Adam Had Four Sons is a good quality Hollywood film from 1941 about a family that is able to persevere despite a few tragic setbacks and one nasty hussy who is attempting to disrupt what dignity the – mainly all male family – has left.
Ingrid Bergman plays a young good natured governess named Emilie who comes over to America to live and work for a rich family in New York circa the early 1900's. Warner Baxter plays Adam the father of four boys who is struck with double tragedy when his wife dies in the first part of the film and he goes out of business and is forced to give up his estate.
Ten years pass and Adam has risen back to the top of the social ladder with his boys in tow. Adam invites Emilie back to the estate – partly because he is comfortable with her presence and partly because he wants a replacement for his wife – but just as she is settling in the Great War comes and the four boys join the army.
Meanwhile one of the boys has married a sassy young woman named Hester (Susan Hayward) who it turns out is more interested in what she can gain from the rich family than she is in settling down; one of the older boys comes home and she is all over him. It soon becomes apparent to Emilie that she must do something to stop the opportunistic Hester from destroying the fine young men and the family.
How will she do it?
Adam Had Four Sons was directed by Gregory Ratoff at Columbia Picture studios and is the kind that Hollywood cranked out monthly in the 1940's. It is a little bit earnest but it has all the attributes of the kind of craftsmanship and skilled balance of story and content that we don't see much of today. [Notice the compositions and editing in chapters 8 and 9 for an example].