Friendship Begins At Home (1949)





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Published on Jan 27, 2011

Barry is a teenager who doesn't appreciate his family. "Everybody's always picking on me," he whines. "I declare, Barry," replies mom. "I do wish you'd show as much consideration for the members of your own family as you do for your outside friends!" "Maybe I would," he snorts, "if my family'd show me as much consideration as my friends do!"

Barry decides to be a brat and not accompany his family on their annual two-week fishing trip. "I'd rather stay here with my friends," he mutters, sulking. "Don't you consider your FAMILY your friends?" asks kid sister Diana. "How can a guy be friends with his family?" Barry snaps back. But dad is agreeable; Barry is left money for food and the family departs. "We're going away to have FUN," dad declares.

Barry's first few hours of freedom are glorious, but he quickly discovers that his "friends" aren't as dependable as his family. George won't invite him over for dinner (Barry eats canned beans and soup for two weeks). Heartthrob Lorraine gets sick and cancels her party. The rest of Barry's friends are either away, working, or on vacation (with THEIR families, no doubt). This mid-section of the film is a thespian tour-de-force for Barry, as his non-stop internal sentence fragment monologue takes the place of a narration, saying things that no outside voice over could get away with. The Coronet "wistful" theme builds as the camera dollies in for close ups of Barry at critical points; he affects these moments of deep thought by suddenly raising his head, narrowing his eyes, and looking up and off-camera at a 45 degree angle.

"Why haven't any of my friends called me?" he muses. "Not much fun spending the day alone." (NOTE: No TV in Barry's home) "Nobody to do things with. What are friends FOR, anyway?" Though Barry is a "free man," his friends can't match the "thoughtfulness" of his family. "I never before listened to an -- empty house," he reflects. And now he's visited by ghosts! -- double-exposure images of his family doing thoughtful things that Barry had, until now, not appreciated. Barry realizes that he probably took away some of his dad's "fun" by staying home. "That's a selfish thing to do," he concludes. Mom offers ice cream, Diana offers to get his suit pressed, and kid brother Dick plaintively asks to play checkers. "Boy," Barry cries, "how I'd like to play checkers with you right now!" "They're swell people!" Barry declares, scales falling from his eyes. "ALL of them! They do the kinds of things you expect of your friends! FRIENDS! That's it!!!"

Now Barry is a changed young man. His family returns to find him scrubbing the kitchen floor ("You know, mother, you never really appreciate your family until they're not around"), he's bought Dick a new tennis racket ("Gee, Barry, you're swell!"), and he takes his kid sister to a dance when her date backs out ("Wow! Is that my sister? Well -- no WONDER all those fellows telephoned while you were away!").

The gulf between the America that applauded this production and the America that cheered Tom Cruise in Risky Business is what the study of these films is all about.


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