Filmsite Movie Review
Kings Row (1942)
Pages: (1) (2) (3) (4)
Plot Synopsis (continued)

Moving On From The Tower Tragedy:

Parris comforted and bid goodbye to Anna after the death of his grandmother: "And you just stay out of the house until it's sold. Anything you want there, anything at all, just take it. Let the rest of the stuff go." Both were facing major life changes - Parris was about to board a train on his way to Europe and Vienna to further his medical studies over a four to five year period.

From around the corner of the Western Union Telegraph Office and train station, a grown-up, free-spirited Randy Monaghan greeted Drake and reminded him of his failed promise from a decade earlier to cross town boundary lines and see her: "You never did come back to Elroy's icehouse." As always, the charming Drake flattered Randy's beauty: "I'll bet you're the prettiest girl in the world." The two waved as Parris departed for the Continent, with Drake expressing regret over the loss of his best friend for awhile: "I hate to see that boy go away. He's the best friend I've got." But his spirits perked up when Randy accepted his invitation for a buggy ride in the country.

During the horse-drawn ride, Drake demonstrated how he had trained his horse Tom Thumb to slow down and "go on by himself," so he could romance any of his female passengers. Randy saw through his flirtatious routine and was ready for an attempted kiss. He asked for her sympathy: "I'm so lonely and blue. Be nice to me, will you?" She wished to differentiate herself from his other loose and willing conquests: "Maybe you got me confused with one of the Ross girls." Drake asked innocently: "Well, what's the harm in a little kiss?" And Randy complied with: "Suppose we find out?"

Parris in Vienna, and Drake in Kings Row with His New Love Randy:

During a snowy day, on January 1, 1900, the start of a new century, Parris penned a very affectionate letter to Drake:

...helped my state of bewilderment and confusion and grief. How often I need the sight of your face and the sound of your laugh. Write me all you do - everything. Give me an anchor to hold on to. Affectionately, Parris. Happy New Year.

Simultaneously as if they were connected, Drake and Randy were playing in the snow where Drake scrawled: HAPPY NEW CENTURY. By spring, Drake excitedly shared his dream with Randy - to buy acreage with Peyton Graves on an expansive, windy bluff. He added a qualifier: "When I come into my money." His idea was to construct a subdivision of ritzy estate houses. With a critical eye, she threw "cold water" on his ambitious fantasy: "Only rich people could build houses like you're talking about." She unpretentiously offered him a more reasonable alternative - to build lower-class family housing in the lowlands by the creek: ("the other side of the railroad track, my side"). At that location, she reasoned why her "practical" idea would actually work, and be more affordable and profitable:

"If you want to buy real estate, why don't you buy this?...Well, it could be cleared and drained. After all, there are a lots of people who work in the clay pits, in the mills and the coal mines who'd like to own homes, too."

As she cradled Drake's head in her lap on the ground, she recalled their fun times as children, when as a tomboy, she actually preferred Parris over him: "Remember once you came down to Elroy's icehouse and you and Parris and I played on the rings? I was an awful little toughy then, wasn't I? Oh, yes. I was. But you teased me, you tried to get fresh...But I think I got mad mostly that day because Parris was there. I liked him a whole lot better than I did you - then." She assured Drake's fragile ego: "When a girl acts the way I do about you, she means it. It's because I want to. Because I like you better than anybody in the world."

Class Differences Between Drake's Girlfriends - Louise and Randy:

Both Mrs. Gordon and Louise watched from their first and second-story windows as Drake's buggy passed by their house. The sight caused extreme upset for the forlorn Louise, while her mother scolded her for crying and pining over the loss of Drake: "I don't want you sitting up here crying like a little fool over nothing." She warned that her father would be told. Mrs. Gordon name-called Randy as a "little nobody from downtown" - and asked her daughter: "Aren't you ashamed of yourself?" Louise blamed her oppressive parents for causing her to lose Drake, but Mrs. Gordon thought that her respectable daughter had lost her class status and "self-respect," since Drake had a reputation for having casual sex with many of the girls in town and had possibly tainted Louise too:

"If he wants to run around with that kind of trash. You know what boys are like. Your father is a doctor. If you knew all I know....You can be sure when a boy runs around with a girl like that, it is for just..."

The sexually-repressed Louise blurted out: "I wish it was me." And then she stood up to her mother and emphatically repeated the same line two more times.

As Drake returned Randy to her side of downtown, she insisted that his buggy stop before crossing the railroad tracks. He questioned her class-bound rigidity - now asking why he couldn't enter her part of town because of their class differences: "Why can't I ever let you out at your front door?...I'm not good enough even for..." She countered with her own family's feelings about him:

"They don't think I'm good enough for you. Now, hold your temper. We're not a fitting match. You belong up on Union Street. Your family was rich and high-toned. My Pa's a railroad section boss..."

She believed he had deliberately gone out of his way to drive by the Gordon's home to show off in front of Louise: ("Didn't you go around with Louise for a while?"), and had now chosen her - someone below his class level: "So you came downtown. Anything south of the railroad tracks." But Drake claimed he was mostly angry at Louise's "old man" for calling him "wild" and for curtailing their relationship. Randy thanked him for his honesty, but then realistically acknowledged the town's rampant gossip about them - a reminder that Parris' grandmother had also cautioned about:

Randy: "When a boy who belongs uptown begins taking a girl from the lower end of town out buggy riding at night, people talk. You know that, don't you?"
Drake: "I'll say. Gabble, gabble, gabble. I'd like to hear them to my face sometime."
Randy: "Well, we can't honestly blame them for saying something that's so, can we?"

She was forthright and clear-headed - just trying to find further clarity about why her Pa, like Dr. Gordon, was also against their relationship: "Just why Pa doesn't want me to go with you. I guess Ma wouldn't either, if she was still living. I'll go with you as long as you want me to. But don't get mad when I try and clear up how things are." Drake hypothesized that if they married, the gossip would stop: "If I married you, that'd shut their traps." She firmly stated she wouldn't marry him, but would continue seeing him: "I'll go on this way, but no other way. Remember that, will you?" She exited the buggy in front of the tracks - to keep their boundary lines intact.

Inside her home, Randy helped her Pa (Ernest Cossart) and brother Tod (Pat Moriarity), both lower-class railroad yard workers, prepare the table for dinner, since she was late. Suddenly, Drake stormed into the house to introduce himself personally and set the record straight:

"Maybe you've heard about me. Be a wonder if you haven't, the way people gab. And most of what they say is true. But the one thing they can't say is that I ever do anything behind anyone's back. Well, I've been taking your daughter out buggy riding. I like her and she likes me. But I won't do anything on the sly. So if you've got any objection to my going on seeing her, now is the time to spit it out."

There were no objections, although the family was taken aback by his boldness. Drake was welcomed into their humble home - Randy invited Drake to supper.

The Aftermath of Drake's Disastrous Financial Situation:

Inside the Burton County Bank, in the office of bank clerk Patterson Lawes (Thomas W. Ross), Drake was alerted to his overdrawn bank account, but vowed that he hadn't been overspending, and that his regularly-deposited quarterly inheritance installment from the estate in July was supposed to be $1,000. But records showed that nothing had been deposited since April. The deposit box of the bank's president, Lucius Curley (who was allegedly in Texas on business), where estate and bond papers were normally held, was suspiciously empty. The next morning, the Kings Row Gazette reported on a growing bank fraud scandal:

"BANK SCANDAL - Mr. Lucius Curley Still Missing - Absconds with Several Trust Funds - Was Supposed to Be In Texas Is Probably in Mexico or South America By Now."

Further details stressed the shock to a few members of the community whose trust accounts were affected - Mrs. Pettigrew, the Hammond Twins, Widow Tierman, and Drake McHugh. In particular, Drake's entire holdings in his private trust were "wiped out."

[Note: Was it coincidental that one of the town's leading citizens, the bank president, had singled out the town's most flagrant playboy as his target?]

Now destitute and unable to support himself, Drake was looking for employment. He stood next to a sign advertising the real estate project that he had dreamed of purchasing - KINGS ROW ESTATES ("Watch them grow"), offered by rich businessman-realtor Peyton Graves. Drake entered Fritz Bachman's rowdy Quick Lunch Bar on the other side of town near the railroad tracks on a Saturday night - and subsequently (off-screen) became drunk. He was detained in jail for one night by the Sheriff. The next evening, he ventured over to humbly inquire about a job from Randy's Irish father Mr. Monaghan, but there were no openings at the railroad yards. Unshaven and dirty, Drake was discouraged and downtrodden:

"I look like a tramp. I'll be a tramp, if somebody doesn't give me a job. I've tried everybody in town."

Drake was ashamed and embarrassed when Randy came downstairs, and admitted he looked horrible - for being in jail all night. Feeling disoriented about being poor for the first time in his life, he mentioned the town's vicious gossip, and his worry that Randy might break up with him:

Drake: "You know what people around town are saying about you and me?...They're saying that you're gonna give me the gate any day now."
Randy: "It's nice of them to make up my mind for me."
Drake: "I'm sorry. I didn't mean that. I'll come to if you'll just be patient and give me a little time to get over being confused. Trouble is, I've never had to think about money all my life. Just counted on having it, and now..."

Mr. Monaghan promised to inquire further from his boss Mr. Turner for "a job in the yards. Switchman or flagman or something. It means being out in all kinds of weather. It won't break your back but it's work and no mistake. What are your toney friends up on Union Street going to say? I'll get you a job, son. You can depend on me." Drake was appreciative, and mentioned his future plans to move across the tracks to the "rough" side of town where his true friends lived: "I'll sell my place uptown. I'm coming down here somewhere to live....My friends are down here." Randy graciously and thoughtfully insisted that he stay and clean up there, after which she would fix him dinner and let him stay for the night - he smiled: "Bossy redhead, isn't she?"

Drake was subsequently hired for a railroad yard job, and during one icy night while he was inspecting freight cars, Randy brought coffee and news that Drake was already due for a promotion (with a raise of $2 and the position of freight office assistant) from his boss Mr. Turner, for his good-intentioned hard work to prove himself: "You're climbing up, my friend." Drake was restoring his dignity in his new low-class status job, although too slowly for his own liking: "Twenty or 30 years like that and I'll be somewhere, won't I?" He shared news of Parris' recent letter, and acknowledged that he had told his best friend nothing about his bad fortune. Parris was cramming for exams before his graduation in June, and had decided on a brand new field of medicine - psychiatry. [Note: Both uneducated Randy (she called herself "illiterate") and Drake had trouble pronouncing the word and understanding its meaning.] And then Drake read, with some hesitation, the next sentence about Parris' motivation: "I think you'll understand why, remembering Cassandra." Parris would return to Kings Row in the summer to be its "first" psychiatrist.

Drake's re-established position in the town was now more identified with Randy's side of Kings Row:

  • Drake's new living quarters were in her neighborhood
  • Drake was now excluded from "toney" parties of the upper-class, including Colonel Skeffington's party that evening, but he didn't mind: "Most of Kings Row has forgotten me and I can forget them."

They both agreed that their relationship had changed and calmed down into a routine: ("We used to be so - well, so excited all the time. All breathlessness and one joke on top of another. Now, we gotten used to each other, I guess"), and they were more comfortable with each other - and very much in love: (Drake: "You're all there is" - Randy: "I'm happier than anyone has a right to be").

Drake's Serious Train Accident:

Disaster struck again later that evening - Drake was seriously injured in a railroad accident. After a load of tile boxes fell onto him as he stood next to a moving train, he appeared to fall in the direction of the tracks, where (off-screen) - his body was run over and crushed by the wheels of one of the freight cars. Symbolically, Randy's coffee pot held in his hand was crushed by the wheels of the train. Louise heard the horrifying news at the Skeffington's party when her father was being summoned to the scene - and she wouldn't be silenced. She was restrained and quieted after she cried out:

"Where is he? I'm going with you...You can't keep me away from him, not anymore...Take your hands off me. I'll go to him and I'll stay with him! And nothing you could do or say can stop me."

In a railroad building, the sanctimonious Dr. Henry Gordon, the town's surgeon with a reputation for sadism, malpractice and monstrous butchery (without anesthesia), prepared to operate on Drake's crushed legs, with the help of Sheriff Sam to assist and hold Drake down - behind shaded windows:

"Get me some blankets and a half a dozen sheets, anywhere here in the neighborhood, and be quick....Can you heat some water on the stove, Dutch?...All right, Sam, I'll need somebody steady. Now, everybody else get out....Cut his clothes off. Someone stand at that door and keep everybody out....Pull those shades down."

Dr. Gordon proposed to spitefully, cruelly and unnecessarily amputate both of Drake's legs with very few witnesses - ostensibly to seek revenge for Drake's Casanova-styled earlier relationship with his daughter Louise - even though only one of Drake's legs was severely damaged. The Sheriff asked about the amputation: "His leg? Which one?" - and the doctor replied: "Both! There's just a chance." After the operation, Drake's body was carried to the Monoghan's home, to the bedroom on the second floor.

[Note: In the book, Drake died of cancer as a result of the unnecessary amputation.]

Louise's Confrontation with Her Father:

Back at the Gordon home after the operation, Louise confronted her father. She had fled from the party and hurried to the railroad yard, but had arrived just after the gruesome and bloody surgery had been performed ("A terrible old man was cleaning up the depot..."). With outspoken strong opinions about her father's medical practice, she hysterically accused him of committing another act of malpractice, and threatened to expose his malignant incompetency:

Dr. Gordon: "It was most unbecoming of you to go about parading your feelings, whatever you think they are."
Louise: "You monster, you fiend! (She was slapped to the floor) I'll let the world know what you are if it's the only thing I'll ever do. Tomorrow, tomorrow I'll tell everyone. I know what you are. I know all about you and your operations."
Dr. Gordon: "You're going to bed at once."
Louise: "I will not, I'm going to tell."
Dr. Gordon: "Louise, listen to me. I cannot permit my daughter to make an hysterical spectacle of herself. Now, go to your room and don't you come out of it again until you have my permission."
Louise: "I will tell, I will tell, I will tell! I'll tell them."
Dr. Gordon: "This is enough of your willful tantrum. If you persist, there is one thing I shall have to do."
Louise: "What?"
Dr. Gordon: "If you utter one more word of the kind of nonsense I've heard from you, I shall commit you to an asylum."
Louise: "You wouldn't dare."
Dr. Gordon: "I've only to go to that telephone in the hall there and have you in a cell, behind bars in one hour."
Louise: "I'm not crazy and you know it."
Dr. Gordon: "I don't know anything of the sort."
Louise: "You mean, you actually think... You really.."
Dr. Gordon: "I could think nothing else when you make these insane accusations."

Louise became compliant, and agreed to be banished to her upstairs room - to be confined until she was allowed to come out. She became fearful after being threatened with incarceration in a mental institution for her "insane accusations" that would tarnish her righteous parents' reputations.

During his lengthy period of recuperation, Drake (who was receiving pain injections) was being cared for by nurses and Randy for the first few days. At first, Randy worried about Drake's reaction once he regained consciousness: "I've got to be here when he finds out." Her father was concerned about how everything was affecting his daughter, who hadn't slept for three nights: "He's going to get well, the doctor promised that. I know what you're thinking. Even if he does get well, how is he going to make out now....You want to keep Drake here, don't you? That's what you want, ain't it, Randy?" Both Tod and her father were open to permitting Drake to remain there (Tod: "You got to have somebody to look after him"), even though Drake had no money.

The best-remembered part of the film was the next scene - Drake painfully realized that both of his legs had been amputated (his body literally 'castrated'). He cried out for Randy to come to his side, as he looked down and reached below his waist:

"Where's the rest of me?"

He recalled the train accident that had caused his disfigurement. She calmed him as he sank back in bed: "Yes, dear, but don't talk about it, yet." He called out for his best male friend: "Parris."

Drake's Long Road to Recovery - and Marriage to Randy:

In Austria, Parris received a special delivery letter from Randy - but he postponed reading the letter since he was in the office of his superior, Dr. Candell (Egon Brecher). He received praise for his outstanding academic work, and was offered an immediate medical position in psychiatry following graduation:

"Mitchell, we've liked your work here. It may please you to know that you will graduate with one of the best records of our recent history....Another thing may please you. At least, I hope it does. I've been talking to some of the others. We plan to expand our department of Psychiatric Research here. It gives us satisfaction to offer you a post with us."

Although offered time to think it over, Parris immediately accepted to start the position in the summer term. He was encouraged to celebrate that evening with the "divine" dancer at the Hotel Crillon. But then he opened the letter to read the devastating news about Drake - he called out his best friend's name - as Drake had done for him. Shortly later, Drake read a Western Union telegram (dated April 25th) from Parris in Vienna:

"You and Randy stick together until I can get there. We will work everything out. Parris"

Drake worried that he could no longer be gainfully employed without his legs, and had no money to fall back on. He refused to be a burden on Randy and her family, and suggested charity - "I've heard there are homes that you can get into." Randy refused, and tried to bolster his frail and damaged ego:

"I didn't ask to come into your life, did I?...All right, but then you owe me something. You owe me yourself...I want you to trust yourself entirely to me for a while, until you're up and around."

However, Drake felt that he would never recover, rehabilitate and become self-sufficient on his own ("I can't ever be up and around"). Randy encouraged him to be upbeat: "What has happened is terrible, but you're alive....You're alive and I love you." She then reiterated her headstrong belief that they all had to "stick together" (Parris' words in the cablegram): "We're going to do that, but I'd made up my mind about it a long time before this happened. Then after you got hurt, I just had to figure out how, that was all." And then she revealed her long-held intention to marry him - but not out of pity:

"Remember once you said something about marrying me? Well, I got mad because I guess I'd been a little hurt. I knew you'd never thought about it until just then. Then I shouldn't be blaming you even that much. You never thought about much of anything in those days until you had to. Then, later on, you came down here. Remember the morning you came to ask Pa to help you get a job? Well, I made up my mind that day that I'd marry you, as soon as the right time came around. I guess I was convinced inside by then that you did wanna marry me. I knew I wanted to marry you...So, now the right time has come. We'll get married, and then we'll work out some way what we'll do afterwards."

Although Drake was hesitant and shielded his head with his arms, he accepted her proposal. Parris was notified of their wedding plans.

From Vienna, Parris wrote back to them to reinforce his support for them, and to offer his prescriptive scientific advice (from his recent psychiatric training) about healing Drake's psyche before he could return in person. He advised Randy to create a restorative "new beginning" for Drake by finding a way for him to begin working and become useful again in the world, to avoid developing a "helpless, invalid complex":

(voice-over) "Of course, Randy, it is a ghastly and terrible tragedy, particularly to have happened to Drake. He lived by his freedom and independence. He will feel, probably already feels, that he's lost both. It'll be your problem to restore them to him. The repairs to the body can sometimes be made in a short space of time. The injury to the mind, to what is called the psyche, this takes longer. The psychic injuries strike at his pride, his initiative, and we shall have to save them if we're to save Drake. Never when I decided to become a psychiatrist did I imagine I'd be writing my first prescription for my dearest friend. As soon as he's well enough, he must find an interest outside of himself. Some job to do that will force him to depend upon himself and make his own decisions. The helpless invalid complex must be avoided at all cost.

In fact, he must be made to feel that since he was making a living for himself he will, of course, go on making a living. I've written to the bank instructing them to turn over to you the small Tower estate that was left me. Use it to make some sort of a new beginning for you. I don't care if it's real estate or chicken farming, so long as it is something that will take his mind off himself and make him realize that he's still some use in this world. I feel so helpless being way over here. I rely on you. You must obey my instructions faithfully."

Randy responded to Parris with a letter of her own:

(voice-over) "Dear friend, Parris, I don't know what I'd do without your daily letters. I think I'm just beginning to see what you're trying to accomplish. I had a terrible time about the money. I tried to remember what you said, to make him decide for himself. But you know Drake, how proud he is. If you could have seen him jutting out his chin and saying: 'I won't take charity.'"

During a related conversation between Randy and Drake, she wouldn't allow him to turn his face to the wall to hide in shame, and instead steered the conversation to build up his self-respect and confidence - as a capable man after his symbolic castration: "Look at me. You're my man and I love you. And you're a better man than a lot I know." In passing, she mentioned Peyton Graves' real-estate deal - knowing it would motivate and spark competitive thoughts in Drake to think beyond his helpless condition as an invalid. Her instincts proved right - Drake excitedly began to consider whether they could enter the real-estate business and buy the lesser plot of land she had earlier pointed out:

Drake: "Say... No, I guess, we couldn't....That land down by the creek you're so crazy about."
Randy: "Oh, I don't know why we couldn't. You've got brains. Of course, you'd have to tell me everything to do, I'm only a woman."
Drake: "Do you think we should try it?"
Randy: "You're the boss. Oh, let's, Drake. We can do anything together. We're just a young couple starting out. Others have started on borrowed money."
Drake: "Wouldn't old Parris be surprised if he came home and found us all set up in business? His money doubled or maybe tripled."
Randy: "Hey, go easy."
Drake: "He wouldn't be ashamed of me then, would he?...He'd be proud of me, wouldn't he, Randy?...He'd be doggone proud of me, wouldn't he?"

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