Kings Row is a 1942 drama film, directed by Sam Wood, that tells a story of young people growing up in a small American town at the turn of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, beset by social pressure, dark secrets, and the challenges and tragedies one must face as a result of these hard facts.
The film, which was Ronald Reagan's most notable role during his early acting career at Warner Brothers, was adapted by Casey Robinson from a best-selling 1940 novel of the same name by Henry Bellamann. It also starred Ann Sheridan, Robert Cummings, Betty Field, Charles Coburn, and Claude Rains. The musical score was composed by Erich Wolfgang Korngold, and the cinematographer was James Wong Howe.
In the film, Reagan's character, Drake McHugh, has both legs amputated by a sadistic surgeon, played by Coburn. When he wakes from anesthesia, he says, "Where's the rest of me?" Reagan used that line as the title of his 1965 autobiography. Reagan and most film critics considered Kings Row his best movie. Reagan called the film a "slightly sordid but moving yarn" that "made me a star."
The film commences in 1890 in the small town of Kings Row, focusing on five children. They are Parris Mitchell (Robert Cummings), who lives with his French grandmother (Maria Ouspenskaya); Cassandra Tower (Betty Field), daughter of Dr. Alexander Tower (Claude Rains); the wealthy orphan Drake McHugh (Ronald Reagan); Louise Gordon (Nancy Coleman), daughter of the sadistic town physician Dr. Henry Gordon (Charles Coburn), who performs operations without anesthetic; and the tomboy Randy Monaghan (Ann Sheridan), whose father (Ernest Cossart) is a railroad worker.
Parris is attracted to Cassandra, whom the other children avoid because her family is "strange": her mother is confined to the house and never seen. Dr. Tower takes Cassie out of school and Parris does not see her again until years later, when he begins his medical studies under Dr. Tower's tutelage.