Smilin' Through (1932)
Directed by Sidney Franklin, who later produced the Oscar winning Mrs. Miniver (1942), this film was nominated for a Best Picture Academy Award. It's a story of redemption and/or about forgiveness, told partially through flashbacks, this film stars Leslie Howard as an old English gentleman who recalls wistfully his long lost love Moonyeen (Norma Shearer). He is a wealthy man and there is a place on his estate where he goes each time he feels lonely, sad, or needs to make an important decision. Only he can hear her words of encouragement. We will later learn that Moonyeen was his bride-to-be, one that he won from her childhood friend Jeremy Wayne (Fredric March), whose jealous rage causes him to kill her at the altar on her wedding day. That was 30 years ago. Today, prompted by his long time companion Dr. Owen (O.P. Heggie), he agrees to raise Moonyeen’s sister’s 5 year old daughter Kathleen, when both her parents die in a drowning accident.
Flash forward 17 years to 1915, Kathleen is now a young woman who looks remarkable similar to Moonyeen (also played by Norma Shearer). She too has a childhood friend Willie (Ralph Forbes), who she spurns for American Kenneth Wayne (also played by Fredric March). Once Howard learns of this, particularly of Kenneth’s origin as Jeremy’s son (there’s an age problem here;-) he tells Kathleen (hence, us) the story and makes her promise never to see him again. Though she’s fallen in love with Kenneth, she agrees to Howard’s wishes, but later breaks her promise when she learns Kenneth has joined the British service to fight the Germans. They have a clandestine affair until it’s time for him to be sent to the front. At that time, before he is sent, she reveals her desire to marry Kenneth to Howard, causing him to go into a rage and threatening her with expulsion from his home and financial support if she does. Though she leaves with him, she returns unmarried because Kenneth, not wanting to ruin her as his father had Moonyeen, wouldn’t.
Years pass and, when the war is over, Kenneth returns home. However, though Kathleen had waited for him at the train station, he is unseen by her. His legs were ruined, so he didn’t want to see her, and he came home only to pack his things for a return to the States. But Dr. Owen sees him and tells Howard, who says "he got what he deserved". Kathleen and he have been separated by what transpired before Kenneth left, and not the same as they were before he met her. So, he’s become a bitter man unable to communicate with Moonyeen’s spirit anymore. But Kathleen discovers Kenneth is home and goes to him, but he puts on an act that he’s forgot about her to drive her away, choosing instead to be a wounded martyr. A dying Howard, recognizing that Kathleen’s love for Kenneth is equivalent to Moonyeen’s of him, has a change of heart. He tells Kathleen about Kenneth’s injury such that she rushes to him. They are seen at the end returning to Howard’s home, in love, as Howard’s spirit is joined by Moonyeen’s.
Later remade in Technicolor with music, starring actress-singer Jeanette MacDonald, as Smilin' Through (1941).