Cast & Crew
D. Ross Lederman
Wealthy lawyer William Emory treats his young son Bill very strictly, despite the intervention of his wife Ruth. When Bill returns home from a military academy for the summer, Emory continually criticizes his behavior which owes more to boyish energy than to willful disobedience. Things come to a head when Bill's toy airplane damages a top hat that Emory was to wear while giving an important speech. For punishment, Bill is restricted to his yard. When he tries to stop another boy from stealing a bird's nest, however, Bill leaves his yard and his punishment is extended for a week, even though Ruth pleads for Emory to be more tolerant of his son. Bill gets into more trouble when he decides to show a neighborhood boy, Vestibule Pullman, a gun his father has hidden in a bureau drawer. Emory comes home unexpectedly and finds Vestibule hiding in the drawer with the gun. After being sent to his room in disgrace, Bill runs away. He meets some hobos, who decide to kidnap him when they learn that his father is wealthy. Bill is saved by a passing man, Lunk Nelson, who hears his cries for help. After telling Bill that his mother will be sad if he runs away, Lunk returns the boy to his home. Lunk's criticism of Emory's treatment of Bill causes Ruth to suggest that she take total responsibility for his upbringing until he is a little older. Ruth and Emory then quarrel, and Ruth decides to leave with Bill. Soon Lunk is spending hours with Bill, teaching him about fishing. One day, Emory sees Bill in the neighborhood and invites him in, but Bill refuses, saying he is busy with Lunk. The next morning, Ruth finds a ransom note in Bill's room. Thinking that he has been kidnapped, she rushes to Emory for help. They follow the note's instructions, which lead them to Lunk's cabin. There they discover that Bill wrote the note himself, hoping to bring his parents together again. Realizing his mistakes, Emory vows that the family will never be separated again.
D. Ross Lederman
Fred Niblo Jr.
Allen G. Siegler
D. Ross Lederman directed the film, which starred John Litel as the disciplinarian father. Litel is easily recognizable to classic film audiences, appearing in many "A" and "B" pictures, usually as a district attorney or judge. He is probably best remembered for playing fathers in the Nancy Drew and Henry Aldrich film series. Broadway actress Frieda Inescort plays Litel's wife and Billy Dawson is the trouble-prone son. Also in the cast are former Little Rascals star Scotty Beckett and Sonny Bupp, who is most famous for playing Orson Welles' ill-fated son in Citizen Kane (1941).
Father's Son's rather somber story involves the complicated relationship between Bill Emory (Dawson) and his overly strict father, William (Litel). When Bill returns from military school for summer vacation, a series of events cause the relationship to deteriorate and Bill runs away, but is kidnapped by hobos who learn that his father is wealthy. Although the boy is rescued, his relationship with his father does not improve. When the mother decides to leave, taking Bill with her, the boy comes up with a plot to bring his parents back together.
With a running time of only 57 minutes, Father's Son was clearly meant as simply one of the myriad of "B" pictures churned out each year to fill movie theater programs. This fact was not lost on The New York Times reviewer known as "T.S." who castigated the film. "Even if it is based on a story by Booth Tarkington--hard to believe, but true--it is still one of the feeblest parables to which this corner has been subjected in this or any other season. Papa is a pompous dope, Billy is a screeching brat and mama is all sweetness and light, but they're all equally tiresome. Like father, like son, like movie. Take it away, Oedipus!"
Director: D. Ross Lederman
Screenplay: Fred Niblo, Jr.; Booth Tarkington (story)
Cinematography: Allen G. Siegler
Music: Howard Jackson
Film Editing: Frank Magee
Cast: John Litel (William Emory), Frieda Inescort (Ruth Emory), Billy Dawson (Bill Emory), Christian Rub (Lunk Nelson).
by Lorraine LoBianco
The AFI Catalog of Feature Films: 1931-40
T.S. "Father's Son, At the Palace" The New York Times 13 Feb 41
The film's working title was Father and Son. Booth Tarkington's original screen scenario was entitled "Old Fathers and Young Sons" and was also the basis for the 1931 Warner Bros.' film Father's Son, directed by William Beaudine and starring Lewis Stone as the father and Leon Janney as the son. (See AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1931-40; F3.1293).