An American Romance (1944) Poster

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Historical value
whccapt27 June 2006
As A career merchant seaman on the Great Lake's ore carriers, and working for a large steel maker, I found this movie most interesting and well done. This motion picture contains many historical shots of early lake vessels at the locks in Sault Ste. Marie and docking in Gary, Indiana. The story seems to be based on the life of Andrew Carnegie who was also an immigrant from Scotland. My family came from the Pittsburgh area and were employed with a large steel company, so I can relate well to the plot. Brian Donlevey visited aboard some of our vessels while making this movie in the port of Gary, Indiana. I liked this movie and watch it when I find it advertised to be shown on TV. I would own it if I could buy it because of its historical value..
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An unapologetic "immigrant boy makes good" story,
youngcaryyoung3 April 2006
I saw this movie as a kid of 10 in Port Arthur, Texas, which had four theaters in a four block area. I don't remember all the details, but it was definitely a feel-good film. The protagonist was an Eastern European immigrant whose name was long and hard to pronounce, so he was re-christened Steve Dangos. Steve first got a job iron ore in an "op'm pit". Being bright and ambitious, he later became an automobile manufacturer and, if the movie is to be believed, was the first to build an enclosed sedan. He was proud to be an American (this was at a point in World War II when the outcome was expected but not guaranteed) and he named his sons after Washington and Theodore Roosevelt. He had his share of sorrow when one of the sons was killed in World War I. This was not one of the all-time film classics, but it must have made a great impression on me for the basic plot to have stayed with me for all these 62 years.
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American success story.
djhbooklover25 January 2007
I saw this movie as a nine year old child and never forgot it. Later it appeared on television and more recently on TCM. I was impressed by the hero's fortitude in walking to Minnesota to join his cousin at the Mesabe Iron Range, his hard work, and his learning to read and eventually marrying the teacher. Each of his male children was named for a president after a friend remarked their child might reach that office. The movie taught me how iron ore was shipped east and processed into steel. Dangos also moves east and becomes a foreman. He eventually becomes an automobile manufacturer and his new ideas bring him success. His children succeed by achieving through the benefits of education. The movie ends after a documentary of American industry's contribution to the war effort. The Technicolor was gorgeous and Donlevy's performance believable. I still enjoy watching this film and believe King Vidor put his heart into it.
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A surprise
reginaldstockall5 June 2005
I taped this movie and just got around to watching it. As a senior, I was delighted to watch an old fashioned drama of bygone days and I thought Brian Donlevy did a great job. This man never got the recognition he deserved often cast in unfavorable roles. "An American Romance" gave him the opportunity to excel and he did a great job. I realize it is a Rags to Riches story and from the standpoint of contemporary society, a bit "corny", but it nonetheless had a message that hard work and dedication leads to success and happiness.

My only criticism is that it ended too abruptly. I did not watched the 151 minute version. T.C.M. showed a shorter version but I felt ending with world war II and building planes was a bit of a disappointment.

If you are looking for a film to show your grandchildren, this is it!
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A story about an immigrant family living the American Dream.
gekkolies6 March 2005
I am an ESL high school teacher. My class is composed of predominantly Hispanic and Asian students. I would love to see this on video to teach my ESL students the American dream as portrayed by these wonderful characters. The plot is very effective- except for the fact that nothing was brought in about the Great Depression. Also, combing through the post-Industrial Revolution era with all the factory shots can be an asset for any history teacher to explain how the cooperation of people in time of need (war) has made America the wonderful country that it is today! Language Arts can also benefit because all of the elements of literature can be taught through this epic story.
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Et tu Brute? Then, fall Dangos : Vidor's pruned epic tribute to the US steel, automotive and aircraft industries.
weezeralfalfa14 December 2014
Warning: Spoilers
My review title refers to the tense scene where Stephen Dangos: chief founder of the Danton automobile company, is the lone dissenter among the executive board, in opposing the recognition of a labor union as the official spokesman for the assembly line workers. Thus ends the 3 month strike at the plant, and Dangos' tenure as company president. Several eloquent speeches are delivered for and against, before the vote. This is presented as the only significant defeat for once illiterate Bohemian immigrant Dangos in his gradual rise from iron ore shoveler, to steel mill foreman, to auto designer, to auto company president, to his final later role in encouraging his former company, now run by his son, to rethink their B-17 bomber plant to meet the current government quotas, during the height of WWII armaments production, when this film was released. We then have a segment showing actual mass assembly of B-17s in a Long Beach factory, in this rather rare for the times, Technicolor film. The implication is that Dangos encouraged a group of thinkers and engineers to get the job done in short order, thus bringing a happy ending to the human interest aspect of this story. I have a feeling that this segment, along with some other segments in the latter part of the film, was the main victim of the 30 min. cut from the original film, after too many at the premier showing complained about the length. Director King Vidor then cleaned out his MGM office and never worked for MGM again. His cherished epic had been irreparably ravished, in his mind. The film didn't do very well at the box office, perhaps partly due to its lack of a major star, which Vidor had envisioned as Spencer Tracy and Ingrid Bergman. Brian Donlevy, Tracy's replacement, does an admirable job. However, in this era, he was typecast as an oily villain: hardly an ideal resume to play an illiterate immigrant who, by native talent, luck and pluck, gradually advances to become a captain of industry.

Some of the documentary portions, showing some of the steps in iron ore mining and transport, steel production, and assembly line production of autos and planes, are rather impressive, especially considering that, unusually, they were shot in color. We see lots of Rosy -the- riveters working on the B-17s, but also lots of men doing the heavier work.

Taking advantage of the contributions to the message board at this site, we can surmise that Dangos is from the Bohemia region of the decaying Austro-Hungarian empire. At one point, he refers to himself as a 'bohunk', which was a derogatory term for poor illiterate residents of Bohemia, especially used by neighboring Germans and German immigrants to the US. The story must begin after 1892, which is when the krone(crown, in English) was adopted as the currency for this empire, but before 1899, which is when Dongos marries his Irish immigrant girlfriend Anna(Ann Richards), who began by teaching him English and encouraging his thirst to understand how machines worked relating to ore mining and steel making. Anna is a no-nonsense, but sympathetic, school teacher, who detects a kindred spirit-in -the-rough in the shy illiterate Dangos, thus encourages his latent romantic interest in her, with the stipulation that she expects him to be ambitious in rising to become a man of some importance. She even plants the possibility in his mind that his son might become president of his adopted country, causing him to name his later sons after various favorite presidents.

John Qualen, who plays Dangos' older cousin(Anton) adds much to the palatability of the early portion, when Dangos is learning to work in the iron mine. As often, Qualen comes across as the quintessential working class European immigrant, who infuses common sense and humor to the proceedings. He had a long film career playing various bit parts.

Humor is included periodically, mostly centering on Anton or Dongos. For example, Dongos is impatient to learn to be a mine steam shovel driver. Thus, on his lunch break, he climbs into the cab and starts working the levers, almost causing a catastrophe, dumping a bit of ore on Anton. Later, when he is showing his new friend Howard how much more powerful his car is after he tinkered with it, he races a train, and gets thrown in jail for speeding and reckless driving. Still later, he intentionally rolls over his new steel-roofed car, to demonstrate the increased survivability with such a roof, in case of accident. His comment: "I swallowed my gum". Too bad he didn't also think about installing a seat belt! The auto executives were impressed with his design, but balked at putting it in production, saying they think it best to wait until a competitor introduced a similar design. This is an example of a general assumption by the public that producers often let improved products or technologies sit on the shelf until forced by competition or by overwhelming consumer or government demands to release them to the public.

The message about labor and management needing to get along and compromise was timely, as worker strikes in armament factories were a periodic fact or threat during the war.
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America Love Film
Richie-67-4858527 July 2017
First take note of the date of this movie ( the forties) because we still had the mindset to be grateful and that was a time where people all over the world wanted to immigrate here. Not knowing what to expect, having little or no money and not speaking English they knew if they can get here the rest would come and it did for tens of millions of people. This is displayed quite well in this movie. I enjoyed Brian Donlevy and I kept waiting for him to trip up on his foreign accent but he was too good an actor to do so. This is an every man who only knows hard honest work and because of that does very well winning over people, making a buck, climbing the success ladder and even purchasing a home. Great scenes of family and traditions too. The war enters into the picture with Pearl Harbor and we are introduced to joining the military to defend and fight back as well as Rosie the riveter (women work forces) and what was Americas strongest points i.e. manufacturing and coming together as a nation. We could turn out volume on anything we chose such as planes, ammo, guns, etc. We ended up not only giving and selling planes to help Russia and others but also let many just end up in huge junk yards across the nation after the war ended. America could do no wrong and our main character proves that point over and over through tragedy and triumph. It starts out a little slow but necessary to make the points and then delivers a nice satisfactory viewing for your time and attentions given. Good movie to eat a meal by, have a tasty drink and a leisurely snack or two. Make sure to take note of the automobile industry in its infancy and the designs of the cars too. Also note that they sold cars from orders taken at car show annually. Fascinating bits of little history here and there. Enjoy
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am immigrant's story
blanche-224 March 2015
"An American Romance" from 1944 is partly propaganda and partly about immigrants who came to this country and went for the American dream. Originally, the stars were to be Spencer Tracy and Ingrid Bergman instead of Brian Donlevy and Ann Richards, which would have made it seem like a much bigger film. King Vidor thought he had an agreement that Tracy and Bergman would star; apparently MGM heard something else. As it is, the film is done in color and had a good budget.

The version I saw is 121 minutes; originally the film was 150 minutes and the studio ordered 30 minutes cut. There are long scenes of factory work as iron, steel, cars, and airplanes are produced, and Vidor thought the 30 minutes would come from those scenes, which are wonderful but plentiful. Instead dramatic portions were cut. The film ends abruptly.

Need I add, this was the last film King Vidor did for MGM.

The story concerns a Czech, Stefan Dangos, who emigrates to America, intending to get a job in the iron mines with his cousin. That happens, and he works his way up, along the way marrying his English tutor (Ann Richards). He graduates to steel, and finally goes into business making cars.

This is truly a story about achieving the American dream, with a lot of patriotism thrown in, as the film spans from the 1890s into World War II and America's entry into it.

The factory scenes and the scenes in the iron mines are fascinating. Of note, during World War II, there were no passenger car assembly lines in operation. As a result, Vidor had to borrow cars from Chrysler, take them apart, and reassemble them in a simulated assembly line.

Brian Donlevy, who usually plays the heavy, does a fine job here. He's no Spencer Tracy, but I liked him in the role. He's rough around the edges and very believable and likable. Ann Richards is lovely as his wife - I assume if Ingrid Bergman had done this role, it would have been built up quite a bit. Stephen McNally and Walter Abel are also featured; McNally, as one of Stefan's son, is the narrator.

Good, not great, but certainly an interesting film.
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Unabashed schmaltzy patriotism that works...
MartinHafer24 August 2013
"An American Romance" is the sort of film that was the perfect film for the perfect time. It is chock full of unabashed patriotism and is a bit schmaltzy--all in the midst of WWII. So, this sort of gung-ho worked well then but probably would be seen by many today as dated. However, I think that compared to many such films of the era, this one actually holds up well and is worth seeing today, as there is excellent acting and a bit of a history lesson here we could enjoy.

The film begins with Stefan Dubechek aka Steve Dangos (Brian Donlevy) arriving in America. He knows no English but like any good citizen, has a strong desire to work hard and make something of himself. So, starting off at the bottom at a steel mill, he is able to work his way up through the company. Eventually, he and a new friend find they have a great idea for a new car--and soon leave to start a company of their own.

The film is basically the American success story. Of course not every guy with vision and drive makes it--but this film seems to indicate that such an individual will. And, it also stresses the importance of such a strong-minded and committed person to the new war effort, as the film ends with Dangos organizing his factory for the mass production of aircraft.

While this could have been a dry documentary-type film, little bits of humanity and charm make this film work well. Well worth seeing.

By the way, if you do watch, pay attention to Donlevy's accent. Especially towards the end, he forgot it in a scene or two and in the next he's speaking with this strong accent once again!
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Great documentary scenes
andrew-hayes-13 May 2013
Wonderful shots of ca 1940 industry. The iron mine and ore docks were beautifully done, the open hearth and rolling mill was also great. Loved the Plymouths re-badged as "Dantons", apparently these were '41 leftovers as passenger car production was halted during the war. But the credits say the airplane factory was Douglas, some of the close ups of the Rosie the riveters may have been Douglas, but surely the B-17 line was at a Boeing plant? Or did Douglas also build B-17s?

But the drama was kind of corny. Not that immigrants didn't or couldn't become industrialists, but I don't think GMs steel turret tops cars could possibly have been invented in a backyard shed. In 1910 an innovative individual might have made a real improvement in auto production; by the thirties this could only have been done by a large industrial firm like GM with millions of dollars and hundreds of engineers.
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By Dint of his own hard work ethic
bkoganbing6 June 2012
Watching this film tonight and for the first time in about 40 years I also was seeing it in color for the first time and made me even more curious as to why no name stars were in the title roles with such an expensive production. From Robert Osborne I learned tonight that Spencer Tracy was originally going to be Steven Danglos instead of Brian Donlevy. Personally I would have waited for Tracy to become available and not because Donlevy gave a bad performance.

Donlevy's role is that of an Eastern European immigrant who starts work at a steel mill and by dint of his own hard work ethic rises to become a captain of industry. Along the way he woos and weds Ann Richards and they have a girl and four boys. A lot of immigrants did it that way and some are still doing it though many are illegal now. Back when we had virtually unlimited immigration because we wanted to grow the country a lot of stories like Donlevy's were possible although few rose to his heights. On both sides of my family that story could be told modified quite a bit.

In the end Donlevy is confronted with of all things labor management problems. He proves as stubborn as people like Henry Ford in that regard. If you remember in Citizen Kane a drunken Joseph Cotten tells off Orson Welles that something called organized labor is coming on the scene and what you gave your employees as largess is now thought of as their rights. Donlevy has the same paternalistic approach.

American Romance is also a tribute to the power of American industry which was growing to what we thought in 1944 as having unlimited potential. It was the backbone of our war effort and the last ten minutes without words show what Donlevy's Steven Danglos was a part of.

For reasons I think that no name star was in the lead, American Romance did not do that well. That's a pity because it's a fine film with wonderful cinematography which I finally saw on a color TV. Nice casting all around with such familiar folks as Walter Abel, John Qualen, and Stephen McNally. I hope TCM broadcasts it again soon.
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Technical details help tell the story
Marine_Grandpa10 December 2014
Warning: Spoilers
This is a great old WWII film that helps to sell the basic beliefs of American democracy. It is hokey but what also is most interesting is that the film details technical growth in the industries of the USA long before the war ever started. It shows innovation, insight and experimentation at a time when "doing things the way we always did them" was the rule. There's even a scene where innovative and safety improvement patents are nearly bought by big business just to hide them away.

Its a romantic, old fashioned film that attempts to show how the USA is more than just any one person or group of people. That's something we still need to learn today.
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Brian Donlevy in an Epic B Film
drednm11 August 2017
Brian Donlevy stars as an immigrant who comes to America in the late 19th century and rises through hard work to become a success.

This film was written, produced, and directed by the great King Vidor at MGM and was meant to be an American industrial epic culminating in a WW II propaganda piece with bombers flying in formation. It was also supposed to be the story of an immigrant and his family. The film was screened at 150 minutes, and Louis B. Mayer demanded the film cut down to 120 minutes. Vidor has no part in the edit, so what remains is a choppy story with lots of documentary-like scenes of industry. Most of the family story got deleted.

Initially set up at MGM to star Spencer Tracy, Ingrid Bergman, and Joseph Cotten, by the time Vidor was ready to film, Mayer balked at the cost and proceeded with a B cast of Brian Donlevy, Ann Richards, and Walter Abel. John Qualen and Stephen McNally are the only other name actors in the cast.

Saddled with a B cast, Vidor still tried to make the film he envisioned, but there are far too many cost-saving things going on, especially the cheesy sets. While there are some location shots, these are pretty much confined to industrial scenes.

The real pity is that Donlevy gives a terrific performance as does Abel in a much-reduced part. Australian-born Richards, however, is pretty bad, and her accent seems to change in every scene. With the family stuff omitted by Mayer, the narrative is choppy and the "heart" of the film is gone.

It's no surprise that after this bowdlerized version was released in 1944, it was a major flop. MGM lost a bundle and Vidor never worked for the studio again.
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Wonderful old film
bjones19 October 2002
I used to watch this movie on late-night TV when I was young. I loved it then and I miss not being able to see it now. The film is about an illiterate man who takes it upon himself to educate himself to win the love of his life. He then makes a success of himself in order to make a good life for them both. It's a fairy tale for sure but a heart warming one. I wish it would come out on video.
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flarepilot8 December 2014
Warning: Spoilers

This is what the head of MGM said about the film: "I was determined to tell the story of steel from the viewpoint of an eager immigrant in 'An American Romance….' When the picture was previewed in Inglewood, Louis B. Mayer came to me on the sidewalk in front of the theater, put his arm around my shoulders and said, 'I've just seen the greatest picture our company ever made.

Look especially for the series of B17s rolling off the assembly line faster than anyone could imagine.

For all those American naysayers. see this film! GREAT.Brian Donlevy is great.
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As American As Melting Pots, Apple Pie, & Mickey Mouse
DKosty1233 September 2017
Warning: Spoilers
An expensive technicolor film 15 years in the making, King Vidor's romance with American is showcased here and is done richly. There was a series called "Industry on Parade" on television years after this which might have gotten inspired by this film. The Iron and Steel Industries have no better showcase than this immigrants story.

There are some free based things with the story. Despite speculation that this is actually based upon a real person's story, the way it is presented, the King Vidor script is a compilation of several people. It highlights the land of opportunity aspect of America. It's hero, is a man who likes to read with no formal education but gets his start learning to read in a classic one room school house from a school teacher who happens to be an attractive red-head as well, he later marries and produces a large family.

Of course, because of the story, we do not really get exposed to the real working conditions of these industries too often. We do get the dangers shown to us. There is the do-it-yourself spirit of the American Dream on display too. An immigrants rise from the bottom including a walking trek from NYC to Minnesota and beyond are here. There is a lot of location work and this film was so expensive that MGM lost a pile of money on it.

There is a short cameo of the late Jimmie Dodd who would go on to write the theme for the Mickey Mouse Club and star in it. The Disney tie is really correct at his story is as American as this one. The anti- union segment covers this story when Dodd appears, but it is not quite the real Americana story of Big Business that really happened everywhere in this country. It does work well in his story.

It does make sense with the Auto Industry the rise of the Unions, which by the 1960's would really have created a huge middle class in America. This is where it came from, and the fact that the US outproduced the Axis in order to win World War 2 is quite accurately shown in this movie.

The cast, though not as well known as other films in the period, does fine though the emotions in the script are rather contained. The most emotional moment is the death of a son in World War 1.

More than anything, this movie is about the American Dream and the Industries that grew because of it.
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This is Steel!
rmax3048236 June 2012
Warning: Spoilers
It will remind you of one of those old travelogues in lurid color and the narrator's honeyed voice telling us that, "Now we enter the beautiful and ancient port of San Placebo with its towering palm trees, where the natives in their curious dress are waiting to greet us with frangipanis in their hair and palms outstretched for a phallux or two from the visiting tourists."

Barrel-chested, ham-handed Brian Donleavy as the least likely Czech immigrant you're ever likely to see, enters America through Ellis Island and walks across the country to the Mesabi range in Minnesota where he begins honest toil as an underground miner. Not content with simply working, he learns English from the school teacher and marries her. They have four or five children in the course of the movie. Donleavy is an industrious and ambitious guy and they move to Pittsburgh. He knows the steel business inside and out, rises to the top, and grinds out Flying Fortresses for the Air Force in World War II.

It's strictly routine. It's the equivalent of a flag waver for the Armed Forces during the war, only this is aimed at the home front. We should all be like Brian Donleavy, a humble, unlettered, God-fearing son of the soil whose intelligence and drive are going to win the war for us.

There's no edge to it. There's not a surprise in it. When their oldest boy is of age, it's 1918 and he enlists in the U. S. Army. We can only wait for the telegram, which we know will be read out loud.

The humor misfires because it's so determinedly corny. Maybe somebody else finds it funny when a man insists on tinkering with a balky automobile and a small explosion envelopes him in smoke. But there is some interest in getting to see the Mesabi iron ore pit -- "the biggest man-made Grand Canyon in the United States." It was made by entrepreneurs; the Grand Canyon by God. And there are one or two exciting incidents. In the best, Donleavy winds up hanging by his thumbs above a carpet of bubbling molten steel.

I'd never heard of this movie before and now, having seen it, I think I know why.
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Beautifully photographed Americana with lots of heart - and no soul
wlgme4 July 2017
Warning: Spoilers
Although quite competently produced, directed and acted (and graced, by the way, with a delightfully humorous operatic performance at a school graduation ceremony), this film performed poorly at the box office, and it's easy to see why. Like "Wilson", an even abler American paean which was released at the same time and which met with the same tepid reception from moviegoers, it's an almost lifeless puppet show - from beginning to end, not a single character changes in any significant way. Only the lead, Czech immigrant Steve Dangos, undergoes an epiphany of sorts as he realizes that his rugged individualism must be tempered to meet the needs of modern industry - and by then, the movie is almost over!

What makes a story great? What draws readers and viewers, from generation to generation, to the Iliad, "War and Peace", "Strange Interlude", "Gone with the Wind", "A Face in the Crowd", "The Godfather" and other such classics? It's simply the fascination of seeing characters change over time as a result of the circumstances in their lives. It happens to everyone in real life, but not invariably in reel life, and when it doesn't, tickets don't sell no matter how much money, Technicolor and CGI are thrown into the mix.
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Standard King Vidor, i.e., good
karen57786 November 2014
Warning: Spoilers
I would love to see this movie in the long version. The story is, for the most part, hackneyed, but it is just a frame for awesome King Vidoresque scenes of people working. In this case, it is steel literally from the ground up. The main character starts digging iron ore with a shovel and ends up building planes, progressing through every stage of the process.

The story is so tangential it can get annoying, but there are a few more standard King Vidor naturalistic touches, like the way Donlevy's accent fades into working class Americanese. Vidor's handling of the Union issue is also characteristic, giving Donlevy a very sympathetic speech right before knocking him down. I was a little surprised when the end come, and wonder if the 30 minutes were cut from the end or in bits and pieces.
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Propaganda at its best for Americana!!
olddiscs8 February 2002
What an Epic!!! what propaganda for the American dream!! King Vidor's directorial credits are inconsistent/ but interesting & varied... what an underappreciated saga this is !!!Brian Donlevy would be the top hunk on any Bear publication !! what a hunk he was then.. Ann Richards?wasnt she the governor of Texas b/4 GWBush???/ worth seeing thanks again TCM
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