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Winterset (1936)

Approved | | Crime, Drama, Romance | 3 December 1936 (USA)
Immigrant radical Bartolomeo Romagna is falsely condemned and executed for a payroll robbery. Years later, his son Mio sets out to find the truth of the crime and to bring to account the ... See full summary »

Director:

Alfred Santell

Writers:

Maxwell Anderson (play), Anthony Veiller (screenplay)
Reviews
Nominated for 2 Oscars. Another 2 wins & 2 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Burgess Meredith ... Mio Romagna
Margo ... Miriamne Esdras
Eduardo Ciannelli ... Trock Estrella
John Carradine ... Bartolomio Romagna
Edward Ellis ... Judge Gaunt
Maurice Moscovitch ... Esdras
Paul Guilfoyle ... Garth Esdras
Stanley Ridges ... Shadow
Mischa Auer ... Radical
Willard Robertson ... Policeman in the Square
Alec Craig ... Hobo
Myron McCormick Myron McCormick ... Carr
Helen Jerome Eddy ... Maria Romagna
Barbara Pepper ... Girl
Fernanda Eliscu ... Piny
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Storyline

Immigrant radical Bartolomeo Romagna is falsely condemned and executed for a payroll robbery. Years later, his son Mio sets out to find the truth of the crime and to bring to account the gangster Trock Estrella. Written by Jim Beaver <jumblejim@prodigy.net>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Genres:

Crime | Drama | Romance

Certificate:

Approved | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

3 December 1936 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Abismos Humanos See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

RKO Radio Pictures See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono (RCA Victor System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Burgess Meredith, in his first film with a credited role, recreates the role he played in the original Broadway production. See more »

Connections

Version of Winterset (1945) See more »

Soundtracks

Siboney
(uncredited)
Written by Ernesto Lecuona
See more »

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User Reviews

 
High-flown, poetic social-commentary tragedy should be laughable – but isn't
16 August 2002 | by bmacvSee all my reviews

From RKO studios in 1936 (though it looks as though it were made in the earliest ‘30s), during the heyday of the Astaire-Rogers musicals, came something rich and strange. Maxwell Anderson's very serious poetic play was boiled down into a movie that's part Depression-era gangster flick, part Shavian social-issue drama, and part neo-Greek tragedy.

The igniting fuse was the Nicola Sacco/Bartolomeo Vanzetti case of 1927, where two immigrant anarchists were condemned (some would say railroaded) to death supposedly for a robbery in which guards were killed. Anderson pushes it back to 1920 and focuses on a single man, Bartolomeo Romagna (John Carradine), whose auto, filled with anarchist/socialist tracts, is stolen for a similar crime by gangster Eduardo Cianelli. When condemned, Carradine eloquently rebukes the judge (Edward Ellis).

The film now flashes forward to 1936, when Romagna's down-and-out drifter son (Burgess Merdith), spurred by revisionist theories of the case, journeys to New York to confront the surviving principals, including Cianelli, Ellis and a reluctant witness (Paul Guildfoyle). All converge for a reckoning preordained by The Fates....

Anderson has heightened his dialogue to lend it immortal aspirations (which may have been a grandiose miscalculation – the dominant rhetorical mode of the twentieth century, obvious even by 1936, is flatting). The high-flown posture extends to the look of the film, too – a stylized nightscape that's a harbinger of the look of film noir to come a few years later. A low-ceilinged tenement-basement flat is oppressively claustrophobic (markedly so, given the number of actors crammed into it), while the cobblestones and stone arches of the low-rent streets near New York's waterfront glisten wickedly in the pelting rain. (At times the slums look like the central squares of those Transylvanian villages so common in Universal horror pix of this era).

Almost every element of Winterset should seem laughable now – but doesn't (though there are a few close shaves). There's an early sequence involving a hurdy-gurdy that lures the slum-dwelling underclass out of its burrows to dance that's hauntingly powerful – as is the face of Winterset's love interest, an actress known as Margo, that harks back to the expressiveness of the silents.


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