My Son John

Screening on Film
Directed by Leo McCarey.
With Helen Hayes, Robert Walker, Dean Jagger.
US, 1952, 35mm, black & white, 122 min.

Helen Hayes stars as a middle-aged woman who comes to fear that her son (Walker) may be a Communist. Robert Walker died during shooting, forcing McCarey to rework the end of the film and to rely on footage that Hitchcock had shot for Strangers on a Train in order to complete his own film. Rarely-seen today and regarded as an overheated relic from the beginning of the Cold War, My Son John has become notorious for the hyperbole of its red-baiting. However in retrospect, the film's anti-Communism exists primarily in relation to a bleak Oedipal nightmare, in which the battle between a brutal father and a manipulative son forces the wife and mother to have to choose between her country and her child.

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