Edward, My Son (1949)

Directed by George Cukor
Cinematography Freddie Young

Edward, My Son is a 1949 British/American drama film directed by George Cukor for MGM-British that stars Spencer Tracy and Deborah Kerr. The screenplay by Donald Ogden Stewart is based on the play by Noel Langley and Robert Morley.


In the play, the title character never is seen, and director George Cukor opted to do the same in the film adaptation. The screenplay closely adhered to the original script, the only major change being Arnold Boult’s conversion from British to Canadian so Spencer Tracy wouldn’t have to struggle with an accent. Tracy initially resisted playing such an unsympathetic character but later told Cukor, “It’s rather disconcerting to me to find out how easily I play a heel.”

Cukor originally wanted his close friend and Tracy’s lover Katharine Hepburn for the role of Eileen, but the two were sensitive about working together too frequently. Cukor also feared casting a major star in the relatively small role would throw the picture off balance and draw attention away from leading lady Deborah Kerr.


Leueen MacGrath ended up as Eileen, reprising a role she had played on stage.

kerr’s tour de force

13 August 2001 | by IRVIN8 (st. monica) – See all my reviews

For years I resisted this movie because of the sobbing title. I expected a maudlin, embarrassing tale.

I should have known better. And while I’ve never been a particular fan of Spencer Tracy (his emotional range never interested me), this time he worked okay, in that he wasn’t a god-damned hero, and there wasn’t a bevy of minor actors sucking up to him. I liked him being a bad guy; I liked his covert, vaguely whimsical smile. For the first time, I found him believable, more than stock characterization.


Also, the movie was so well crafted that Tracy’s ambitions were always credible. And when you understand the motivation, usually, you are sympathetic.

It was Deborah Kerr who stole my interest. Her character, toward the end of the film, is so broken, that she approached Greek classicism. She was ugly, tear-stained, stooped – and her lamentation carried throughout that great barn of a mansion of a home. She couldn’t have been more than 35 (ca.), but she had become 80, in spirit. One knew, when she went upstairs that final time, that she would not be seen again, and would only be spoken of in past tense.

Although Kerr is a favorite, there’s only one other film of hers that knocked me out: for her beauty, her rawness and her intact feminity – and that of course is “The Sundowners”. These two films place her at the pinnacle of Britain’s actors.


An exceptional picture–one of Tracy’s best

Author: planktonrules from Bradenton, Florida
9 June 2005
*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I’m really not sure why Leonard Maltin was so hard on this movie. The acting and writing are great and the story has a lot to say about effective parenting that could help the viewers not to make the same mistake as the lead character.


The movie is very odd in that although Edward is important to the picture, you never actually see the boy in the movie. The film is a series of flashbacks that show Edward’s parents. Initially, they seem like decent folks, but over time, success and making something for his son becomes so important to the dad (Tracy) that he does the most ungodly things along the way. The descent into the evil abyss becomes worse and worse–all the while, the marriage becomes more and more shallow and indecent. The only thing holding this relationship together is their love for Edward. However, Tracy’s ruthlessness begins to bear fruit in Edward. Although you are not shown it, you hear about his exploits and learn that he is becoming a monster–just like good old dad. When this lack of discipline ultimately destroys Edward, Tracy (true to the character) cannot allow himself to even consider accepting ANY blame for Edward’s fall–it MUST be SOMEONE else’s mistakes! This is SO realistic, as parents who create monsters are usually not the introspective types who question themselves about their possible role in the child’s character.


As a school teacher, I guess I really appreciate this because I have dealt with a few parents who have raised little monsters and who tend to blame EVERYONE (the school, society, other kids, etc.) for the shortcomings of their “angels”.

UPDATE: If you enjoyed this film, I would also like to recommend “A Modern Hero”. It has a lot of similarities to “Edward My Son” and would make a great double feature!

Another great performance by Deborah Kerr

Author: msantayana from United States
8 April 2006

My parents were movie buffs and I grew up watching films. I am a devoted Deborah Kerr fan since childhood, and I thought I had seen all her important films; but I had missed “Edward, My Son”, which I watched recently on TV. An admirer of Miss Kerr’s poise, beauty, and professionalism, of her subtly conveyed emotional intensity and compassionate lucidity (undoubtedly buttressed by her choice of roles, especially in the fifties and sixties), I was blown away by the sheer brilliance of her performance in this film. I give part of the credit for her success to George Cukor’s directorial efforts; Mr. Cukor was indeed a “women’s director”, largely responsible for Katharine Hepburn’s early success, and for guiding (among others) Vivien Leigh, Judy Holliday, and Miss Kerr through Oscar-winning or nominated screen performances.



The film’s plot, in my opinion, is clever. Edward is a strong a presence as Sebastian in “Suddenly Last Summer”, although his face is never shown. The moral disintegration of a marriage and of a loving wife is effectively narrated, particularly thanks to Deborah Kerr’s stunning performance. It is sad to think this is only the first of many Oscars stolen from her throughout her movie career.It has always appeared as a mystery to me why Hollywood moguls believed Spencer Tracy was a versatile actor. Although he is always believable as a nice, warm “everyman” in most of his films, I think his range was (to say the least) limited. One can’t help but wonder what a more expressive actor of his generation, such as Fredric March, would have done with the character of Sir Arnold Boult.edward-my-son-1949-2

Among English actors, my personal choices would have been Michael Redgrave or Ralph Richardson; but it was, after all, an MGM movie. At least Tracy is not as miscast as, for example, Gregory Peck (another actor of limited range)playing an English barrister in “The Paradine Case”.

The supporting cast was excellent,in my opinion; especially the actress who played Sir Arnold’s secretary and mistress, and the dependable Felix Aylmer.

“Edward, My Son” does not betray its theatrical origins and is an unusually somber film, considering MGM’s usual emphasis on visual charm and gloss.



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