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Act of Violence

07 May

You’re the same man you were in Germany. You did it once, and you’ll do it again. What do you care about one more man? You sent ten along already. Sure, you’re sorry they’re dead. That’s the respectable way to feel. Get rid of this guy and feel sorry later. He dies… or you die. It’s him… or you.

Revenge and redemption, guilt and remorse. Having written about so many classic westerns, especially those from the 1950s, these are words and themes that I find myself returning to time and again. Sure the western explored and exploited these ideas extensively, but it’s not a phenomenon confined to that genre. Film noir, that shadowy world of uncertainty and moral ambiguity, also turned the spotlight on these matters. Act of Violence (1948) tackled such thorny yet compelling issues head-on, using the war and its aftermath as the backdrop, challenging the viewer as much through its clever casting as its examination of the complex ethical questions.

Act of Violence is a film where the demarcation lines between what we traditionally think of as the hero and villain are both blurred and continually shifting. As viewers, we’re constantly thrown off-guard and never entirely sure where our sympathies should lie – the images may be shot in stark black and white but the figures playing out the drama on the screen never are. The dramatic opening, panning from a New York skyline down to a long shot of a limping figure furiously driving himself across a deserted nighttime street, plunges us headlong into the action. As the trench-coat clad figure hauls his crippled form up the narrow, rickety staircase of a seedy boarding house and proceeds to load an automatic, the title flashes briefly before us. This is Joe Parkson (Robert Ryan), a veteran who has been broken both physically and psychologically. Boarding a Greyhound bus bound for Los Angeles, he disembarks in the small California town of Santa Lisa. This little settlement seems to embody all the optimism and hope for renewal of the immediate post-war years. Frank Enley (Van Heflin) is the epitome of the solid model citizen – the American Dream in motion – with his hearty demeanor, beautiful young wife and thriving business. Yet, despite this wholesome and eminently respectable exterior, Enley is carrying round a dark and shameful secret. And Parkson has come to town to kill him. As the action switches to Los Angeles and back again to Santa Lisa, the relationship between these two very different men and the traumatic past events that have scarred both their souls is gradually revealed. While neither one is a saint, the two of them, in their own ways, have been or have become sinners. Both are seeking to lay the demons of the past to rest in their own way and thus attain personal redemption. I think it’s fair to say that in the end both men fulfill their aims, just not in the way we or they initially expected.

Although the film is primarily concerned with redemption, it’s first necessary to take a look at the corrosive effects of its malignant cousins, guilt and revenge. At the heart of the story lies the way those two great emotional imposters eat away at the central characters before ultimately consuming themselves to allow a spiritual renewal to take place. It’s the way Enley and Parkson react to and are shaped by guilt and the thirst for revenge that leads to that ambiguity I already mentioned. The beginning of the movie, before all the circumstances have become apparent, suggests a fairly conventional plot – an innocent victim being pursued by a relentless and implacable enemy. However, as the details emerge, we’re forced to reassess that assumption. It’s no longer as clear-cut as we’d been led to believe and there is no readily identifiable hero or villain, at least not outside the subsidiary characters. What we’re left with instead is something of a classical tragedy, where two pretty regular guys have had their character flaws magnified and honed by the extremity of their wartime experiences. The horrors and violence of their shared past have affected both men profoundly and it takes an, ironically unconscious, act of self-sacrifice to allow them to break the shackles and redeem themselves.

Fred Zinnemann isn’t a name that immediately springs to mind when thinking about film noir directors, and Act of Violence is his one and only stab at dark cinema. Nevertheless, it’s a remarkably strong effort where the visuals are every bit as striking as the script. There’s a very noticeable contrast between the bright and airy world we see Enley occupying at first and the shadow drenched urban wasteland he moves towards in his attempts to evade Parkson. Zinnemann and his cameraman, Robert Surtees, project some marvelous images, often featuring a panicked Enley stumbling blindly through the underbelly of LA by night – an anonymous, pitiful figure dwarfed and made insignificant by the city’s architecture. They also manage to transform Enley’s home, which initially comes across as a kind of post-war idyll, into a murky and threatening place, reminiscent in its dark confinement of the prison camp where all his troubles began.

I mentioned the clever casting at the beginning and I feel that plays a major role in making the film a success. The two leads dominate the whole thing and their deceptively typical roles add greatly to the unexpected and unpredictable feel of the film. Van Heflin always had that stolid, comforting quality about him, possessing the look, manner and speech of a guy you could depend on. That aspect is certainly played up in the early stages, and the realization that this man isn’t quite as wholesome as we thought comes as a bit of a shock. With Heflin you tend  to expect strength and inner resolve to be to the fore. He has that of course but, as the story progresses, the focus shifts to his weakness and frailty. Somehow, the desperation of Enley is made more credible by the fact it’s Heflin we’re watching. Increasingly, I’ve come to believe Robert Ryan was one of the greatest actors of his generation. This man was capable of convincingly playing a wide range of characters in just about every conceivable genre. Film noir was good to him though and the complex roles he was handed brought out his strengths. Parkson, the limping and obsessive veteran, offered plenty of scope for the intensity and suppressed rage he had a knack for. In the hands of someone less capable or lacking in subtlety the character simply would not work. Once again, first impressions should not be trusted as the menacing bogeyman figure at the start is fleshed out and transformed by the end.

The supporting roles are filled most notably by three fine actresses: Janet Leigh, Mary Astor and Phyllis Thaxter. In her one of her earliest roles, Janet Leigh impresses as the young bride who sees her illusions about the war hero she thought she’d married shattered. Phyllis Thaxter plays Ryan’s neglected girl, a loyal rock-like figure intent on saving her man from his own self-destructiveness. And finally, there’s Mary Astor. Once the arch siren of The Maltese Falcon, Astor gives a memorable turn as the jaded and weary prostitute who offers comfort to the disoriented and confused Enley in LA. These three women provide a stable core to the movie, their constancy contrasting nicely with the fluidity of their male counterparts.

Act of Violence is available on DVD as part of the Warner Film Noir Vol 4 set. The film is paired on one of the discs with John Sturges’ Mystery Street. It’s been transferred well with no noticeable damage and good contrast levels to show off Surtees’ photography. The extras consist of a commentary track by Drew Casper and a short featurette on the movie. As far as I’m concerned, Act of Violence has a lot going for it. The central themes are ones I’m always drawn to and I feel they’re intelligently presented here. What’s more the cast is exceptionally fine with good performances delivered by everyone involved. All told, we’re looking at a strong film noir that develops in an unexpected fashion, but one which is also very satisfying.

BTW, I just noticed that this is my 300th post, another little milestone passed.

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52 responses to “Act of Violence

  1. Vienna

    May 7, 2014 at 7:18 am

    What a coincidence. I watched Act of Violence last night,first time in a while.
    It’s a great noir.My only problem is the ending. It’s rushed. The idea of Ryan going to Janet Leigh just doesn’t tie in with the character we have seen throughout the film.
    Another almost bit part for the great Mary Astor, but boy does she show how good she is. What were MGM thinking,not giving her bigger roles.
    With Ryan prepared for murder,the idea that he has developed a relationship with Phyllis Thaxter in the past also doesn’t ring true. This man is totally consumed with revenge. He’s similar in a way to the loner Ryan plays in On dangerous Ground.
    And Janet Leigh is far too young looking for her role. Think of the casting if RKo had made it!
    Terrific performances from Heflin and Ryan.
    Congrats on 300 posts.

     
    • Colin

      May 7, 2014 at 7:33 am

      Thanks!
      I don’t know, I didn’t have any problem with Leigh looking so young in this. She was, I think, 21 at the time and I felt that worked well enough as she was playing a character clearly in love with and in awe of what she saw as the heroic Heflin. Her youth, and consequent innocence, was important as far as I could see. Had there been an older, more worldly, actress playing the part then I don’t think the shattered illusions aspect would have worked at all.

      As for Ryan and Thaxter, there was a line delivered by Thaxter to the effect that she had helped him forget his pain for a time and hoped she could do so again. Again, I thought her presence was pivotal to his character’s development – she was there as a moderating figure, albeit a struggling one, and helped humanize Ryan’s character. The fact Ryan had a relationship added another layer of sympathy and I feel it also highlighted his own inner battle against the consuming desire for revenge.

       
  2. Prashant C. Trikannad

    May 7, 2014 at 8:18 am

    Colin, congratulations on your 300th post and reaching the enviable milestone with another excellent review of a noir film, highlighting the twin themes of “revenge and redemption, guilt and remorse,” par for the course in most crime/action movies. In recent years I only ever remember seeing Robert Ryan (again) in “The Dirty Dozen” where he was overshadowed by everyone else, and this is the first I heard of Van Heflin, though it’s likely I may seen him elsewhere without being aware of his identity as is the case with so many actors of yesteryears.

     
    • Colin

      May 7, 2014 at 8:26 am

      Thank you, Prashant. Van Heflin was an excellent and underrated actor who’s always a pleasure to watch. You may well have seen him before but, as you say, been unaware of the fact. I’ve featured a number of his movies in the past here.

      And Robert Ryan, what can I say? You really can’t go wrong with a Ryan movie, one of the very best.

       
  3. Cavershamragu

    May 7, 2014 at 8:26 am

    Well done on your third century – you’re looking good on it my friend :)

     
    • Colin

      May 7, 2014 at 8:27 am

      Cheers, Sergio. I’m still hanging in there!

       
  4. Cavershamragu

    May 7, 2014 at 8:29 am

    I have always rated this film very highly, partly because Zinnemann was always such a pro but as you say because this feels like quite a an adult take on the material for a change – and also, in its delineation of that post-war malaise, it does seem to follow the same trajectory of the director’s THE SEVENTH CROSS and THE SEARCH. I had clean forgotten that Leigh was in this film actually – must watch it again – it’s Ryan, Heflin and Astor that I always remember best. I have the same DVD set and the juxtaposition with the Sturges film is an interesting one but makes this seem even classier by comparison!

     
    • Colin

      May 7, 2014 at 8:36 am

      Yes, the post-war aspect works well and adds a lot of punch – the contrast between the optimism of the Santa Lisa residents and the baggage carried by Heflin and Ryan is quite striking.

      Speaking as a Sturges fan, I have to agree. Mystery Street is a good enough little movie but it feels lightweight next to this one.

       
      • Cavershamragu

        May 7, 2014 at 9:55 am

        And I quite a gree about Ryan – the more I see of his work, the more I marvel at it.

         
        • Colin

          May 7, 2014 at 9:59 am

          I honestly don’t think I’ve ever seen him give a bad performance and that’s quite an achievement. Even when the movie he was in was had weaknesses, Ryan himself never gave less than 100%.

           
          • Cavershamragu

            May 7, 2014 at 10:08 am

            An actor who can convincingly play John the Baptist, Captain Nemo and Ike Clanton deserves serious respect!

             
            • Colin

              May 7, 2014 at 10:29 am

              Absolutely. The diversity of roles he tackled, and with great success, is just so impressive. That, and ease with which he moved from hero to villain, and everything in between.

               
              • Cavershamragu

                May 7, 2014 at 10:31 am

                I’m trying to think of light comedic roles – there must be some but off the top of my head I can think of none …

                 
                • Colin

                  May 7, 2014 at 10:40 am

                  Good point. I’ve never seen them but The Busy Body and Her Twelve Men are listed as comedies.

                   
                  • Cavershamragu

                    May 7, 2014 at 10:54 am

                    Me neither – darn!

                     
                    • Colin

                      May 7, 2014 at 10:55 am

                      If it’s any consolation, I’d never even heard of them until I ran a check on IMDb.

                       
  5. chrisk

    May 7, 2014 at 9:32 am

    Congratulations! I look forward to your future postings, particularly westerns. Best regards.

     
    • Colin

      May 7, 2014 at 9:57 am

      Thanks. There will definitely be plenty of westerns coming up – no surprise there I guess. :)

       
      • Vienna

        May 7, 2014 at 10:31 am

        Another thing I love about a film like this is that the plot and characters are so well written, it provides plenty of elements for discussion.
        There is obviously a lot of back story – Heflin moving from the East Coast, Ryan tracking him down.
        I love the scene where Enley tells his wife exactly what happened in the prison camp. It’s as if he’s glad to finally talk about it.
        Makes you think Enley had constantly been looking over his shoulder.

         
        • Colin

          May 7, 2014 at 10:45 am

          Yes, lots of back story, and none of it presented in a confusing or overwhelming manner. Everything is revealed gradually and very naturally.

          I do get the impression Enley had been looking over his shoulder all the time – his reaction when he first hears Parkson is in town, and the fact he moved in the first place suggests that. I like that scene in the stairwell too – I think it works far better than a flashback and gives Heflin the opportunity to show off his acting chops.

           
  6. Vienna

    May 7, 2014 at 11:42 am

    I quite like Her Twelve Men. Wouldn’t class it as comedy. Ryan and Barry Sullivan are in support of Greer Garson who teaches at a boys’ school.
    Strikes me there is enough back story in Act of Violence for a prequel! Starting in prison camp, then Ryan’s escape and start of life back home for both men.
    Another powerful scene when Enley in desperation gets Pat to phone Parkson and offer money.
    The beginning too on the Lake –
    Parkson doesn’t even want to confront Enley – just shoot him.

     
    • Colin

      May 7, 2014 at 11:57 am

      Yes, that lake scene is very well shot – great spatial awareness from Zinnemann. And Parkson’s grim determination as he rows out is ominous stuff.

       
  7. Ted S. (Just a Cineast)

    May 7, 2014 at 11:51 am

    I too really like Act of Violence. Zinnemann worked with Heflin several years earlier in the lighter crime programmer Kid Glove Killer, which has no pretentions of being a great movie, but is a whole lot of fun.

    Zinnemann also directed the darker Crime Does Not Pay short Forbidden Passage, about illegal immigration, which is on Youtube

     
    • Colin

      May 7, 2014 at 12:04 pm

      Hi, Ted.
      Kid Glove Killer is another new one to me – they’re starting to pile up today!

      Zinnemann was always good of course. There’s not much to say about High Noon that hasn’t been said before, and The Day of the Jackal remains an excellent thriller.

       
  8. Clayton @ Claytonology

    May 7, 2014 at 7:26 pm

    Oooh…it looks great. It’s strange, like SASKATCHEWAN that we recently talked about, this one has one of my most fave actors paired with one of my least favoured actresses. Robert Ryan is always worth his gold-weight, but Mary Astor grates on me for some reason.

    Still, I have to see it now; thanks for bringing it to my attention!

     
    • Colin

      May 7, 2014 at 7:47 pm

      Hope you get to check it out Clayton – I definitely rate it.
      Mary Astor, someone I don’t have a particular problem with myself although I kind of understand where you’re coming from on that score, is very good in the movie. It’s a totally different role to, say, her part in The Maltese Falcon and it may actually surprise you.

       
  9. Jerry Entract

    May 8, 2014 at 10:07 am

    Done it again, Colin! And by the way, congrats on your 300th post. Amazing.

    I think “ACT OF VIOLENCE” is a corker of a film. There is nothing predictable or static about it and the overriding theme of guilt and redemption is powerfully-handled. To achieve the result you want for that requires lead actors who can deliver subtle and nuanced performances and I don’t think they could have chosen better than Van Heflin and Robert Ryan. For me, they never disappoint.

    Robert Ryan made a huge impression on me as a boy even (back in the 1950s/60s) and that has only been enhanced in the ensuing years. Even when he played hero (as in the excellent western “THE PROUD ONES” or nominally in “ON DANGEROUS GROUND”), his characters were flawed or maybe just “human”. Again, for me, one of his finest performances was in the magnificent minor boxing drama “THE SET-UP” (1949) for RKO (where he contributed so much).

     
    • Colin

      May 8, 2014 at 11:38 am

      Thanks very much, Jerry.

      I very much like your use of the word “human” to describe Ryan’s on screen persona. In life, heroes and villains are thin on the ground, but there’s plenty of variations in between. Perhaps that was Ryan’s greatest attribute, the ability to convincingly play real people.
      And I quite agree on The Set-Up, arguably the best boxing picture ever made. It’s lean, mean, powerful stuff, and Ryan was ideally cast.

       
  10. mikestakeonthemovies

    May 9, 2014 at 12:39 am

    Aside from The Dirty Dozen, this is my earliest memory of Ryan from a late night telecast and I quickly became a fan and have been ever since. Another fine role for him and kudo’s to Heflin for playing against type. Nice review.

     
    • Colin

      May 9, 2014 at 7:06 am

      Thanks. Mike, we’ve all been talking a lot about Ryan here but Heflin was every bit as important in this movie. He’s another guy who never really gets his due, and the fact that we’re more accustomed to seeing him as a “Mr Dependable” figure makes his role even more effective. It keeps you a little off-balance all the way through and gives the movie another edge.

       
  11. Rod Croft

    May 9, 2014 at 3:03 am

    Colin, I, too, share your enthusiasm for the acting ability of Robert Ryan, and would suggest that his failure to attain the status of a major star was the fact that he was just “too good” at his profession.

    In many of his most appreciated roles he took the part of a “heavy” – a person with a less than savory character, generally disliked and, in some cases, despised by audiences (“Crossfire” 1947- RKO). In his early career he was particulaily effective in films-noir, exploring the themes of isolation and alienation.

    Robert Ryan attracted the interest of Dore Schary, a Producer at RKO, who, in 1947 offered him the role of a violent, vicious, racist murderer in his film-noir, “Crossfire”. The film starred the 3 “Roberts” – Young, Mitchum, and Ryan. “Crossfire” proved to be a great critical and financial success and was the first “B” picture to receive 5 Academy Award nominations including one for Robert Ryan as Best Supporting Actor.

    It was not suprising that, when Schary left RKO to become Head of Production at MGM in 1948, he sort the “loan” of Ryan from RKO to participate in his proposed film-noir, ” Act of Violence”.

    Dore Schary was to play an important part in Robert Ryan’s career. Prior to his departure from RKO, Schary was the Executive Producer of Ryan’s critically acclaimed boxing film-noir, “The Set-Up”. By the time the film was released in 1949, Schary had left RKO for MGM, and, as a consequence, did not receive the appropriate credit for his work.

    When, in 1955, Schary produced “Bad Day at Black Rock” for MGM, Robert Ryan, once again played the “heavy”, receiving acclaim for his performance.

    Colin, I enjoyed reading your well considered and written review of “Act of Violence”. Thank you.

     
    • Colin

      May 9, 2014 at 7:14 am

      Thanks a lot, Rod. I’ve always liked the style Schary brought first to RKO and then later to MGM when he was in charge. I have heard people say in the past that he didn’t bring the same level of success to the studio (MGM in particular) but that’s not something I can comment on with any authority. All I know is he made and championed the kind of movies I like.

       
      • Rod Croft

        May 10, 2014 at 11:20 pm

        Colin, in view of your response, I thought it would be interesting to prepare a very brief overview of Dore Schary’s tenure at MGM, initally, as “Head of Production” and then as “Chief Executive of MGM” – a period that extended for approximately eight years from mid-1948.

        Schary was “liberal minded” and, as such, was interested in films that contained strong social comment – tense, realistic films that addressed contempary subjects. It was to be expected that he would “clash” with his “conservative” boss, Mayer.

        In 1949 Schary’s influence on the Studio became apparent with the release of a number of cheaply made but effective films-noir, “SCENE OF THE CRIME”; “TENSION”; “CAUSE FOR ALARM”; as well as two productions directed by Anthony Mann – “BORDER INCIDENT”, ( which drew attention to, “a problem of human suffering”) and the interesting “SIDE STREET”. Mann’s 1950 Western film with Robert Taylor, “THE DEVIL’S DOORWAY” attracted considerable attention, as did “THE TALL TARGET” which appeared in the following year.

        Circumventing the strenuous objections of Mayer, in 1949, Schary proceeded with the production of “BATTLEGROUND” directed by William Wellman; it proved to be popular with both audiences as well as critics. Two years later, Wellman was to direct, (with Schary acting as Producer), the Western, “WESTWARD THE WOMEN”.

        “STARS IN MY CROWN” (1950) directed by Jacques Tourneur made a profit for the Studio and that same year Director, John Sturges’ “RIGHT CROSS”, a boxing drama, graced the screen. Sturges followed this, with “ESCAPE FROM FORT BRAVO” in 1953, and in the following year “BAD DAY AT BLACK ROCK”, which was produced by Schary, himself.

        In 1955 Richard Brooks directed “BLACKBOARD JUNGLE” – a rather controversial film at the time and he followed up with “THE LAST HUNT” in 1956 which Dore Schary, produced. Directed by Fritz Lang, ‘”MOONFLEET” along with Mark Robson’s, “TRIAL” also appeared in 1955. “TRIAL” featured Puerto Rican actor, Juano Hernandez as the Judge.

        Dore Schary sensibly and profitably left the production of the “lighter” MGM entertainments (Musicals), in the very efficent hands of producer Arthur Freed.

        Colin, these are but a few of the fine,exceptional, and, sometimes controversial films that appeared for MGM while under the aegis of Dore Schary. He did not always succeed in his efforts but MGM made a profit each year of his tenure and I believe he proved to be a very successful Executive in the annals of that once great film studio.

         
        • Colin

          May 11, 2014 at 8:49 am

          That’s great, Rod. I really appreciate your putting together that overview. I guess it depends on what kinds of film draw one, but those which Schary favored happen to appeal to me too. There’s no doubt that during the stewardship of Mayer MGM was one of the great studios, yet the era of Schary saw the types of film produced that interested me more. The films you mentioned there are all top pieces of entertainment and art as far as I’m concerned.

           
          • Jerry Entract

            May 11, 2014 at 5:14 pm

            I’ll second that, Colin! I found Rod’s piece very interesting. Put certain things into perspective for me. I agree with your feeling that all those films mentioned under Schary’s time were very fine pieces of entertainment – my kinda movies in fact.

             
            • Colin

              May 11, 2014 at 5:20 pm

              It does depend on what you’re into but I was always fond of the direction MGM went in during those years. I remember someone arguing quite vociferously here in the past that Schary’s time in charge was the beginning of MGM’s decline – different strokes I guess.

               
              • Rod Croft

                May 13, 2014 at 8:30 pm

                Colin, in defence of Dore Schary’s tenure at MGM, I would suggest that he became Head of Production at one of the most difficult times facing the major studios in Hollywood.

                It is generally acknowledged that “the beginning of the end” of the Hollywood Studio System commenced with the ruling handed down in May, 1948, by the U.S. Supreme Court in regard to the “Hollywood Antitrust Case”. The major studios were instructed, “inter alia”, to divest themselves of their theatre chains. The effect of this ruling would forever change the manner in which films would be produced, distributed and exhibited in the USA. Not only would it deprive the studios of substantial income, it permitted independent producers and small studios to compete in the marketplace, as their product was afforded greater access to cinemas throughout the country.

                An even greater threat was the fact that, as the sale of TV sets increased, theater attendance figures dropped – alarmlingly.

                In 1948, when faced with a substantial decline in profits, Schenck, who headed Lowes Inc., (owners of MGM as well as an extensive chain of theatres), instructed Mayer to install a new Head of Production at MGM – Mayer had occupied the positions of both Head of the Studio as well as Production since the demise of Thalberg in 1936. After Mayer’s own son-in-law, Selznick, declined the position, he approached Dore Schary at RKO who accepted the challenge.

                To stabilise the Studio’s financial position, Schary commenced the production of low-cost films-noir, and instituted a series of cost-cutting measures by removing numerous “Stars” from the MGM payroll as well as recycling old properties including sets and costumes.

                In retrospect, it is evident that Schenck had planned the replacement of Mayer at MGM; Schary was able to override Mayer’s objections -simply by approaching Schenck at Lowes Inc. It is reported that, when an angry Mayer offered Schenck the ultimatum of “Him or Me !”, Schenck chose “Him” and Dore Schary became both Head of the Studio as well as retaining his former position. Mayer, to his dismay and consternation was….out!

                During his time at MGM, Schary maintaned an annual profit for the Studio and it was not until his mentor at Lowes Inc., Schenck, was replaced, that the new regime engineered his removal.

                Colin, I feel that Dore Schary was a “victim of the time”- a period in the history of motion pictures that proved to be most difficult; a period of change and one that precluded the end of the days of the old system where the major Hollywood Studios “ruled” the entire industry. Most importantly, Schary succeeded in keeping MGM books in the “black”.

                 
                • Colin

                  May 13, 2014 at 8:41 pm

                  Excellent stuff there, Rod. Thanks you for posting that. It was my understanding that Mayer’s position had been in jeopardy anyway, as you allude to here. I liked the edge that Schary brought to MGM, I guess you could say there was some of the flavor of the best of RKO in that. It was a time of great upheaval in the industry and I have a hard time accepting those criticisms of Schary which suggest he was principally responsible for the decline of MGM – as you pointed out, there were many factors involved.
                  One thing’s for sure: I’d hate to be deprived of the great movies that were produced at MGM during Schary’s time in charge.

                   
                  • Rod Croft

                    May 13, 2014 at 11:19 pm

                    Colin,
                    What I do regret is that the proposed working relationship between Schary as the Head of MGM and Stanley Kramer failed to materalise; discussions ceased when Schary received his “marching orders” from the Studio.

                    Kramer, sometimes referred to as “the conscience of Hollywood”, was a respected, if controversial independent producer and director of a number of important films – films that addressed social issues- an interest shared by Dore Schary. Kramer was not without his critics but with such an impressive list of films to his credit, who could but admire his talent.

                    Some of those films include “CHAMPION” (1949); “HOME OF THE BRAVE (1949); “THE MEN” (1950); “HIGH NOON” (1952); “THE WILD ONE” (1953); “THE CAINE MUTINY” (1954); “THE DEFIANT ONES” (1956); “ON THE BEACH” (1959); “GUESS WHO’S COMING TO DINNER” (1967); “INHERIT THE WIND” (1960); “JUDGEMENT AT NUREMBERG” (1961); and ‘ITS A MAD, MAD, MAD, MAD WORLD” (1963).

                    Colin, what an interesting number of films this duo could have produced together!

                     
                    • Colin

                      May 14, 2014 at 8:08 am

                      I have kind of mixed feelings about Kramer, Rod. He made some important and highly enjoyable films but he could get bogged down in social issues to the detriment of the film as a whole at times.
                      I remember thinking this particularly when watching The Sniper, a film where he acted as producer rather than director. I felt his influence was especially strong in that one and it sapped some of the energy of the picture.
                      Having said that, something like Inherit the Wind never fails to engage me.

                       
  12. Vienna

    May 9, 2014 at 7:14 am

    Heflin’s at his best in this and SHANE and 3.10 TO YUMA. Totally believable as the care worn rancher in both.

     
    • Colin

      May 9, 2014 at 7:22 am

      Certainly. 3:10 to Yuma is a great meaty role and Heflin carries the heroic, stoic role most effectively. Like the film under discussion here, he’s working in tandem with another accomplished performer in Glenn Ford. You’ve only to look at the remake, where his character’s part was so poorly handled, to see how good Heflin was – and how instrumental he was in ensuring the original film remains a classic work.

       
  13. billyriel1971

    May 9, 2014 at 5:10 pm

    Congrats on your 300th post, Colin – good job. And I think you know we may have to respectfully disagree on the value of the 2007 remake of 3:10 to Yuma. ;) Van Heflin was a strong actor, for sure, but in terms of the overall film, I definitely enjoyed the grittier and darker tone of the second version. In particular, the character of Charlie Prince (Ben Foster) was fascinating and well-acted in the second film.

    But I digress, ha….keep up the fantastic work.
    Cheers,
    Chad

    http://westernsreboot.com/

     
    • Colin

      May 9, 2014 at 6:46 pm

      Thanks very much, Chad. I guess 300 isn’t a huge number of posts compared to some more prolific bloggers but I am pleased to have chalked that many up so far.

      Yeah, I guess we’ll just have to disagree on the different versions of 3:10 to Yuma – we all look for and find different things in movies, so that’s OK by me.

       
  14. Jeff Flugel

    May 10, 2014 at 11:51 pm

    Congrats on your 300th post, Colin! You always provide food for thought in your posts…here’s to (at least) 300 more.

    This is another noir I’ve not seen, but with Heflin and especially Robert Ryan involved, my interest is definitely piqued. I’m like Clayton in my ambivalence re: Mary Astor, but I can imagine her doing fine in a world-weary supporting role. It’s mainly her florid performance in THE MALTESE FALCON which has turned me off in the past. I quite like her in more matronly roles in things like LITTLE WOMEN and MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS.

     
    • Clayton @ Claytonology

      May 11, 2014 at 12:45 am

      I third that ambivalence! Wait…can I be third if I am also first?

      Goes to show how far Mary Astor has to go to win my heart, wot? :)

       
      • Colin

        May 11, 2014 at 8:57 am

        You know, it’s also worth pointing out that Astor isn’t on screen for a huge amount of time, just part of the LA section. So regardless of how one reacts to her, I wouldn’t say her presence is a make or break factor in the overall enjoyment of the movie.

         
        • Clayton @ Claytonology.com

          May 11, 2014 at 5:00 pm

          Oh, I’ll be watching it for sure! It sounds great. Actually, the Mary Astor month on TCM somewhat diluted my animosity; she was pretty good in a number of them. I always heve to have a couple of love-to-hate actors and ‘tresses in the catalogue to keep things lively. :)

           
          • Colin

            May 11, 2014 at 5:08 pm

            I thought Astor was extremely good in Robert Aldrich’s Hush…Hush, Sweet Charlotte too.

             
    • Colin

      May 11, 2014 at 8:53 am

      Thank you, Jeff. Knowing your tastes, I feel the film would work well for you. As for Astor, as I said earlier, I do think she’s probably something of an acquired taste. She’s older in this movie – and looks it – and gives a very different performance.

       

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