Adam Had Four Sons (1941): Gregory Ratoff’s Romantic Melodrama, Starring Ingrid Bergman and Susan Hayward before They Became Major Stars

From Our Vaults

Gregory Ratoff directed Adam Had Four Sons, a romantic and family melodrama, starring Ingrid Bergman, Susan Hayward, and Fay Wray.

Grade: B-

Adam Had Four Sons
Adam Had Four Sons.jpg

Theatrical release poster


Adam Stoddard is a wealthy, easy-going family patriarch who falls on hard times after the death of his wife Molly and the stock market crash of 1907 that wipes out his wealth.

The recently arrived governess Emilie works to keep the family together. But with the loss of Adam’s fortune, the boys are sent off to boarding school, their schooling paid for by wealthy, aged Cousin Phillipa. Emilie must return to France until Adam can afford to repurchase the family estate and recall her to look after it. Reversing his fortunes takes Adam several years. By then, the three older boys are fighting in World War I.

Just as the family is getting back to its former way of life, David returns with his new, conniving wife Hester, a domineering woman.

Cousin Phillipa figures out the false Hester, dying before she can tell Adam. Hester schemes to rid the home of Emilie, and seduces another son, Jack, while her husband is away at war.

Emilie discovers the affair, but she keeps quiet to preserve Adam’s happiness and the brother’s reputation, pretending to Adam that she was the one involved with Jack. Later, when David returns, Hester inadvertently exclaims “Oh, Jack” while David is caressing her.

Realizing her infidelity, David leaves to commit suicide by flying a plane and crashing on a stormy night. Yet, he is hospitalized and survives. Ultimately, all is discovered, and Hester receives her comeuppance and is evicted from the home. Emilie and Adam become engaged, and all ends happily.

Ingrid Bergman as Emilie Gallatin
Warner Baxter as Adam Stoddard
Susan Hayward as Hester
Fay Wray as Molly


Directed by Gregory Ratoff
Screenplay by William Hurlbut and Michael Blankfort, based on the novel “Legacy” by Charles Bonner
Produced by Robert Sherwood
Cinematography Peverell Marley, A.S.C.
Edited by Francis D. Lyon
Music by W. Franke Harling
Distributed by Columbia Pictures

Release date: February 18, 1941 (US)

Running time: 81 minutes
Budget: about $500,000


TCM showed this movie on December 1, 2021.