Four Daughters

Four Daughters is a 1938 American musical drama film that tells the story of a happy musical family whose lives and loves are disrupted by the arrival of a cynical young composer who interjects himself into the daughters' romantic lives. The movie stars the Lane Sisters (Priscilla Lane, Rosemary Lane, and Lola Lane) and Gale Page, and features Claude Rains, Jeffrey Lynn, John Garfield, and Dick Foran. The three Lanes were sisters and members of a family singing trio.

Four Daughters
Theatrical release poster
Directed byMichael Curtiz
Produced byHal B. Wallis
Written by
Screenplay by
Based onSister Act
1937 Hearst's International-Cosmopolitan story
by Fannie Hurst
Music byMax Steiner
CinematographyErnest Haller
Edited byRalph Dawson
Distributed byWarner Bros.
Release date
  • August 9, 1938 (1938-08-09) (USA)
Running time
90 minutes
CountryUnited States

The film was written by Lenore J. Coffee and Julius J. Epstein, adapted from the Fannie Hurst novel Sister Act, and was directed by Michael Curtiz. The movie's success led to two sequels with more or less the same cast: Four Wives and Four Mothers.


The Lemp sisters, Emma (Gale Page), Thea (Lola Lane), Kay (Rosemary Lane), and Ann (Priscilla Lane) are prodigies in a musical family headed by their father, Adam (Claude Rains). The Lemps also run a boarding house, and among the tenants is Felix Deitz (Jeffrey Lynn), a young composer whom the four daughters want to attract.

Emma, the oldest daughter, is the object of affection of a neighbor, Ernest (Dick Foran), but she rebuffs his attentions. Thea, a pianist and the second eldest, is courted by wealthy Ben Crowley (Frank McHugh), another neighbor, but she is not sure she loves him. Kay, the third daughter, is a talented singer and has a chance at a music school scholarship but doesn't want to leave home. The youngest daughter is Ann, a violinist. Mickey (John Garfield), an orchestral arranger and friend of Felix, falls for Ann, but Felix also has had his eyes on her and proposes marriage.

An hour before Ann and Felix are to marry, Mickey tells Ann that Emma is in love with Felix. Ann then observes Emma's distress after parting from Felix for the ceremony, and decides to step out of their way. She leaves and sends a telegram the wedding participants get, telling them she has eloped with Mickey. Ernest is prominent in calming people.

Four months later, Ann and Mickey are living a hard life in New York, professing love for each other but penniless and unhappy. Mickey is invited to form a band and go to South America with some fellow-musicians, but cannot afford passage, and Ann does not want to go.

The family meets at the Lemps' house for Christmas, except Kay, who is singing on the radio that night. Emma has not gotten together with Felix, but is now engaged to Ernest; she tells Ann that she had thought she was in love with Felix and would have kept on thinking so and spoiled her life if Ann had married him, but she was awakened to Ernest's qualities when he took charge at the abortive wedding. Felix is alone and unhappy, though he has a good conducting job awaiting him in Seattle. Mickey observes all this, and feels like an outsider and a failure. When he and Ben go to see Felix off at the train station in a snowstorm, he drives Ben's car and drops Ben off for an errand; as the train pulls out, Felix presses some money on him and tells him to use it for Ann, and Mickey, realizing that Felix and Ann really belong together, speeds through the snow until he crashes the car. The family comes to the hospital, and he dies with Ann at his bedside.

A while later, all four daughters are home making music with their loved ones when Felix returns, and he and Ann renew their love.


Priscilla Lane as Ann LempJohn Garfield as Mickey Borden
Rosemary Lane as Kay LempJeffrey Lynn as Felix Deitz
Lola Lane as Thea LempMay Robson as Aunt Etta
Gale Page as Emma LempFrank McHugh as Ben Crowley
Claude Rains as Adam LempDick Foran as Ernest Talbot


The New York Times movie review said: "A charming, at times heartbreakingly human, little comedy about life in a musical family of attractive daughters which occasionally is ruffled by the drama of a masculine world outside, Four Daughters, at the Music Hall, tempts one to agree with Jack Warner's recent assertion in the advertisements that it is the climax of his career. Putting aside Mr. Warner's career for the nonce, we may assert with equal confidence that Four Daughters is one of the best pictures of anybody's career, if only for the sake of the marvelously meaningful character of Mickey Borden as portrayed by John (formerly Jules) Garfield, who bites off his lines with a delivery so eloquent that we still aren't sure whether it is the dialogue or Mr. Garfield who is so bitterly brilliant."[1]


Academy Awards



The film is recognized by American Film Institute in these lists:

Film series and remake

Four Daughters is the first in a series of four films by Warner Bros. featuring the Lane Sisters and the other cast members. It was followed by 1939's Daughters Courageous, also directed by Michael Curtiz and co-starring Claude Rains and John Garfield, though it is a story about a different family. However, the storyline of Four Daughters and the Lemp family is continued in the 1940 film, Four Wives, and 1941's Four Mothers.

Four Daughters was remade in 1954 as Young at Heart starring Frank Sinatra and Doris Day.

Home media

Warner Archive released Four Daughters on DVD in August 4, 2009. The film was also released by Warner Archive in the "Four Daughters Movie Series Collection" in August 1, 2011.


  1. Crisler, B. R. (August 19, 1938). "MOVIE REVIEW: FOUR DAUGHTERS". The New York Times. Retrieved October 10, 2016.
  2. "The 11th Academy Awards (1939) Nominees and Winners". Retrieved 2014-02-24.
  3. "AFI's 100 Years...100 Passions Nominees" (PDF). Retrieved 2016-08-19.
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