Four Sons
Original 1928 film poster
Directed byJohn Ford
Written by
  • Philip Klein
Based on"Grandmother Bernle Learns Her Letters"
by I. A. R. Wylie
Produced by
  • Charles G. Clarke
  • George Schneiderman
Edited byMargaret Clancey
Distributed byFox Film Corporation
Release date
  • February 12, 1928 (1928-02-12) (USA)
Running time
100 minutes
CountryUnited States
LanguageSilent (English intertitles)
Box office$1.5 million[1]

Four Sons is a 1928 American silent drama film directed and produced by John Ford and written for the screen by Philip Klein from a story by I. A. R. Wylie first published in the Saturday Evening Post as "Grandmother Bernle Learns Her Letters" (1926).

It is one of only a handful of survivors out of the more than 50 silent films Ford directed between 1917 and 1928. It starred Margaret Mann, James Hall, and Charles Morton. The film is also notable for the presence of the young John Wayne in an uncredited role as an officer. Though "silent," it was released with a Movietone music and sound effects track.

A family is torn apart by the advent of World War I. It was remade in 1940 with the same title, starring Don Ameche and Eugenie Leontovich, and directed by Archie Mayo, although the war was updated to World War II.


Mother Bernle is a widow in Bavaria with four sons: Franz, Johann, Andreas and Joseph.

Joseph receives a job offer from the United States, and he is given money to travel there by his mother.

The First World War is heating up. Franz, who is already serving in the German army, is joined by first Johann and then Andreas who is forced into the army.

In New York, Joseph is married with a newborn son. He is running a delicatessen and when America enters the war, Joseph enlists to fight for the American side. When Joseph's enlistment is discovered, it causes problems for Mother Bernle because she is shunned in her village.

Franz and Johann are killed on the Eastern Front. Andreas is wounded on the Western Front and dies in the arms of his brother Joseph.

Joseph returns to New York to discover that the delicatessen has prospered in his absence. He sends for his mother to join him, and she departs her village only to end up hopelessly lost wandering New York. A policeman brings her to Joseph's apartment, where she joyfully joins her son, daughter-in-law and grandson.


The Academy Film Archive preserved Four Sons in 1999.[2]



  1. ^ Quigley Publishing Company "The All Time Best Sellers", International Motion Picture Almanac 1937-38 (1938) p 942 accessed April 19, 2014
  2. ^ "Preserved Projects". Academy Film Archive.