The Sun Also Rises

Adaptation, moving from one medium to another, has been a feature of moviemaking since the earliest days, and it’s always been fraught with difficulties. Shifting a theatrical production from the stage to the screen ought to be a reasonably smooth procedure, after all drama is drama, right? Well, not always. What captivates in the theater can all too easily appear static and restrictive on the screen. Yet this is as nothing compared to the potential pitfalls of the literary adaptation, and the more famous or well-regarded the source material, the greater the chance of a negative reaction. This is understandable – authors decry the debasement of their work, the simplifications imposed, and readers express dismay at the excision of cherished passages or, worse yet, casting decisions that make a nonsense of the images they’ve been carrying around in their minds. In short, a screenwriter with a  book to adapt can be forgiven for seeing himself (or herself) on a hiding to nothing. The Sun Also Rises (1957) is based on what might well be Hemingway’s best book and it doesn’t seem to have made too many people happy. The author reportedly derided it and the screenwriter Peter Viertel disliked it. I’m not really sure what the critical consensus is but I know I always enjoyed the movie. If the book was about dreams and desires that were doomed to failure, flirtations and affairs that could only ever be imitations of what the protagonists wanted or needed, a paean to the beauty and tragedy of what can never be, then I reckon the movie, because of rather than in spite of all its flaws, might just be as good an adaptation as anyone could ever hope to make.

The Lost Generation: Hemingway and Fitzgerald, Paris, art, passion and a massive collective hangover after years of pointless slaughter seguing into a decade of apparent aimlessness, where creativity was the only antidote available to a creeping despair. Jake Barnes (Tyrone Power) is a product of all this, surrounded by artists and assorted dilettantes, wunderkinds and wasters. He is in some ways the most directionless of them all, a newspaperman who never returned home after the war and probably never will. The scars of conflict run deep in his case, rendering him impotent and thus consumed by apathy and resignation. He’s an observer of the hedonism and excess, central to it all by acquaintance yet peripheral by necessity. It’s through his eyes that the viewer sees the story unfold: first in the Parisian nightspots where he reacquaints himself with the aristocratic Lady Brett Ashley (Ava Gardner) – in his words, a drunk and a drifter – and just about tolerates the painfully self-aware Robert Cohn (Mel Ferrer); and then later in Pamplona for the fiesta, where Brett’s fiancé the dissipated Mike Campbell (Errol Flynn) meets up with them all. The whole thing amounts to a journey of discovery, where a group of desperate people are gradually force to confront the reality that, through ill-fortune or maybe just the vagaries of fate, none of them can ever hope to capture the love or personal fulfillment they yearn for. Yes, the sun will rise on another day but it’s a chill dawn that signals a world moving further away from their grasp.

The entire second act is played out during the height of the fiesta, with Mexican locations doubling for Pamplona. As the relationships become ever more tangled and the jealousies, flirtations and frustrations grow in intensity to match the progress of the fiesta the one constant in the background holding the group together is the Corrida. Hemingway was fascinated by bullfighting, writing Death in the Afternoon to address his passion for it. My own take on that aspect is that it was fueled, as were so many of his themes and concerns, by the reaction to those wartime years that left the characters of The Sun Also Rises adrift in the world. Much is made of the nobility and honesty of man confronting the overwhelming power of nature head on, of its spectacle and theatricality. It feels like an attempt to juxtapose this grand theater of death with the mindless mass slaughter he had experienced. It is as though his attitude to living and, maybe even more important in his case, dying is shaped by it; there appears to be a need to find some order and formality to it all and thus achieve some spiritual accommodation with himself and perhaps with the world in general.

As I said above, Hemingway expressed dissatisfaction with the adaptation, much to producer Darryl F Zanuck’s disgust, although it’s been suggested he may not even have seen it. Screenwriter Peter Viertel wasn’t happy with how it all turned out either, complaining about the decision to shoot in Mexico rather than Spain. Frankly, I don’t think that makes a lot of difference to the finished movie and it certainly isn’t something this viewer would count as a weakness. He also seems to have had some issues with the casting, but he’s not alone in that and it’s something I’ll come to later. Are there changes to what Hemingway had put down on paper thirty years before? Yes of course, but again my own feeling is that these aren’t of a magnitude to trouble me, and I think it’s necessary to come to terms with the fact that a shift to a different medium is always going to result in changes for a range of practical reasons. What’s important is to respect and appreciate a work on its own terms, not in relation to where it came from, not what we the audience feel it should be, not even what the original creator wanted. Ultimately, one can only evaluate the worth of a piece of art on the basis of what it is.

Henry King’s direction is as assured as ever, transitioning smoothly from  scene to scene and on into each distinct act. The CinemaScope image is well used by him in the scenes illustrating the crowded and bustling nature of the fiesta but what’s critical is his ability to maintain the required sense of intimacy when the main players interact – the bar and bistro scenes, the pivotal bedroom scenes where everyone retreats for rest but where personal revelations are made and souls are frequently bared, and of course the two key moments with Brett and Jake sharing the back seats of cars. Those are the moments where King’s lens brings the focus onto the principals, where they and their jumble of emotions dominate that big screen to the exclusion of all else.

As for the casting, I’ve seen comments before to the effect that the movie was miscast with a central group who were too old for the parts they were playing. This is undeniable and some of them look very shopworn indeed, although again I’ve never considered it a drawback. It’s been many years now since I read Hemingway’s novel but I do recall thinking that here were a collection of people whose youth had been stripped away by the horrors of combat, who had been forcibly aged beyond their years. Tyrone Power and Errol Flynn do look tired but their characters have been badly bruised by life so that’s not an issue as far as I’m concerned.

Power gets across the introversion, bitterness and only half concealed impatience of Jake, his surface affability appearing thin and brittle at times. Ava Gardner is fine too as the unfulfilled beauty, a woman who ought to have it all but who has fallen foul of a piece of rotten ill-fortune by loving the one man who cannot satisfy her needs. The substitutes she flits restlessly around are a disappointing selection: Mel Ferrer’s emotional immaturity and self-absorption is easy to despise and Errol Flynn’s decayed swashbuckler can only ever be a temporary  distraction. And it’s a superb performance by Flynn, a brutally honest portrayal of self-destruction. The sparkle is still there and the charm too but there’s a desperate sense of regret that can’t fail to touch one and I doubt the screen has ever seen a finer display of ragged dignity. Eddie Albert provides a happy-go-lucky prop for Flynn, and Juliette Greco, who just recently left us, is impressively insouciant in a small part. It seems that few people were keen on Robert Evans as the bullfighter who captivates Gardner, prompting Zanuck’s famous “the kid stays in the picture” remark. To be honest, I don’t think he adds a lot – he does have a certain gauche quality that is partially endearing but I’m not sure there’s the kind of magnetism about him that would give rise to an obsession in a character like Brett.

The Sun Also Rises has always looked strong on DVD; I had the old UK disc for many years and thought it looked fine but I was tempted to pick up the the Blu-ray over the summer when I noticed it going cheap.  Unsurprisingly, it looks even better in high definition and there are some nice supplements to add value, including a commentary track, an audio interview with Henry King,  a featurette on the making of the movie with contributions from Peter Viertel among others, and one on Hemingway adaptions in general.  All in all then, I feel that despite the reservations some have expressed regarding casting choices, locations, and changes from the original text, that the movie holds up well. If there are imperfections, and I’m not sure some of those are as damaging as they’re alleged to be, then that’s perhaps appropriate for a film about characters who are themselves less than perfect.

116 thoughts on “The Sun Also Rises

  1. It has been a long, long time, maybe 60 years or so, since I’ve thought of either the movie or the book “The Sun Also Rises”. As a teen ager reading the book, I had a vague understanding that the characters had suffered a cataclysm and were struggling to make sense of their lives. The movie provided me with a totally different understanding. Watching the movie, I was struck with the thought that the story was actually about a group of selfish, vain, vapid, self-absorbed people who had no need to support themselves — the trust babies or the 20’s? — who flitted from place to place without consideration for anyone but themselves. I liked “Farewell to Arms” and “For Whom the Bell Tolls”, but “The Sun Also Rises” not so much.

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    • I first read the book myself when I wa in my late teens and it had a great effect on me at the time, the story has never left me either in all those years. I’ve read all of Hemingway’s novels and still need to catch up with a number of the short stories, but I don’t think I’ve met anything yet that I disliked.

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  2. Thanks for this Colin, good to ne reminded of this one actually. Hemingway is hard to adapt and there are only a few, such as Siodmak’s THE KILLERS and Curtiz’s THE BREAKING POINT, that to me feel truly successful. Not seen this one in age but it is a great cast so very keen to see this again now. I once had a terrific Pan paperback of this book under it’s alternate title, Fiesta.

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    • While it’s not to hand right now, I have an old second hand hardcover of the book also going by the name of Fiesta.
      One of the Hemingway adaptations I want to revisit is The Snows of Kilimanjaro. I wish there was an official release of The Macomber Affair on the market as it’s one I’ve not seen in far too many years. I know there are versions around but I’m unsure of the quality.

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  3. Colin
    Personally I must admit to only taking a rather shallow dip into the Hemingway pool. The only one I ever read was OLD MAN AND THE SEA in High School. Film wise I have only managed FOR WHOM THE BELL TOLLS, OLD MAN AND THE SEA and THE MACOMBER AFFAIR. I guess I shall need to remedy this short coming. Thanks for the review.
    Gord

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    • I “discovered” Hemingway some time in my late teens and I couldn’t get enough of his writing. That fondness for his work has never left me and I reckon he’s the finest English language writer the 20th century produced.
      As for adaptations of his writing, they are a mixed bag, which is only to be expected I suppose. Of those I’ve seen, I don’t believe I’ve ever wholly disliked any of them.

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  4. This weekend my selection of films include…
    1- CALL OF THE WILD -2020 Harrison Ford
    2- BATTLE OF GREED -1937 Tom Keene
    3- I AM WAITING – 1957 Japan
    4- CUSTER’S LAST FIGHT – 1912 starring and directed by Francis Ford (John Ford’s older brother)
    5- KNIFE IN THE DARK-1955 Paul Newman, James Gregory An episode of DANGER directed by John Frankenheimer.

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  5. This is a very insightful review, Colin.

    I’ve always been immensely interested in the Lost Generation and its writers, especially Fitzgerald.
    There is something utterly fascinating about these people, caught in a stagnant tide pool of boredom and dissipation, waiting to be washed out to sea. Their decadence and dissipation barely hiding their pain and irretrievable damage inflicted by a horrific war.
    Wasting hours away in idle hedonistic pleasure that they don’t really enjoy while waiting for what? Fulfillment? Or death to end the boredom?

    I always liked Flynn and Power in their respective roles. With their matinée idol good looks gone, they fit their respective characters perfectly fine. Even if their ages were wrong, their acting was right. Both were much better actors than often giving credit for.

    They infuse their characters with world-weary ennui and at least in Flynn’s case he must have felt some kinship with his screen character, an over the hill alcoholic still clinging to life and pleasure.
    So must have Ava, being herself quite fond of booze and bullfighters and a lust for life that she could never satisfy.

    On a different note, you used the interesting phrase “a hiding to nothing” which I’ve only heard once before and had to look up.

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    • Thanks. The whole Lost Generation business drew me from the point when I first became aware of it. My own youth was haunted by the specter of senseless violence and to some extent the “live for the moment” bravado and its attendant desperation had a certain resonance for the young man I was when I first came to the book and the movie.

      I don’t care a bit about the age of the actors now – they were indeed all much finer performers than perhaps even they were prepared to admit themselves, and the years and the toll life had taken simply adds depth to their characterizations. Flynn in particular was quite simply grand and i do feel there was a good deal of the man himself in there – again, I don’t have the book to hand but I seem to remember his saying at the end of his hugely entertaining memoirs My Wicked, Wicked Ways that his first half century had been a wonderful journey and he was looking forward to the next fifty. Sadly, that wasn’t to be.

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      • Colin, I know you’re Irish and can absolutely see the parallels for a generation that grew up with “the Troubles”. I grew up in Europe and was truly shocked and saddened by the violence of the conflict. I had thought, by the 80s and 90s, Europe had left all this behind. (That’s all I’m going to say about politics).

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        • Thanks, I prefer to avoid heading down overtly political avenues myself, there are plenty of other places around the web for that after all.
          I’ll just say that you’re right that experience ought to have taught us the folly of conflict, but it’s a lesson some always appear keen to ignore.

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  6. Excellent insight. Personally I love The Old Man and the Sea novella, not too impressed with the movie. Quinn should have gotten the role, not Tracy. Both the novel and the movie of For Whom The Bells Toll are my favorite Hemingway novel and Hemingway movie.

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  7. What a simply superb review, Colin! Your meditations on the nature of art and the complex themes the movie pursues are beautifully expressed and thought-provoking.

    I have been thinking recently about the issue of transferring novels to the screen, mindful of the view you have expressed previously that the movie should be seen as a self-contained piece of art and not compared to the novel. My thinking was prompted by reading a superb thriller from 1947 called “The Blank Wall”, written by Elizabeth Sanxay Holding. I found out that the book had been turned in to a movie, “The Reckless Moment”, released in 1949 and within a couple of days of finishing the novel, I was able to watch the movie on YouTube.

    My reaction to the movie was that it was good but not nearly as rich as the novel. The big difference was the subtlety and depth the novel brought to the characterisation of the two leading players and the novel’s capacity to give some depth to other characters who are little more than walk-ons in the film . The movie could only hint at such depth and also left out a character and a couple of his scenes which I believe would have added significantly to the suspense and drama of the movie.

    On further reflection, I had to acknowledge that the movie did a good job of reflecting the core plot and themes of the book. But if I was to advise someone who wanted to get the best out of the story, I could only with honesty tell them to read the book.

    My point is that, if you have read a novel and then watch a movie based on it, it is impossible not to make comparisons between the two. I cannot think of a situation in which a movie adaptation has been able to match the depth of the characterisations of a character-driven novel.

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    • Thanks, Steve.
      Yes, I think it would be virtually impossible to apply the kind of mental discipline that refusing to entertain any comparison requires. I’ve often found myself in the position you detail and I imagine that’s true of many people.
      I’ve not read the Sanxay Holding book, although I have a copy and intend to do so, and it’ likely I’ll share the same feelings. That said, I’ve always held The Reckless Moment in high regard and I don’t see that changing. I think my position on such matters, and it isn’t the easiest to articulate, is that a successful piece of artistic expression is successful on its own terms. I thought that movie worked very well and achieved its own aims when I first saw it and was not aware of the novel it was adapted from nor the changes involved in that process.
      There are other films I’ve seen over the years and then came to their literary sources, and noted the differences. I guess what it comes down to is developing an appreciation for both media, acknowledging the discrete strengths of each based on the very different demands and possibilities presented by their form.

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  8. I can appreciate where you come from, Colin and I acknowledge that the visual medium has strengths the written word can’t match. Some movies I’ve seen have made significant improvements on the books they’re based on. For example, there’s a couple of movies where I consider the ending adopted by the film was better than the novel: the Hathaway TRUE GRIT and Redford’s THE HORSE WHISPERER.

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    • I think it works both ways, Steve. Every medium has its own potential and the most anyone can hope for – those working within the different forms and those of us absorbing it from the outside – is that it explores this to the fullest extent. That’s not to say I’m dismissing as invalid any view that says it prefers one presentation over another.
      All of this can only ever be subjective of course and I suppose, for my part, it’s a question of reaching an accommodation which permits a fair appreciation of the different forms.

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  9. Steve, Colin
    When I was far younger it would annoy me no end when the film version of some book I read had people missing, or the plot changed. As I aged, it dawned on me just how difficult it would be to stick to the letter of the book. The cost would kill most efforts and we would end up with 5 hour films. Now I tend to take more from the visual than the written. I still enjoy a good read, but I tend to spend more time with the dvd than the paperback. My 2 cents worth on the subject anyways. (A dollar fifty with inflation)

    Into day three of the first snowstorm of the year with the temp at minus 14 C. Good thing I stocked up on beer the other day.

    Gord

    Liked by 1 person

    • Once you accept that books and movies are trying to achieve different things – or maybe it’s similar things in different ways – it makes life a lot easier.

      Keep warm, fella.

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  10. The challenge of adapting a novel into a film is a subject that could spawn 1,000 dissertations from film students (maybe it already has!). I tend to give the filmmakers a lot of leeway except when they completely alter the narrative, especially the outcome of a novel.** Many films are forced to leave out information from a novel simply for the sake of achieving a manageable running time or to prevent the screenplay from becoming too unwieldly. Who knows for example, that Yuri Zhivago had a second wife with whom he fathered children after he loses contact with Tonya and Laura? And Kazan’s “East of Eden” (1955), which I admire, is but a sliver of the novel.

    I can’t say I was impressed with either the novel or the film version of “The Sun Also Rises”. I should reread the novel because, admittedly, I’m not always in the right frame of mind during a first reading. I subscribe to Nabokov’s dictum “Curiously enough, one cannot read a book; one can only reread it. A good reader, a major reader, an active and creative reader is a rereader.”

    I appreciate your excellent review. You always mount a balanced and strong defense for a film that may not be universally acclaimed. And we need this kind of advocacy in order to give a film its just due.

    ** I must admit, however, that I kind of like Richard Brook’s bodacious “The Brothers Karamazov” (1958) even though it has a totally made up ending.

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    • I reckon I’d be prepared to be even more flexible or forgiving, Frank. Even major narrative changes don’t trouble me too greatly. Hitchcock for one was quite ruthless when it came to hacking around source material to fit his vision, and I’m generally happy to go along with almost anything as long as the filmmakers fulfill whatever goals they have set for themselves.
      That notwithstanding, I do understand and sympathize with those who don’t see it that way, and I acknowledge there is a strong case for just writing an entirely original screenplay if the changes are going to render the source almost unrecognizable.

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      • While film is certainly a different artistic medium from the novel, the artist working in the studio dominated system didn’t always have the final say in the finished product of a film. The businessmen got involved and sometimes insisted on changes that altered the plot (e.g.- a happy ending must replace a sad one.) So the narrative differences between a novel and a film could be heightened by financial concerns. Not always, but sometimes.

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    • Same here, Fran. The Sun Also Rises was for me a bore. In all caps. I then read the novel, it was worse; a bunch of self-important substance abusers mired in self-pity. No one in the world needs them.

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      • Well Barry all I can say is this…….I haven’t read the novel, but I did read a couple of quotes sourced from Wikipedia by Zanuck (Producer) and Viertel (Screenplay) that caught my attention regarding the credibility of the film’s screenplay narrative……
        Zanuck……” Over 60% of the dialogue in the picture is out of Hemingway’s book… We treated it as something Holy…..”
        Viertel…….”The story is ageless. It should renew its impact for our modern generation. It is fascinating in its impressions of Europe after World War I, because so many of these impressions are duplicated again today.”
        Now, from a personal point of view, having lived my life as an expat the past 13+ years in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, I very much relate to the narrative regarding inter-personal relationships with those we wish to associate with and those we try to avoid. Especially hitting home is the relationship between Jake & Brett and the personas they both project between themselves and others in their circle. As it is, Jake Barnes is very much the same type of individual as me……and I too, for the last six years, having an up and down relenting relationship with someone like Brett, that is not only young and beautiful, but can be irresistibly sweat and caring. Thus, tolerating her isms of self abuse becomes a mere work in progress. What I have learned is that love alone doesn’t keep individuals connected…….caring about someones well-being does……and that is exactly how the movie proceeds and ends.

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    • As you can see, westerns, I “liked” your comment. Except for very rare occasions, I cannot like any comment through the “Ride the High Country” website. WordPress is fickle software. However, I am always able to “like” a comment by signing in directly to WordPress itself and going into a RTHC thread from there. See if it works for you. I still comment directly on the RTHC website, however.

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  11. Jeepers!!!!!!!!!! Minus 21 C outside here right now. I is getting a tad toooooooo old for this kind of weather. This does not do the joints any good. What is it like where everyone else is?

    Gord

    Liked by 1 person

      • Today is a beautiful Autumn day in Southern England but (yet) more rain is on its way this coming week.
        Feels reasonably warm too but this is one old-timer who doesn’t feel the cold especially (do suffer in excessive heat though).
        Keep those joints well-wrapped, Gord, and pour yourself a glass of something interesting then put on an exciting noir or western!!!

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    • It’s 52 F here in SE Massachusetts, though it was in the 70s yesterday. I hear you about getting old! Living on a lot with dozens of mature Oak trees, getting rid of the leaves is a full-time job. And cutting up fallen trees is starting to become a habit. Going up on the roof to clean the gutters was never a prudent undertaking (easiest way to clean them, though) and it becomes increasingly dicey as my body becomes ever less nimble.

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  12. Jerry
    Have one more “films for the weekend” to go through. And it is over 100 years old.
    CUSTER’S LAST FIGHT – 1912 starring and directed by Francis Ford (John Ford’s older brother)

    Gord

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  13. I watched “Manhunter” (1986) last night which was directed by Michael Mann who also wrote the screenplay based upon Thomas Harris’ novel “Red Dragon”. I had seen the film “Red Dragon” (2002) during its theatrical release. In “Manhunter” Will Graham is the protagonist who drives the story and Hannibal Lector (spelled “Lecktor” here) is a secondary character. William Petersen gives us a much more intense and darker Graham than Edward Norton does in “Red Dragon”. In “Manhunter”, Graham catches the killer by thinking as he does which causes him serious psychological distress. Tom Noonan is excellent as the otherworldly serial killer, Francis Dollarhyde. Though Dollarhyde is very frightening, Noonan’s layered performance manages to elicit some empathy from the viewer. Graham himself proclaims that while he hates the sadistic killer Dollarhyde has become as an adult, his heart aches for the obviously abused child he once was. In tone and style, “Manhunter” is a different movie from the much more popular “Red Dragon”. If you like crime-solving movies, I think you’ll enjoy “Manhunter”.

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    • I saw that years ago, maybe on release, and thought it quite good at the time. Over the years though I’ve grown weary of movies based around serial killers, and Michael Mann’s filmmaking style – especially the cold visuals – has lost a lot of its attraction for me too.

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  14. This is a second test. In explanation, I had a mishap involving WordPress, almost a month ago now, and have not been able to comment as a result though could read Colin’s pieces as well as the comments. It was partly my doing, kind of innocently, but mostly a glitch with WordPress and I’ve had trouble straightening this out there. But believe I found a way to remedy it so will see if this comment stays as it is supposed to now, along with previous test. And that would write a comment on THE SUN ALSO RISES in the course of the week–something I’d like to do.

    Interestingly, I note others here have had separate WordPress problems so I trust this makes enough sense without my needing to go into more detail.

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  15. Good movie-watching weather here in Australia’s national capital – cold for this time of year and a run of wet days (also unusual). Canberra is a cold place in winter and early Spring by Aussie standards but clearly balmy by Calgary standards!

    Recently watched a good B Western called GUN THE MAN DOWN, directed by Andrew V MacLaglen and starring James Arness and Angie Dickinson. It’s the kind that would appeal to you, Colin – it’s well made and deals with some big themes like redemption and finding a better way to live. It was released in 1956, so Arness was also starring in GUNSMOKE that year.

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    • I remember someone (Jerry?) brought that one up a few months ago, Steve. I’ve not seen that movie for a good few years and had it in mind to watch it again over the summer when I had a copy to hand. Other stuff got in the way though and it will now be some months before I get the chance again.

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      • Good recall, Colin. ‘Twas indeed I that spoke of “GUN THE MAN DOWN” after I had rewatched fairly recently. A very different Arness from his Matt Dillon persona and a very decent ‘vest pocket’ western.

        Like Vienna, I have never read any Hemingway. I have however downed a beer in both Sloppy Joe’s bars he would frequent in Key West and also Havana as well as visiting the hotel room in Havana where he would stay and write. They even have the typewriter he used.

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  16. All
    This weekend my selection of films included the following
    1- CALL OF THE WILD -2020 Harrison Ford Of the 3-4 versions of this film I have seen I still like the Clark Gable L. Young version the best. This one uses cgi for the dogs of all things. Kids would like the family friendly story. Not a total loss but not something I would watch a second time.

    2- BATTLE OF GREED -1937 Tom Keene is a lawyer helping out a group of miners during the 1860s silver boom in Nevada. A big mining outfit is out to jump everyone’s claims. Needless to say Keene will have to strap on a six gun to settle the issue. Not one of Keene’s better films.

    3- I AM WAITING – 1957 Japan – An interesting Japanese film noir with a woman in distress, a reluctant hero, a gang of mobsters all mixed together. Starts slow but really gets nasty once the pace picks up half way through. A pretty good looking b/w production.

    4- CUSTER’S LAST FIGHT – 1912 starring and directed by Francis Ford (John Ford’s older brother)
    A far better film than I was expecting taking the year of production. It follows the events leading up to the Battle of Little Big Horn. The film features some decent period detail and some first rate battle scenes. Younger brother John Ford lifted several of the scenes more or less whole for use in his later Cavalry films. All in all, a worthwhile watch.

    5 – KNIFE IN THE DARK Paul Newman, James Gregory This is an episode of the 1950-1955 series DANGER. The series featured live psychological and murder mystery dramas, The series had actors such as Grace Kelly, Rod Steiger, Joan Bennett, Jack Lemmon etc doing guest bits. In this one Paul Newman is a convict with just 3 months to go on his stay. The problem is that James Gregory, the cell block king, wants him dead. A pretty well put together bit of suspense which was written by Rod Serling and directed by John Frankenheimer. I quite enjoyed it.

    Gord

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    • Could not agree with you more about the Clark Gable-William Wellman version; both bring warmth, the secret ingredient of good storytelling.

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  17. I never knew that F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby” not only influenced Hemingway to write “The Sun Also Rises” but that Fitzgerald had an editorial influence on the book.

    “Fitzgerald told Hemingway to ‘let the book’s action play itself out among its characters.’ Hemingway scholar Linda Wagner-Martin writes that, in taking Fitzgerald’s advice, Hemingway produced a novel without a central narrator: ‘Hemingway’s book was a step ahead; it was the modernist novel.’ When Fitzgerald advised Hemingway to trim at least 2500 words from the opening sequence, which was 30 pages long, Hemingway wired the publishers telling them to cut the opening 30 pages altogether. The result was a novel without a focused starting point, which was seen as a modern perspective and critically well-received.” (from Wikipedia). This story reminds me of when Ezra Pound took a scalpel (or was it a meat cleaver?) to Eliot’s “The Wasteland”. In any event, Hemingway’s grandson confirms the story in his introduction of a recent edition of “The Sun Also Rises.” However, true to form, Hemingway would later deny Fitzgerald’s involvement.

    I may not have been enthralled with Zanuck’s & King’s film about the Lost Generation, but it sure beats (no pun intended) the half-dozen or so movies about the Beat Generation.

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    • Thanks for adding that. Despite my admiration for the book, and the movie, I have to admit I’ve never read up much on the background to Hemingway writing it. I remember coming to the author’s writing knowing he was an “important” figure but that was all. I’m kind of glad I did too as I came with no real preconceptions.

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      • Same with me Colin. I didn’t know where the inspiration of the narrative originated, only that it was adapted from a Hemingway novel. As I watched the movie, I was taken back how true to life the proceedings were unfolding. Most apparent was the suggestive nuances of dialogue in itself that reflected Jake’s present day circumstances and how he rolled with it. Those nuances of dialogue, taking us from event to event, thus reflecting actual characterizations as portrayed. My first thought, who were the human sources involved in the writing of this narrative? I knew it could not be some made up fictional account……someone had to have lived it. Jake Barnes (T. Power) was the central figure. So who is Jake? Jake is a reflection of Hemingway’s experiences and societal interactions during WW1, Paris and Spain. Needless to say……I liked it, because I could relate to all of the individual behavioral interactions that were displayed before us. However, I can also understand why others would have differing opinions or not even relate to the narrative.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Yes, I think too that Hemingway, all through his works, concerned himself with themes that have a universal resonance; even when specific situations appear unfamiliar the way in which his characters experience them strikes a chord. It’s this, and of course that smooth and apparently effortless prose, that marks him as a great author.

          Like

        • If I may revert back to Viertel quoting…….”The story is ageless. It should renew its impact for our modern generation. It is fascinating in its impressions of Europe after World War I, because so many of these impressions are duplicated again today.”

          Was Viertel referring to the aftermath of WW2? Were there transplanted westerners forming an community of expats? As an American, I only witnessed Europeans migrating to the US, henceforth settling into society and Americans returning home to resume their lives. However, I can imagine Europeans re-inventing themselves outside of their homelands into other areas of Europe.

          Viertel was correct when he proclaimed “The story is ageless…..”. Today’s expat community, in particular SE Asia, consist of the same kind of paralleling adventurous events and nomadic characters you would envision in 1922 Europe. The only difference is the expat community is a generation of predominantly older men living out their dreams and able-ling themselves to maintain a sense of relevancy and purpose. The lifestyle hasn’t changed much these past 100-years and yes, there are some good people, mixed in with an increasingly number of the not so good, that include elements vice, prostitution, drunkenness, scammers, homelessness to name a few. Everyone comes here with a past. Many undesirables re-invent themselves and proclaim to be former doctors, lawyers, stock market experts and even nuclear scientists. I’ve heard more BS stories than there are occupations. Lot’s of clicks here. Those that can sustain themselves they do fine, but those that struggle with little to no backup security usually come here knowing it’s their last stop, eventually finding themselves on the street seeking help from other expats they’ve befriended. Consequently, choosing those you wish to associate is of paramount importance. All that being said, I wouldn’t have it any other way…….it’s about feeling relevant with purpose in my life. The alternative is living in America, that would have me growing older with an ever increasing lonely existence waiting for the inevitable end.

          Feels good to vent……thank you RTHC.

          Like

            • Yes Colin, I do believe you are correct. However, am I to believe the community didn’t exist prior to WW1? I’m of the belief that communities like these have existed for generations of people that are natural born wanderers, free thinkers, truth seekers, non-establishment types or just those looking to escape their own bitter realities in pursuit of an ideal they have yet to find.

              Like

              • Yes, I’m not disputing any of that, just theorizing that those comments by Viertel might have had a broader application, which doesn’t necessarily have to exclude the point you are making.

                Like

  18. All
    This morning I recorded three dusters off TCM that I have never see before. First was 1957s BLACK PATCH, which Colin did here not long ago. Second is THE HIRED GUN also from 57 with Rory Calhoun and Anne Francis. Third was DEVIL’S CANYON 1953 with Dale Robertson, Stephen McNally and Virginia Mayo. Any comments on the last two films?
    Gord

    Like

    • Gord…..just wondering. Have you taken in the B western gem THE QUIET GUN (1957)? It is the best performance in a western leading role by Forrest Tucker I’ve ever seen.

      And COLIN……if you were ever wanting to acknowledge Tucker in your list of stars, this is the film that would put him there. I won’t add ‘spoilers’ but I will say that if one enjoys TV’s Gunsmoke this will not disappoint.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Totally agree, Scott. “THE QUIET GUN” is a really strong western and Forrest Tucker plays his role just perfectly. PLUS…….there is a very nice ‘scope print available (at least I presume it still is).

        Liked by 1 person

        • Quote Jerry……..”Forrest Tucker plays his role just perfectly.”
          Nothing stereotypical about Tucker here……a little bit of Coop (High Noon) and a little bit of Arness (Gunsmoke) all blended together with the man himself.

          Like

          • Must give a big nod to Jim Davis also. He was masterful in delivering his lines. The interaction between Davis and Tucker were especially riveting during the visit at Davis’s ranch. Great bit of writing there.

            Like

            • Agree re Jim Davis’s contribution, Scott – was a well written part for him and he did the script and Director proud. I also loved the scenes between the Tucker and Hank Worden characters – the kindness and gentleness on Tucker’s face when talking to the slow-witted Samson were something to see. The two key women’s roles were well handled by the actresses in question, Mara Corday and Kathleen Crowley, and Lee Van Cleef was suitably threatening in his role. So much to like about this modest film.

              Like

  19. In answer, Gord, I would submit that you should enjoy all three westerns. “DEVIL’S CANYON” is colourful and enjoyable with a good cast despite its rather bizarre premise.
    “THE HIRED GUN” is a fine little western starring Rory Calhoun and filmed at Lone Pine. Be sure to pass on your own reactions after you watch.

    Like

  20. Here are my films for the weekend…
    1- MOTHERLESS BROOKLYN – 2019 Edward Norton, Alec Baldwin 1st time watch
    2- THE FLYING MISSILE -1950 Glenn Ford, V. Lindfors 1st time watch
    3- THEY CAME TO BLOW UP AMERICA -1943 George Sanders Repeat watch
    4- GUNS OF FORT PETTICOAT -1957 Audie Murphy Repeat watch
    5- IT ALWAYS RAINS OF SUNDAYS -, 1947 1st time watch
    6- COCHISE, GREATEST OF THE APACHES: 1956 Episode of “Best of the Post” Clint Eastwood’s first role in a western.1st time watch

    Liked by 2 people

    • Some interesting titles in there. I quite like the Audie Murphy picture, although I believe it’s not that well regarded.
      It Always Rains on Sunday is simply superb, with Googie Withers at her best.

      Liked by 1 person

  21. I concur that “It Always Rains on Sunday” is a superior film with Googie Withers delivering an outstanding performance as the not-so-conflicted Rose Sandigate. I absolutely loved Ms. Withers in “Night and the City” (1950).

    I saw “The Guns of Fort Petticoat” at the theatre in 1957. It features Hope Emerson who was also in the similarly themed “Westward the Women” (1951) with Robert Taylor. I don’t think that anyone who has seen “Caged” (1950) will ever forget Hope as the scary prison matron.

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  22. Colin, Frank
    Never heard or read a bad word about IT ALWAYS RAINS ON SUNDAY. Had a copy for years and just never got around to it. As for THE GUNS OF FORT PETTICOAT, I was a teenager the only time I saw it, so I figure a re-watch is in order.

    Gord

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    • Scott, Jerry – thanks for recommending THE QUIET GUN. I have just watched it on YouTube. It is indeed a fine movie. It’s an engrossing drama, putting across a strong message with style and economy. Forrest Tucker shines in his role. One of the reasons I love RTHC is discovering these gems.

      Like

  23. Steve
    You nailed it about the folks here at RTHC. I have added a good couple of dozen titles to my “must see” list. THE QUIET GUN I hope to get to next week.

    LOL Minus 25 C last weekend and now it is in the plus teens temp wise, Hopefully it holds off on more snow and ice till the new year. (Fat Chance)
    Have a good weekend all.
    Gord

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  24. Job done then, Steve! Really glad you enjoyed “THE QUIET GUN”.

    Pleased to add my own endorsement of “IT ALWAYS RAINS ON SUNDAY”, Gord. Top-notch work from Ealing Studios in their ‘golden era’. Google Withers was terrific. Also for Ealing, she was again superb in “PINK STRING AND SEALING WAX” (1945).

    Like

    • Pink String and Sealing Wax isn’t anywhere near as well known as it ought to be and it’s a very fine movie. As well as an in-form Withers there’s characteristically strong work from director Robert Hamer too.
      I wrote on it here years ago.

      Like

  25. Jerry
    I also liked, PORT OF ESCAPE 1956 with husband and wife team Withers and John McCallum. Who of course are in IT ALWAYS RAINS ON SUNDAY together.
    Gordon

    Like

  26. Circling back to “The Sun Also Rises”, I just watched the film a second time. My feelings about the film remain the same but I will say this on its behalf — as far as adaptations go, the plot and message of the film line up with the novel. This is to be commended. The only difference is the age of the actors. It is not uncommon for an actor to play someone much younger than himself. It’s just that Tyrone Power at 43 looks 53 and Errol Flynn at 48 could pass for 65. Neither took care of themselves and the smoking and the alcohol would cause them to die at ages 44 and 50 respectively. I did like Flynn’s performance though.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Flynn is excellent. It’s a wonderfully judged turn, with a lot of himself in it. It’s tempting to think Flynn felt genuine affinity in those scenes where the character of Campbell is frankly confronting the personal weaknesses he’s only too well aware of – there is that sense of authenticity about it. It also serves as a strong refutation of those claims one sometimes hears about Flynn’s limited abilities.

      Like

      • Bette Davis didn’t think much of Flynn’s acting abilities. They didn’t get along at all during the filming of “The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex”. Davis wanted Olivier to play Essex instead of Flynn. But Olivia de Haviland reported that many decades later, while she and Davis were screening “The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex” Davis exclaimed, “Damn it, the man *could* act.”

        Liked by 1 person

        • Yes, I seem to remember reading in Flynn’s memoirs that the movie was a prickly experience. But yes, there’s no question in my mind anyway that he was a very capable actor.

          Like

  27. Just wanted to chime in on “The Sun Also Rises” though maybe not as much as I would like to write about it.

    I do like both the novel and the movie very much, the novel more–to me it’s Hemingway’s masterpiece, and have read it several times. But the big difference to me is that it’s beautifully sustained throughout. When the film gets to Pamplona it gets a little slack through one stretch of it, though still with plenty of strong scenes, especially those with Errol Flynn, who I guess most of us agree is magisterial in this soul-deep performance.

    Overall though, the movie has its own beautiful qualities, owing especially to director Henry King, who I’ve always felt is great. He understood this story and is appreciative of it, but also gives it his own inflection. So, for example, the final line of dialogue in the book is in the movie (Jake’s “Isn’t it pretty to think so?”) but the movie follows with that scene in the back of the car, very moving and understated with an even better final exchange of lines between Jake and Brett and if those words and the soulful poise that underlies them really does not make you care about these characters, honestly, it is hard for me to understand. But I’ll add a thought about this at the end. For here will observe that the reference to God is surely King’s own contribution. There is a religious current running through very different films for King and it is one of the main through lines of his work.

    Here’s a point I would hope to make about literary adaptations. People get fixed on the story and characters–I care a lot about those things, too, and that’s partly from experience with my own attempts at writing. But these things are not all of a work of art, and cinema and literature are different. Literature especially depends on the use of language, while cinema depends on the use of image and sound (which takes in all mise-en-scene, including the playing of the actors as well as the settings, pace, camera movement, music). So they are not going to be the same, no matter how faithful. And that’s why fidelity is not so important. We are looking at a different work that needs to be experienced in a different way.

    But even just in terms of the story and characters, works should be looked at on their own. I’m not saying I’ve never had any struggles with this, as for example Robert Altman’s “The Long Goodbye” from a novel by Raymond Chandler. Again, it’s fine for him to pretty much replace it with something else, except that on its own it’s such a glib, facetious and hollow work, and I feel I would have hated it anyway. But I’ll admit I hated it more because the novel, especially the relationship between Philip Marlowe and Terry Lennox is so moving, indeed haunting, and Altman cared absolutely nothing about it.

    In the case of this book and film, Hemingway’s use of language in how this novel was created is its greatest strength, even though I love the story too. It reads much like his short stories, which are usually better than his novels in my experience, with so much left to play quietly below the surface and not just laid out in a direct way. King’s cinematic style is his slow deliberation, mostly working well here as it generally does. He lets us get in this rhythm and it’s not only appealing to me but has become kind of a lost art in movies.
    But the whole thing is a kind of endless discussion, so that’s a little of how I feel. Interestingly, Henry King adapted both Hemingway and Fitzgerald. In the case of “The Snows of Kilimanjaro”–the one Hemingway short story I don’t like–I believe the movie transformed it into a work that is really great. We might come back to that some time. On the other hand, King’s last film of Fitzgerald’s “Tender is the Night” seemed very beautiful to me when I saw it several times in early years, and it certainly understood the book. But I hadn’t read the novel then, and when I did it immediately became my favorite of all American novels, one of the greatest of all novels and have read it several times too. I will still say the movie is good and always will but I don’t have the heart to see it again now. So these things affect us, but we should be as fair as we can with movies and take them on their own terms.

    I will add re this film I have no problem with the ages of the actors. They are believable characters and if not the age of those in the book seem to be in an age range with each other. Really I never thought much about this until I read it, because they are convincing characters–and all well-cast. Ava Gardner is one of the best actresses in movies ever–I guess if someone is beautiful they just don’t get credit for that. Tyrone Power kept getting better as he got older. If Flynn underrated himself, it doesn’t mean that we should.

    And I want to add, though I am aware two of these actors died within a few years I don’t think of it watching the film. I’m also a little uncomfortable when actors or other artists get reproached for the ways they lived their lives. Their sex lives or alcoholism or anything else that might be considered a flaw is something in their lives and is really their concern, not ours. Has everyone here led such an exemplary and purposeful life, done everything perfectly, never been personally self-destructive, that they can blithely pass judgement the way some of these comments have done?

    That goes even more, perhaps, for these characters. They have weaknesses and may be adrift, unhappy, not finding the best way for themselves. But that can be so good for us in helping us to a deeper understanding of life. And after all, the narrative in cinema (or literature) is an imagined space and one should want anything possible in life to be there. I partly feel strongly about this because in writing about the film–and the book too–Colin is not at all judgmental about these characters, nor is he ever. He always seems to begin from a humanistic perspective, accepting struggle as part of anyone’s life. That is one of the things that makes this blog so sympathetic to me.

    I will add that I too read all of Hemingway’s published works (to that date, but the others were posthumous) when I was a teenager. A great experience, did a lot for my consciousness at a difficult time and heightened my appreciation for how beautiful the written word can be.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m not reproaching Powell, Flynn or any other actor for their lifestyles and am certainly not making any moral judgements about their behavior. I’m simply stating the facts of why they both prematurely aged. Their early deaths were tragic. Frankly, you’re the one who is being judgemental, who is moralizing and being self-righteous.

      Like

    • A characteristically wide ranging and fascinating comment, Blake.

      One of the various things I like about keeping this place running is the way it allows me to lay out a few thoughts I may have on a given movie and then to see how that work has played with others, to see their critical senses added into the mix. The kinds of movie I like to feature aren’t talked up or talked about as much as I’d like and it’s most rewarding when I see the type of discussions that spin out of many posts.

      Like

  28. I did not mean it that way, and in any event it was not directed toward your comments, but toward others here. If you read them all, starting with the first one, you might understand what I was trying to say here, Frank. There was a lot of judgement about both those in the Lost Generation, even those who were so creative, as well as the characters they created. I only wanted to argue for experiencing the stories we encounter in art without moral judgements that the works do not ask for us to make. It is a free space in art. No one is being hurt there–they are not hurting themselves or others. It’s just understanding that they invite–and possibly even empathy on a deeper level. And that goes for characters to whom I myself have a negative reaction.

    Liked by 1 person

  29. Sean Connery R.I.P.

    Bond is gone. Sean Connery has passed at the age of 90.He is of course best known for playing James Bond in 7 films between 1962 and 1983. He won an Oscar for his work on THE UNTOUCHABLES in 1987.

    R.I.P.

    Gord

    Like

    • Yes, he will be best known for Bond and it’s no surprise many reports have led with that. Nevertheless, he was one of the top stars from the 1960s on and played in a variety of movies, highlighting just how versatile he was.
      RIP

      Like

  30. More thoughts about “The Sun Also Rises”…….

    Amazing to me is how the narrative and the underlying theme of the film can be perceived so differently. I myself, primarily view the narrative as a bitter sweet love story gone afoul by the two primary characters, Jake and Brett. Through Jake’s flashback we are given the backdrop of their initial emotional bonding in the hospital sequences which precludes with both taking separate paths. Afterwards Brett re-invents herself as the phony socialite Lady Brett Ashley working the same digs frequented by Jake and others of ‘The Lost Generation’. The theme picks up steam from this point forward with the emotional connection between the two that will traverse itself throughout the proceeding events. In so doing, we witness Jake’s ongoing frustration and verbal disenchantment with Brett along with his unsettled willingness to persevere the connection. So why does Jake persist? I think without the final scene in the backseat of the car we would always be questioning just that. Therefore, I believe the final scene was a good addition to the film that brought the viewer around to understand the moral compass of Jake and his discernment in the belief that Brett may eventually see the light and error of her ways.

    Now, with all this going on with Jake and Brett, secondary to the theme was the interactions with the characters of ‘The Lost Generation’. In particular while in Spain, mainly brought about by the presence of Brett, left the gentlemanly Jake the task of trying to navigate and maintain the civility of all the hedonistic shenanigans being perpetuated by those he was saddled with.

    As for the other characters,,,,,,,,it was obvious to me, even though participating in the midst of the expat nightlife lifestyle, Jake was never outwardly rude or judgmental to others. Although, he did his polite-fully best to avoid being around hedonistic behavior by others as to not set off his own tempered underlying short fuse.

    Anyone else see it like this?

    Like

  31. Here are my films for the weekend…
    1- MOTHERLESS BROOKLYN – 2019 Edward Norton, Alec Baldwin 1st time watch – Plays out as a noir with nice period detail and and interesting story. Murder, blackmail etc all mixed together with some decent acting. Better than I was expecting though I would have chopped the running time by 10-15 minutes.

    2- THE FLYING MISSILE -1950 Glenn Ford, V. Lindfors 1st time watch – This is the story of the US Navy and their early efforts to mount missiles on submarines. Ford is an officer out to prove it can be done. The drop dead looker Lindfors plays the love interest. As a military history buff, I enjoyed seeing all the equipment used in the film. Not bad at all.

    3- THEY CAME TO BLOW UP AMERICA -1943 George Sanders Repeat watch – Sanders plays a FBI . agent who infiltrates the German Secret Service in Germany. There he joins the group being trained to be sent to the States to engage in sabotage. Sound a bit far farfetched but what the hell, It works as a wartime flag waver.

    5- IT ALWAYS RAINS OF SUNDAYS -, 1947 1st time watch – Wow!!!! A real barnburner of a UK film. It is a noir, a crime film, domestic drama and thriller all mixed together. I loved it. Hands down one of Miss Withers best roles. I agree wholeheartedly with all here who said it was a keeper.

    6- COCHISE, GREATEST OF THE APACHES: 1956 Episode of “TV Readers Digest” Clint Eastwood’s first role in a western.1st time watch. – This one is another take on the Jimmy Stewart film BROKEN ARROW. Rhodes Reason plays the Stewart role here with Richard Gaines playing the title role of Cochise. Clint Eastwood has a small bit as a Army officer who wants to attack and kill Cochise. The film was helmed by Harry Horner who was the father of film composer, James (Braveheart) Horner.

    Like

    • Hi, Gord – am pleased you liked MOTHERLESS BROOKLYN, noting that you thought it a bit long. I thought the movie captured a 50s feel beautifully and the performances were all very good (credit to director Norton). Norton’s character, brilliantly scripted and acted by Norton, is a memorable one.

      Like

      • Steve
        I liked the film but thought they ran the end out longer than needed. Having said that, I agree with you about giving Norton full marks for only his second directing bit.

        Gord

        Like

  32. Opps
    I forgot to mention #4 film of the weekend – THE GUNS OF FORT PETTICOAT 1957. Audie Murphy headlines in this twist on the cowboys and Indians story. Murphy is a US Cavalry officer who gathers a group of women to fight off a raiding party out for scalps. At 82 minutes it moves right along under the reliable hand of veteran helmsman George Marshall.

    Like

  33. A question for you bunch from the UK. I ran across something I had never heard of before. A tv episode under the title “Inspector Morley, late of Scotland Yard Investigates” It stars Patrick Barr and is from 1952. The episode is called THE RED FLAME and was written by John Gilling. Nothing on Gilling’s IMDB page with that title. Tod Slaughter of all people is the guest actor. Any of you mob know anything about this?

    Gord

    Like

    • A new one on me too, Gord! I remember that Patrick Barr was quite popular on UK TV around that time but that series name means nothing to me. You have me intrigued now though and I will try to find more. John K may though may have the answer.

      Like

  34. Jerry
    Go to you tube and enter, Timeless Television
    That should get you there.
    You can find a bunch of tv episodes plus two of the Patrick Barr episodes I spoke of. Did you check out that Sub series I mentioned the other day?
    Gord

    Like

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