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

The Return of Parris to Kings Row:

Parris returned from Vienna to the "little hamlet in North America" (Dr. Candell's words) to at least temporarily set up a practice in Kings Row, where old friends and enemies from his past would inevitably confront him. When greeted at the train station, instead of joining Colonel Skeffington in his attorney's law office, Parris chose to run closeby to Randy's house (near the tracks) where Drake was recuperating. While hugging Randy, she told him about Drake's condition: "I think he's better." She broke down, so relieved that Parris was finally 'home' to assist.

Parris hugged his friend in a joyous reunion in the upstairs bedroom, although Drake averted his eyes to the left in shame. To comfort him, Parris placed his right cheek next to his friend's face. He attempted to save his boyhood friend from depression and suicide. In the intensity of the moment, Randy was displaced from the room by the two males, and outside the closed bedroom door, she invoked the Virgin Mary three times: "Mary, blessed Mother of God."

Later in the day of his homecoming, Parris went to the Colonel's law office to retrieve his luggage. Skeffington welcomed him back to "the same old provincial hole. Population: 5,000 billy goats and me!" The Colonel surprised Parris with a name placard installed in the downstairs hallway: DR. PARRIS MITCHELL. Inside the same building, the Colonel had thoughtfully furnished a medical office for Parris to set him "off on the right foot" and make him feel at home. [Note: Randy had also stated that she felt Parris had now come home.]

Parris mentioned, however, that he might not settle as a permanent resident in Kings Row. He had only taken a leave of absence, and once Drake was "all right," he was expecting to return to Vienna to work there - because of "an invaluable opportunity." And then Skeffington told how there was a need in town for a doctor "now that Dr. Gordon's dead" - he had passed away the previous month of a presumed heart attack.

Damaging Accusations by Louise About Her Father's Surgical Malpractice:

When the Gordon's black housemaid Daisy (Hattie Noel) entered the office with a letter for Parris - she expressed surprise at seeing him: "You's the doctor now? Little Parris Mitchell, what do you think of that? Hm, hm." Skeffington mentioned that he hadn't seen much of the Gordon's, especially Louise, who didn't even attend her father's funeral. As a result of the letter, Parris went to speak to the widowed Mrs. Gordon in her home - she described the aftermath of her husband's death, specifically noting how Louise had cursed her deceased father and continued to defame him. Her main reason to summon Parris was to seek professional help to "quiet" Louise's accusations, and to keep her own reputation intact:

"I've been through a very trying experience since my husband passed away...I'm afraid her mind has become affected. After Drake McHugh met with his accident, Louise had a terrible scene with her father. A little while after, we heard a strange report that he'd actually married....From that day on, Louise refused to leave her room. She wouldn't speak. She did nothing but sit in her room. Then Dr. Gordon passed away. And now I have to tell you a terrible thing.

When, when my dear husband was lying here in this room, Louise came downstairs. I followed her after a few minutes, and I found her...I found her standing over her dead father and cursing him. Dr. Mitchell, I'm a desperate mother. I cannot bear that my daughter should so defame the memory of a great man. I know that you've been studying there in Vienna. There's no doctor here who understands these things. No one at all I can turn to. Can you help me with her? To keep her quiet."

Parris was taken upstairs to a locked room where Louise was being incarcerated (and possibly sedated?). She coldly ordered her mother to "go away" to enable them to talk in private. Louise vowed that she wasn't crazy, as her mother and others had assumed: "I'm not crazy, Parris....She thinks I am. It's a wonder I'm not, but I'm not." Anxious about Drake, she then learned from Parris about his successful marriage to Randy and the great care she was giving him, and she reacted with some hidden jealousy: "She married him. She was the kind he liked. He never went with any other kind."

And then, she dramatically blamed her fanatical father for Drake's deliberately-butchered operation that she had witnessed - she accused him of seeking cruel revenge against Drake on her account:

"My father cut his legs off, Parris...I was there...I was too late. If I hadn't been too late - I'm not crazy, Parris...You must find out about it. There was a man who helped my father, maybe he'd know. I don't believe it was necessary. My father did it on my account."

She feared that her outburst would make her sound crazy and unbalanced. Parris did react with shock: "Do you realize what you're saying? A horrible accusation." Louise went on to describe evidence of her father's malevolence and his righteous effort to "punish weakness" through his medical practice - and she also claimed her fanatical mother was complicit:

"You've got to believe me, I kept a list. He always talked about his operations, other doctors don't do that. He thought it was his duty to punish wickedness wherever he found it. He was a fanatic like my mother, he used to talk to her. I think she knew, too...Nearly always he'd say their hearts were too weak for chloroform. But their hearts were not too weak to be cut to pieces. And with Drake, he had a double purpose. He hated him because of me."

Knowing that her words rang true and that she wasn't crazy, Parris had conflicted feelings about the immediate ramifications of Louise's charges against her unscrupulous father - that the amputations that disfigured Drake were unnecessary and purposeful!:

  • Should he encourage Louise to continue to gather evidence and speak out?
  • Should Louise be silenced (or hospitalized) to cover up and conceal the town's evil, and to prevent further harm to Drake?

Parris cautioned her: "But your father's dead, it's all over and done with," but Louise wanted her revenge: "I want to tell. I want them all to know...I want to destroy his memory!" She didn't care about the effects the revelation would have on Randy or Drake, but Parris reminded her: "Have you thought what terrible harm you would do? Perhaps someone you love. You used to love Drake. To be crippled is terrible enough, but to find out it was unnecessary..." Parris suggested that she remain calm, and promised he would help her, but first, she must keep everything quiet and only between themselves - he convinced her to trust in him for awhile:

"We'll not say a word about this to anyone. For a little while. We'll keep it a secret between us, you know, until we're sure. I'll come and talk to you every day, whenever you want. If you want me to help you, you must put yourself entirely in my hands."

Parris conferred with Colonel Skeffington about Louise's wild charges of malpractice - the Colonel thought they might not be true, but at least they were plausible: "Sadistic surgeons are not unknown in medical history. They're scarce, thank heaven. One in millions." Parris was shocked, not because the grotesque crime occurred in Kings Row, but because it involved his close friend Drake. Skeffington stated that it wasn't unusual for men to commit homicide to protect their daughters, so this wasn't so unusual. Parris felt obligated to carry through on the case.

To prevent the tortured and defiant Louise from actually going insane, he considered allowing her to expose her wicked secrets ("everything she knows") to escape her own complete mental implosion:

"Well, Louise isn't insane....If I don't help her, she'll become insane. I've tried everything I know. Talk, books, music. I tell you, she'll go insane unless I relieve her obsession by letting her tell everything she knows."

Although Skeffington advised Parris to leave town before he was "in too deep," and to take his "golden chance in Vienna," Parris objected: "I can't leave here with this thing unsolved." Parris contemplated whether he should remain in town for the rest of his life, where he grew up and all his "ghosts or memories" existed, even though he couldn't call the place his "home" - yet:

"I never wanted to see Kings Row again. But still it's - I don't know, it's the place where I grew up. I used to love to walk around the country and just look at it. Every leaf and stick of it. If I could do that now...Afraid of meeting ghosts or memories. People I loved. My grandmother. Dr. Tower. Cassandra. Places I remember. The stile and the pond, the house I lived in."

Skeffington inferred that Parris could easily conquer his own ghosts due to his psychiatric training: "I thought chasing away ghosts from people's minds was right in your line."

Viennese 19 Year-Old Elise Sandor - A Resemblance to Cassie:

Parris returned to the stile at the fence boundary where he used to live - when he suddenly turned and saw a "ghost" near the pond - he believed that he had magically conjured up Cassie and called out to her, but it was another young woman (dressed like Cassie) in a flowing white dress. He transferred or projected his lost love for Cassie onto this figure - the beautiful 19 year-old was Elise Sandor (Kaaren Verne), a new resident of the town from Vienna (living with her father in Parris' old house for the previous two years) who resembled Cassie. She knew of his piano playing from Professor Berdorff, who thought of him as a "genius," and also had heard about Parris from other townsfolk. She was gracious and welcoming to him: "Of course, you've come to see your home. We've been expecting you."

Parris fondly recalled his idyllic childhood days in nature with Cassie: "I always used to walk in this way, over the stile, down the trees, past the pond. The pond was a very, very special place." Elise agreed: "It is to me, too. Would you like to walk down and see it closer?" As they strolled together, she asked why he had called out a name. He explained how he was "startled" that she looked like "a little girl I used to play with" - Cassie, his sweetheart - "We used to go swimming here. We were just babies, but I think we knew we ought not to." Parris told how he had accepted Cassie's death.

Although he was timid about revisiting and seeing his old house, he joined Elise, and met her accommodating father Mr. Sandor (Erwin Kalser). Except for a few small changes in the house, Parris was able to acknowledge it as home: "It's like coming home." After dinner with them, Parris listened to Elise play Liszt's Piano Concerto No. 1 in E-flat major, and late into the night, offered her tips on improving her technique. At 11:00 pm, Parris excused himself as they again warmly invited him back: "You must feel that this is a little your home again, if you will?...There's always room here. You know the house. I want you feel that you can come sometimes to rest, to stay over Sunday, whenever you will." Elise revealed that her bedroom was Parris' old room (and their beds were in the same location! - a hint of Freudian psychology's concept of identification). She personally and expectantly encouraged Parris to come again - and often.

Drake's Uneven Recovery:

The real-estate business enterprise suggested by Randy for Drake was beginning to show great results. A map of the 16 different tracts, with 12 house lots in each tract, showed that 24 lots had been sold. The low-priced lots were mostly owned by hard-working, wage-earning clay pit workers. Randy functioned as the Treasurer, and Drake was the CEO, and he was proud of their financial success: "Not bad for a girl and an old cripple piled up in bed." However, he became flustered when an idea was suggested that Randy and Drake move into one of the homes in the future - he had an outburst and became perturbed about being out in public and in a new environment, and made her promise: "Promise me I'll never have to go outside of this house until I'm dead."

Parris already was busy as the town's doctor with numerous patients, and spoke to Randy about Drake's issues: "It isn't good, that impulse of his to hide in a corner." Randy mentioned Drake's scary flashbacks and nightmares: "I've tried to get him to move, even as far as downstairs. I know it's bad for him up there. He can see the trains and hear them. Sometimes he has nightmares. I've heard him wake up in the middle of the night, screaming." Without mobility, she was concerned that he wouldn't return to the "old Drake." Randy's brother Tod had once given him a wheelchair but "he would have killed him if he could, and he loves Tod."

Parris declared there had been progress, but not enough: "I still believe we've half-won a very ticklish fight." He thanked Randy for marrying Drake, and then she explained her motivation and her unchanging love for Drake following the accident:

"I didn't marry Drake out of pity, Parris...I never loved anyone else. Even in school I never had crushes on boys. I liked them or I didn't. They said naughty things to me and that was all. Aside from that, they treated me as one of themselves. Then that day I saw Drake at the station, well, he simply went to a place in my heart that had been waiting for him. Drake. Oh, Parris! Tall and laughing and going about with his head up. (She became emotional) Then after his accident, I knew I had to ask myself a question and answer it. I'd loved Drake wholly. What about that now? What was left of it? I was half afraid I might love him less. That something I couldn't help, something physical, might turn me away from him. There was my question staring at me. Then, in one of your letters, there was a sentence, 'You must remember now, that Drake lives in a new world and that his relationship with it and with everyone in it will be changed.' I knew that applied to Drake and myself, too. An episode of youth and fun had closed, and with it had gone all the demands, forever. I knew then that I didn't love him any less, only differently. With an overwhelming, new, calm feeling, Parris, that so completely took the place of the old excitement that it would last forever."

Parris' Dilemma About Louise - Incarceration or Revelation?:

Louise burst into the house demanding to see Drake, and accused Parris of only trickery and delay: "You said you'd help me, but you won't. You're only tricking me. I'm going to tell Drake. He'll help me." Parris grabbed Louise and ordered her to get control of her emotions, and go home and continue to follow his instructions: "You must let me do it my own way." After Louise was taken back home, Parris explained to Randy that she was one of his patients, and was suffering from a breakdown. She was Drake's former girlfriend from long ago, and recently had made outrageous accusations against her deceased father whom she thought "sometimes performed unnecessary operations."

Tod stepped forward to give his eye-witness account the night of the accident, that Sheriff Sam Winters had confirmed Louise's account that Gordon's surgery was deliberately cruel and "unnecessary":

"Something that Sam Winters said. He helped the doctor. Something he said started me thinking. He said...Drake wasn't run over, Parris...No, he wasn't. When he was knocked over by them tiles, he was caught between two cars. As near as I know, he was sort of, I guess you'd say pinched by a wheel that didn't go clear over him...He said - I can remember just the right words. He said, 'I looked good at them legs, and the bones in neither one of them was broke up one bit.'"

Randy hysterically broke down: "Then it's true!" Parris calmed her down, stating that Sam was only "an unprofessional witness." But Randy was fearful that the effect on Drake of finding out about his "unnecessary" operation would send him into a downward spiral of depression that would be impossible to reverse:

Randy: "She'll come again or someone else will. That kind of news always gets home. Then what?"
Parris: "If it should ever enter Drake's mind that this whole catastrophe was anything but an accident -"
Randy: "What would happen?"
Parris: "I think the whole structure we built up for him would topple down again. This time we couldn't rebuild it. He'd be gone."
Randy: "Louise has got to be kept quiet, Parris."
Parris: "I can silence her, Randy."

Parris was faced with a difficult situation - should he conceal the news from Drake and act malevolently by silencing Louise forever by sending her to an asylum (for the insane) to cover up her assertions? He wrote a letter of his diagnosis to that effect, addressed to Mrs. Gordon, but held onto it.

Elise's Astute and Wise Advice:

On the porch of his old home, Parris discussed his dilemma with his new love Elise, recalling his grandmother's advice about following one's ethical compass:

"She'd say, no one could tell me what is right and what is wrong, except myself... But there isn't a right without a wrong, a terrible wrong."

He stated his two alternatives, with a third option - to leave Kings Row with Elise and return to Vienna!:

  1. "Shall I commit Louise Gordon to a life of unspeakable horror? Or let her mother carry out her plan, which is the same as my doing it?"
  2. "Then shall I set her free and destroy Drake?"
  3. "I can get on a train, then get on a boat. Will you go back with me to Vienna, Elise?"

Elise assented ("I'd go with you anywhere"), but Parris knew that she wouldn't be "proud" of their running away, especially since she had hoped that he would stay in Kings Row with her and find his vocation there. Elise convinced Parris that he wasn't "unworthy" as a doctor and hadn't "failed" in his treatment of Drake. Parris' astute confidante suggested a novel solution - Parris must tell Drake everything - not as his best friend, but within their doctor/patient relationship!:

"He is your best friend. Perhaps you protect him too much. It would only be natural. Suppose he was just a patient. Suppose they both were, he and Louise Gordon. Would you know what to do then? Suppose they weren't people you loved or even knew."

Rather than conceal the news from Drake, Parris decided to tell Drake the truth as his doctor - it was a gamble that was worth trying: "What you said just now, I'm gonna try something. If I don't come back, you'll know I haven't succeeded."

The Concluding, Triumphant Ending - Drake's Psychological Breakthrough:

As a pioneering psychiatrist, Parris decided to help Randy persuade Drake that he still had a reason to live. In the final scene in Drake's bedroom, Parris dared to reveal devastating news ("the worst wallop you ever had") - but this time communicated as his clear-thinking physician, and not as his friend:

Parris: "Stick your chin out, Drake."
Drake: "Why?"
Parris: "You're gonna get the worst wallop you ever had."
Drake: "Yeah? Who's gonna do it?"
Parris: "I am."
Drake: "Start swingin'."
Parris: "It's something about you and Louise Gordon and her father."
Randy: (interrupting) "Parris!"
Parris: "She was here today, Louise was. She wanted to tell you and I wouldn't let her."
Randy: "Parris, you can't. You said yourself.."
Parris: "I've just come from the Gordons. I've sent Louise out to tell anyone she pleases. But saying it to you I've saved for myself."
Randy: (begging) "I won't let you Parris, please, if you have any heart."
Parris: "I'm not your friend now, you're not mine. I'm your doctor. And you're my patient. It's as if I'd taken you in the operating room and I had the scalpel in my hand which may make you - or destroy you."
Drake: "What's this all about, kid?"
Parris: "My grandmother used to say, 'Some people grow up and some people just grow older.' I guess it's time we found out about us, you and me. Whether I'm a doctor, and whether you're a man. You know the kind of man I mean, Drake."

As a preface to his prescriptive revelations, Parris recited two verses - the first half of the four-verse, 19th-century English poet William E. Henley's sixteen-line Invictus (meaning unconquerable or undefeated in Latin) - a poem about self-determination:

Parris: "There's a piece of poetry, Invictus. I don't think I remember all the words."

'Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody - but unbowed.'

Then, Parris boldly revealed the truth about Drake's amputated legs and Gordon's spiteful and sadistic butchery (as revenge for Drake's loving interest in Louise, to literally and figuratively make him 'half a man'). Dr. Gordon had ordained himself as the punishing hand of God, who believed insanely that he had been called upon to smite "transgressors" with his surgeon's scalpel:

Parris: "I don't know if you can take it, Drake."
Drake: "Give it to me."
Parris: "Dr. Gordon cut off your legs. I don't know if it was necessary. He was that kind, a butcher, who thought he had a special ordination to punish transgressors. With you he had a double incentive because of Louise. Heaven knows what else. The caverns of the human mind are full of strange shadows, but none of that matters. The point is he wanted to destroy you, oh, not literally. He wanted to destroy the Drake McHugh you were. He wanted to see you turn into a life-long cripple, mentally as well as physically. That's all there is, Drake. Now, if you turn your face to that wall - "
Drake: (after a long pause, he chuckled) "That's a hot one, isn't it? Where did Gordon think I lived, in my legs? Did he think those things were Drake McHugh? Spout that poetry again, Parris. I never was any good at poetry."

Remarkably, after being told the horrifying news, the crippled Drake laughed and then defiantly refused to be broken by his 'castration' - he was liberated and no longer ashamed of his incompleteness. Courageously and boastfully resurrected, Drake tightly hugged Randy, as he triumphantly grinned and laughed - and delivered the film's final line of dialogue:

"What was it you wanted, honey? To build a house? We'll move into it in broad daylight. And we'll invite the folks in, too. For Pete's sake, let's give a party. I feel swell."

An eloquent chorus of the ground-swelling, thematic soundtrack was sung in the background - twice vocalizing the last two lines of the final verse of the Invictus poem (that had not been recited by Parris a few moments earlier):

"I am the master of my fate.
I am the captain of my soul."

Parris watched them and then exuberantly realized that his new approach had worked. He backed out of the room, quickly went down the stairs, exited the front door and ran from the Monaghan house to his old home - the Von Eln place. He crossed the fence stile and entered the property's gate, and proceeded across a long expanse of lawn to embrace Elise in his arms (held in a long shot) - Parris' risky (and successful) experimental cure for Drake's depression afforded him his own promising new romance.

The film's tremendous, climactic ending has never failed to deliver.

Previous Page