non-partisan stand--which was quite the rage in the early to mid-1930s--when most Americans had come to accept that this war had no good guys or bad guys--only many victims. Of course, WWII and the rise of Hitlerism in the years following this film would change this attitude considerably. Still, it's a mostly forgotten fact that practically all films about WWI made in America during the 1930s were very critical of the war and took a neutral stance on it--as was also true of many of the films in France (such as "Grand Illusion" and "J'Accuse!") as well as Germany up until the Nazis took control ("Westfront 1918"). Plus, I was amazed that the movie dared to criticize the rise of nationalism and fascism in the 1930s--they were correct, but Hollywood (aside from this film) pretty much ignored this until AFTER WWII had already begun!

By the way, you probably could guess that I am a history teacher and film buff--hence all this background material that you might find interesting. And, speaking of this, history teachers should particularly appreciate this well-made film.
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andrenalin_0419 August 2008
In the tradition of Fox Studios' Oscar-winning Cavalcade, The World Moves On covers over one hundred years in the lives of two Louisiana families: The Girards, of French extraction, and the Warburtons, formerly of Manchester. Forming an alliance by marriage in 1825, the families rapidly corner the cotton business in the South. Years later, three of Girard/Warburton sons split up to head business operations in England, France and Germany: as a result, descendants of the original families find themselves fighting on opposite sides during WW I (this episode is similar to a memorable sequence in the 1928 silent Four Sons, which like World Moves On was directed by John Ford). Surviving the war, Richard (Franchot Tone), the last of the descendants becomes a sharkish Wall Street speculator in the 1920s, ultimately losing his fortune in the Wall Street Crash. Bloody but unbowed, Richard and his wife Mary (Madeleine Carroll) cut their losses and return to their ancestral home, to start all over again. Both The World Moves On and the subsequent Fox production Road to Glory rely to a considerable extent upon stock footage from the grim 1931 French antiwar drama Wooden Crosses.
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Stilted drama: for fans of Madeleine Carroll only.
rfkeser27 November 1999
Starting in the Civil War South like an across-the-generations romance in the manner of SMILIN' THROUGH, this stilted drama then slogs through World War I and the Great Depression like an American CAVALCADE. John Ford effectively showcases the luminous Madeleine Carroll [including a QUEEN CHRISTINA-like moment of gazing out to sea], but otherwise directs with little commitment to the material. Franchot Tone conveys zero chemistry with his leading lady, so he just goes through the motions, while Ford favorite Stepin Fetchit works his offensive "shuffling darkie" routine, but in Paris. The screenplay seems especially turgid since the situations are arbitrary and reveal little about the characters. Despite an occasional imaginative touch, this all makes for a long 107 minutes.
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Different and prophetical: a forgotten masterpiece
le_mag_pereira14 December 2012
Warning: Spoilers
Until I actually watched it, I had never heard of "The World Goes On". The name of director John Ford was what called my attention, although I was already familiar with its stars, Madeleine Carroll and Franchot Tone, because I had watched both in 1935 films, respectively "The 39 Steps" and "Mutiny on the Bounty".

The story is about two families that are partners in the cotton business. It all starts in 1825, when Richard Girard (Tone) becomes partner of Mary Warburton's (Carroll) husband, but falls for her. She comes back to England and never sees him again, but it comes that, 89 years later, their great-grandchildren, with their same names, get to know each other and fall in love. Mary leaves an almost-groom and marries Robert during the war, in which he participates as a soldier in France's Foreign Legion. What comes is the many changes the business faces during and after the war, with its owners, like Richard's cousins, each in one different country.

Almost all the film is a regular historical drama, but near the end it becomes unforgettable, because it perfectly predicts World War II. Talking about a war after it happened is very easy, but mentioning it before it starts is the cleverest thing movies could have done. The sequence of images even shows some of the countries who were later involved in the conflict, like Germany, Italy, England and Japan. If WWII hasn't happened, this end would be a huge flaw and would be deleted in further releases. But it happened, and being able to foresee it in 1934 is, at least, amazing.

Of course, no one can pass without noticing Dixie (Stepin Fetchit) and the horrible black stereotype. It was certainly a funny character in the 30s and it would also be today, considering his messes, if he wasn't shown as a feeble-minded. This is a sin not only John Ford committed in that time, but maybe we can forgive him of it and let ourselves be touched by the final image of this surprising film.
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The Blame Goes to Ford Here
Michael_Elliott11 February 2012
The World Moves On (1934)

** (out of 4)

Flat look at two families, the Warburtons and the Girards, who are bound by marriage in 1825 and form a business that places parts of the family in England, America and Germany. All is well until WWI breaks out and soon the families are torn on all issues. I've read numerous reports saying that director John Ford never cared for this film and rumor has it that Fox was really hounding him to film screenplays the way they were written and not to go so far off track. Rumor has it that Ford did exactly that here and turned in a pretty lifeless movie just to prove a point to the studio. Of course, this has never been proved to my knowledge but if you watch the film it's easy to see why this might be the case. I've seen dozens of films from the legendary director and there's no question that he's made some duds throughout but THE WORLD MOVES ON should have been a classic but the end result is so lifeless that you can't help but think there was something going on behind the scenes. Ford has always been great at showing patriotism but that's missing here and it plays an important part of the picture. There are many actions scenes scattered throughout but none of them contain any energy and they come across so flat that it seems like they just set the camera up and started shooting without trying to do anything special. This is especially true during some horrendous comedy moments with Stepin Fetchit, which are just so embarrassing that you really wonder what the director was thinking. I know Fetchit appeared in several Ford films and the image that he plays rubs a lot of people the wrong way but no matter how you view it the way the character here is used is just bad. Performances are pretty good from the leads (Franchot Tone, Madeleine Carroll, Reginald Denny) but they're certainly letdown by the direction. The look of the film is quite good and there's a very interesting story here but sadly it just never comes to life. I think with more care there's a classic movie here.
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For John Ford Completists only
lorenellroy20 October 2007
This 1934 movie is largely unknown and considering it was directed by John Ford this may seem surprising .Yet even quite exhaustive surveys of his work either omit references to this movie entirely or else give it only a passing mention.Now that I have seen it I feel that this is not really surprising after all .It is bombastic ,muddled and confused ,with a -for me -unacceptable pacifistic line .It is the product of an isolationist mind set and I found it morally repugnant .Thankfully ,it is not very good and so it is possible to dislike it on artistic grounds as well.

In form it is a family or dynastic saga ,split into a number of eras .It opens in 1825 in New Orleans as the family of a dead fabrics baron assemble for the reading of his will .The estate is split between branches of the family in the US -as represented by Franchot Tone -,England ,France and Germany .The rest of the action is this segment consists of Tone killing a ,man in a duel for insulting Madelaine Carroll.She and Tone have a mutual attraction but she is engaged to someone else and the affair is not consummated .

The movie then moves forward to Europe immediately before World War 1 .The family gathers for a dynastic wedding .Tone and Carroll re-appear ,both playing descendants of the people they portrayed in the opening section of the movie.There are hints -conveyed by their response to a particular piece of music -that they have some kind of "deja vu" connected with their ancestors previous relationship but this potentially intriguing theme is never pursued .War breaks out and the family splits on national grounds .Tone joins the French Foreign Legion to take up arms against Germany but others respond in less sensible ways.Carroll defies the orders of the government and refuses to make munitions (an act of treason which bizarrely Ford seems to agree with)while a key member of the French side of the family joins the priesthood as a gesture against the war .

The last part of the movie takes place in the 1920's .Tone is now a tycoon and an absolute megalomaniac driven by greed and a lust for power.The crash of 1929 sees him reappraise his life and values and take a "peace ,love and understanding ,man" approach to life .

There are some good things about the picture .The scenes of wartime action ,without recourse to graphic violence ,do depict the horrors of war well but overall this is a sprawling mess of a movie .The episodic structure and the obvious striving after "significance "allied to a propensity to preach at the audience make it tedious .The last 10 minutes is essentially a lightly dramatised and sententious pacifist tract and as wishy washy as such farragoes of nonsense invariably are .One section is particularly offensive ,It involves newsreel footage of Hitler ,Mussolini and Japanese militarists and the British navy .
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A hiccup in a great career
cwhaskell19 December 2010
There is one bit of dialog that I feel needs to be revisited. The husband says "Are you ready dear?" to his wife before she drops him off at a train station. Her response: "Of course dear, I've been ready for over an hour." This, which is a statement that has never been uttered again by a wife whilst getting ready to be somewhere, and the character Dixie played by Stepin Fetchit (it's surprising how offensive his character plays almost 80 years after this movie was made), are the only two memorable parts in this multi-generational tale directed by John Ford. I don't mean to trivialize this great artists' work, as he earned every accolade ever thrown his way, but this is a hiccup in a nearly flawless career. There are lessons to be learned here about avarice and lust for power, but they're sort of brushed over, because, as it turns out it's difficult to tell a story that spans 100 years in under 2 hours. Just remember to put those who love you and have stuck by you first and you don't need to spend the time seeing this. Rating 16/40
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The Rothschilds of Cotton
bkoganbing14 January 2017
For a John Ford film this one is usually not mentioned in any retrospectives I know concerning his career. For a film that is internationalistic in scope it gets sadly neglected.

Another reviewer compared The World Moves On to Cavalcade which came out a year earlier. For me this film most closely resembled The House Of Rothschild only instead of money the commodity is cotton and in the 19th century. In some places cotton was considered a kind of currency like in the American south. In 1825 the American family Girard merges with the British Warburtons and then has other sons settle in France and Germany just like Nathan Rothschild's kids as early proponents of globalism.

After an 1825 prologue the action skips to 1914 where Sig Ruman of the German branch is hosting a big blowout with nary a thought to a possible war breaking out. War and the Roaring 20s type materialistic peace that followed are what is dealt with.

By the way also watching this film I did wonder just how the combine managed to weather the American Civil War. But that was never mentioned.

The film focuses on Franchot Tone of the American branch and Madeleine Carroll of the English Warburtons. They marry and she jilts Reginald Denny of the German branch in the process. Then Tone almost on a lark enlists in the French Army. The family with losses both financial and personal carries on though.

Shoehorned into the film is Stepin Fetchit in a real travesty of a role. He's the family retainer as he usually is. Here he spots some French Senegalese African soldiers in dress uniforms and he thinks it's a lodge and wants to join. Of course he's eagerly recruited. Today's viewers might not realize but the popular Amos N' Andy radio show had their protagonists as members of the Mystic Knights Of The Sea Lodge. That reference to a lodge would not have been lost on a 1934 viewer. Stepin Fetchit's role adds zero to the story and it's more offensive than usual.

Best part of The World Moves On are the battle scenes in World War I. They are not glamorized in any way, hardly like one of Ford's cavalry epics.

I rate The World Moves On as low as I do because of Stepin Fetchit. Had he not been there this would far higher on John Ford's list of films for quality.
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war footage interesting; not much else
mgoodwin8811 June 2008
Aside from a couple of shots, it would be almost impossible to tell that John Ford directed this if you didn't see the credits. There is an astonishingly good combat sequence, but apparently most of this footage comes from a French film that Fox bought a few years before Ford made World in '34. Nonetheless, the combat stuff is breath-taking, and very well integrated with studio footage of the principals. Stepin Fetchit has some good lines. Some nice compositions show that Ford (or his cinematographer) wasn't totally disengaged. The multi-generational love story with its mystical overtones seems totally out of character for Ford, but the opening and closing shots of Christ on the cross remind us of Ford's lifelong religiosity.
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