This bittersweet slice of nostalgia from 20th Century Fox tells in flashback the tale of a half-century in the life of small-town barber Ben Halper (David Wayne), where fate has permanently halted his dreams of success in the big city.
Beginning in the 1890s, Ben suffers one disaster after another in the small town of Sevillinois, where he moves as a newlywed with his pretty but ambitious young wife, Nellie (Jean Peters) – who thought she was moving to Chicago.
While Ben conducts business at “Prof. Ben Halper’s Tonsorial Parlor”, Nellie longs for the big city.
Eventually, she runs away to Chicago with handsome hardware store owner Ed Jordan (Hugh Marlowe) while Ben is off serving in the Spanish-American War. Her subsequent death leaves Ben to raise their two children alone.
As his children grow up, the son falls for Jordan’s daughter and goes into careers in both show business and organised crime, while the daughter finds happiness with the local banker’s son.
Of course, it all ends on a happy note with a parade celebrating half a century of the town’s existence, and Ben – now an old retired man – heading the band with his lifetime friends and playing the instruments they took up when they formed the first town band many years before.
If Wait Till the Sun Shines, Nellie had starred someone like Spencer Tracy in the leading role, this film might now be regarded as a classic. Not that Broadway star David Wayne is anything but excellent.
The story moves from one major event to the next in Ben’s life, taking in drama and tragedy by turn, even culminating in a good old-fashioned Chicago gangster shoot-out. It rambles a bit, but the acting, direction and glowing colour photography of Leon Shamroy more than make up for it.
Filmed in Technicolor on location in Kansas, this is a must-see film.
Director Henry King wanted to cast newcomer Marilyn Monroe in the leading role, but the studio refused.
Benny Halper Jr.
Alan Hale Jr.
Trooper Robert Waverly Ferris
Nellie, Age 5
Adeline Halper, Age 6
Adeline, Age 2
Ben Halper Jr, Age 8
Ben Halper Jr, Age 2-4