Lena Rivers (May 21, 1932)
Released May 21, 1932: Lena's mother died in childbirth, and it appears that she wasn't married, so little Lena grows up with her wealthy uncle where she is disliked her cousin Caroline, who does everything in her power to make Lena's life miserable.
Directed by Phil Rosen
Written by Stuart Anthony and Warren Duff.
The Actors: Charlotte Henry (Lena Rivers), Beryl Mercer (Lena's grandmother), James Kirkwood (Mr. Henry Graham, owner of the neighboring plantation), Clarence Muse (Curfew), John Larkin (Lucifer 'Lucy' Jones), Morgan Galloway (Durrie Belmont, Graham's ward), Joyce Compton (Caroline Nichols), Betty Blythe (Mrs. Nichols), John St. Polis (Mr. Nichols), Russell Simpson (Lena's Grandfather), The Kentucky Singers (Choir Singers), Lafe McKee (fisherman).
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This movie is named "Lena Rivers," but it might have been called, "Cinderella on a Kentucky Plantation." Let me give you the set-up so you can enjoy this tale of the old South and the people that lived there.
As the movie opens, we see an old country doctor coming out of a room in a shack in the Kentucky hills. He is shaking his head sadly, and we learn that Grandma Rivers' daughter has died in childbirth, but baby Lena is alive and well. We discover that Lena's mother told Grandma that she was married, but there was no man around to claim that honor, and the world belives that Lena is a bastard daughter of the Kentucky hills. It takes Lena about 45 movie seconds to grow into a young woman, and when Grandpa dies, Lena and Grandma must go to relatives to live. Grandmother had a son as well as Lena's mother, and he is married into a wealthy Kentucky family, so the head for Canterville, Kentucky to live with them. But Uncle Nichols is only wealthy because of his wife's money, and she isn't happy at all that his poor mother and her bastard granddaughter will be living with them. And his daughter Caroline, about Lena's age, is positively green with jealousy of Lena.
This Nichols Kentucky plantation and their neighboring plantation, owned by bachelor Henry Graham and his young ward Durrie are very involved into the Kentucky horse racing society, and as Lena and her grandmother arrive at the Nichols plantation they are entertaining the neighbors and getting ready to head off to a horserace. When neighbor Graham sees Lena he is positively frozen in his tracks. He instantly decides not to go to the races that afternoon and cancels a business trip the next day. While talking to Lena he asks her what she thinks of her father, who has never surfaced, and she replies that her heart is full of hatred for such a man, and she could never forgive him for not marrying or claiming her mother before Lena was born. We immediately understand that Graham is her father, and he spends the rest of the movie trying to find a way to make things right with Lena.
Make a big bowl of hot buttered white-kernal popcorn, grab a cold soda, and enjoy this tale of the old South, before Reconstruction, when the gentle folk of old Kentucky spent their time on their grand plantations with their racing horses, Kentucky bourbon, and convoluted tales of family and friends.