Youngblood Hawke


Youngblood Hawke (1964) was the penultimate film directed by Delmer Daves, one of those melodramas he turned his attention to from 1960 onward. The critical response to these films has been mixed at best, although one could say that this characterizes the response to the director’s body of work as a whole. So far, I have only seen a smattering of these late career movies myself, but I fully intend to catch up with them all sooner or later. Youngblood Hawke is a classic rise and fall drama with a pleasing thread of self-discovery and renewal forming  the backbone of the narrative.

Arthur Youngblood Hawke (James Franciscus) is an aspiring writer, driving coal trucks in Kentucky by day and spending his nights working on his novel. His break comes just before Christmas, a phone call from a New York publishing house confirming its desire to publish his book and inviting him to the city to sign contracts and so on. So it’s with a mix of awe and joy that Hawke arrives in the metropolis, dazzled by the scale of the place, the skyscrapers and monuments, and scarcely able to absorb the fact that someone is prepared to pay him good money to do what he loves, to write. Before the day is over he will have made the acquaintance of two beautiful women, both of whom will alter the course of his life. He is taken in hand by his editor Jeanne Green (Suzanne Pleshette) who finds him a small attic room to rent in the same building she occupies in Brooklyn. That same evening, Christmas Eve, at a literary party he’s been asked to attend he meets Frieda Winter (Genevieve Page), wealthy, sophisticated, provocative, and married. In these early stages, every step Hawke takes is an ascending one, his career path rises promisingly before him, the critics and socialites flatter and flirt respectively, and he, as any young man thrust suddenly into such a position would, basks and revels in the attention and allure of it all.

So Youngblood Hawke is a success; he’s been declared just that by the men and women who create reputations, but those same people can crush them just as easily and just as quickly. The thing is, for all his apparent charm and his ability to write award winning prose, Hawke is at heart a novice in the art of living. He craves success and thinks that the appetizer he has been served up will lead naturally to a grander and richer main course. For it’s riches in the real, monetary sense that draw Hawke, not for their own sake – he’s not so mercenary as that – but for their ability to set him free from financial worry, free to pursue his art in earnest. This leaves him walking something of an ethical tightrope, performing a precarious balancing act between artistic integrity on the one hand and the lure of the fast buck on the other. That someone so inexperienced should falter and lose his way is only to be expected, and that lack of artistic or professional surety extends to his personal affairs as well. This of course provides the real meat of the story, the tug-of-war for his heart with the excitement and illicit unpredictability of Frieda on one side and the reliability and patient devotion of Jeanne on the other.

Youngblood Hawke was Delmer Daves’ first movie shot in black and white since Kings Go Forth, and while I understand budgetary considerations played a part in that decision I also think it works well in this story, and the cinematography of Charles Lawton (a frequent collaborator with Daves) is luminous in places. In truth, I think the story lends itself to monochrome with some of the more powerful scenes, particularly those in Hawke’s apartment, benefiting from the starkness. Daves had a lot of creative control on the movie, not only directing but also producing and adapting Herman Wouk’s novel. As such, I think it’s fair to say it’s very much his film and his trademark theme of placing complex people in difficult positions where there are no easy choices is fully explored. The script ties it all up in a much more positive way than I understand to be the case with the source novel. Again, this positive thrust is characteristic of the director’s work, there’s always that path towards redemption, or renewal and rebirth as far as Youngblood Hawke is concerned, in his films. His characters are put to the test by life’s challenges, forced to confront harsh and perhaps unpleasant realities, both with regard to themselves and those most precious to them. Yet there is a reward to be attained, a victory which is frequently richer and more satisfying by virtue of being so hard won.

The movie begins and ends at Christmas and it’s surely significant that the main character experiences the dawn of new phases of his life at both points. Is the whole film to be viewed as a parable of sorts, or perhaps as an allegory? Daves’ films do have a strong sense of the spiritual to them after all, so perhaps that’s not such a stretch. Hawke sets out on his journey from humble beginnings and winds up being lauded and celebrated, drawn across the river to Manhattan to be tempted by its glitter and glamor. Yet it proves to be something of a creative desert for him, sapping his creativity and his spirit, and so he retreats back to Brooklyn, back from the brink and back to life itself, to be reborn as another Christmas comes around.

I’ve heard it said that the casting of James Franciscus is one of the weaknesses of the film, but I’m not sure about that. For the most part he acquits himself well, catching that wide-eyed wonder of Hawke in the early stages and that ever present ambition that blinds him to the pitfalls ahead of him. If there is a touch of awkwardness in some aspects of his performance, it feels appropriate for a character who at times shows an astonishing lack of perception. Genevieve Page’s worldly Frieda points out the paradoxical contrast between his artistic voice with all its depth of appreciation of the human soul and the tone deaf naivety of his interactions in his private life.

It is the women in Hawke’s life who understand him better than he does himself, laying the foundation for two very strong roles for the characters of Frieda and Jeanne and the two actresses playing those parts produce correspondingly fine performances – of course Daves typically presents women in a highly positive light. Both women are drawn to the writer right from their first meetings but then find themselves repelled by the selfishness, pettiness, and latent prudery he fails to control on various occasions, although never quite enough to make a clean break with him. Daves had already worked with Suzanne Pleshette on Rome Adventure a few years earlier and her role as Jeanne allowed her to explore a down to earth sexiness that feels very authentic. As the more passionate and the more conflicted Frieda, French actress Genevieve Page has the showier part and has more to work with. She gets to play two fine scenes with Franciscus, one in her own home and one in his studio apartment, both of which run the gamut from passionate desire to a cauterizing self-disgust. There is some real rawness on display, in a very human performance, and it is to Daves’s great credit that he never invites the viewer to make cheap or facile judgements about this character and affords her a marvelously classy exit. She is written as a person with flaws and failings as well as strengths and virtues, Page plays her in that way, Daves directs her so, and the movie as a whole benefits from that frankness.

Aside from the leads, the supporting cast is deep and constitutes a major draw in itself. Among the highlights are the seemingly ubiquitous John Dehner as Hawke’s chiseling uncle offering a masterclass in misplaced overconfidence, Mildred Dunnock as his prim mother, juggling defiance and reproval, Edward Andrews as the critic who mixes smarm with acid, and Kent Smith’s cool, calculating cuckold. All those alongside Mary Astor and John Emery, Lee Bowman and Eva Gabor, Berry Kroeger, Werner Klemperer, Don Porter, and so on.

Youngblood Hawke is available on DVD via the Warner Archive and it offers a fine, crisp and clean widescreen transfer of the movie. There are no supplements whatsoever, which I feel is a pity as the film does merit some attention. Frankly, I found much to enjoy and appreciate in this film – the appealing cast, Charles Lawton’s cinematography, Max Steiner’s buoyantly memorable score, and of course Delmer Daves’ hearteningly positive view of people.

57 thoughts on “Youngblood Hawke

  1. A very well-written and incisive review (no surprise) of a film I have not seen by a director I like. Although Delmer Daves made quite a variety of films in the 1950s it is arguably his westerns that define his work in that decade and those westerns are particularly strong and influential.
    As 1959 dawned and the writing was perhaps on the wall with regard to the falling off gradually of western film-making it was as though Daves recognised this early and moved into making films very different from his 1950s work as the 1960s opened.
    Starting with “A SUMMER PLACE” he moved into romantic dramas, four of them starring Troy Donahue. Personally I feel none of these films should in any way be written off as they must have been quite personal works for Daves. For example he directed, produced and wrote “PARRISH” (1961). These films were made (mostly at least) for Warner Bros and Max Steiner’s music featured heavily. These films did not contain perhaps the ‘grit’ of a “3.10 TO YUMA” but there is much in them to enjoy.
    Thus, I am most interested by your review of “YOUNGBLOOD HAWKE”, Colin, and will have to seek out a copy. The Warner Archive release sounds just the job.

    Like

    • As I understand it, one of the principal reasons for Daves’ move away from the westerns, which he excelled at making through the 1950s, was the stat of his health. He fell ill during the making of The Hanging Tree and the strains of location shooting were taking a toll on him.
      The melodramas he went on to make in the early 60s tend to be dismissed for the most part, but what I have seen of them suggests that’s somewhat unjust. Granted I’m a bit of a novice when it comes to that little group of pictures but I do intend to dig deeper, both on the strength of what I’ve seen so far and my own ever growing appreciation for Daves as a filmmaker. I only came to this movie quite recently. Reading and reviewing the recent book on his career this summer motivated me to do so and I ended up watching it twice in the last few months, and very much enjoying the characteristic touches and sensibility of the director which I detected all over it.

      Like

      • The melodramas he went on to make in the early 60s tend to be dismissed for the most part

        I guess it’s another example of that critical prejudice against melodramas that we’ve talked about here so often.

        You’ve just about sold me on Youngblood Hawke. I’ve also never had a problem with James Franciscus as an actor.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Indeed, we have gone over similar ground before, but melodrama does seem to draw harsher criticism than some other genres.
          I’m quite pleased to have stirred your interest in this movie and I hope that if or when you get to it that you come away from it with a good impression. That said, while I like it and reacted very well to it, I also want to make it clear that I’m not trying to convince anyone it is a perfect movie and I wouldn’t want people to approach it as such.

          I’ve seen Franciscus in this film, The Valley of Gwangi, which was a bit of a favorite with me when I was a youngster, Beneath the Planet of the Apes, which I think is a pretty enjoyable sequel even though it’s not up to the standard of the first Apes movie, and I liked Argento’s The Cat o’ Nine Tails well enough. I think I’ve also seen Marooned long ago, but I can remember nothing at all about it.

          Liked by 1 person

  2. When I first came across the film titled YOUNGBLOOD HAWKE I was expecting a film of the Western genre, especially when produced, directed and written for the screen by Delmer Daves. I thought it would be centered around the life of a Native American named Youngblood Hawke. Much to my surprise the film was anything but that. What I didn’t know it was brought to the screen from a sourced novel, which resulted in a finely put together adult themed drama. A reminder to me, a film’s title can fool ya as did the previously reviewed film THE ANGRY HILLS. With a title like that, I thought for sure a Western with the likes of Robert Mitchum.

    Like

    • Yes, I do see how the title can appear more than a little deceptive, Scott. It is, in my opinion, a good one – one of the characters in the movie comments that surely no author with a name like Youngblood Hawke could write a boring book. I reckon a movie with that title ought not to be boring either, and I certainly didn’t find it any chore to watch.

      Like

  3. As much as I adore Daves’ Westerns I tend to avoid his
    melodramas and have only seen A SUMMER PLACE and
    SPENCER’S MOUNTAIN the latter which I quite enjoyed at the time.
    I recall a somewhat negative review at the time when Pleshette , I think
    utters the line “do I call you Youngie or Bloodie”
    Pleshette also uttered the immortal line “Burning while Rome fiddles”
    in Walsh’s A DISTANT TRUMPET.
    Never been much of a Franciscus fan the great character actor Paul Koslo
    said that in his career he worked with hundreds of actors including
    Wayne,Heston and Eastwood and only two assholes Bronson and Franciscus-
    don’t know what his problem with the latter was but Bronson did give
    Koslo (and Richard Fleischer) a hard time on the set of MR MAJESTYK.

    Liked by 1 person

    • There are indeed a few clunky lines but, on the whole, for me, the positives in the movie far outstripped the negatives. Of course I can’t say that will be the case for everyone.
      As for Franciscuse, I haven’t had any problems with his work in anything I’ve seen him in. I know nothing whatsoever of his relationships with other actors, although it’s worth remembering that certain personalities just clash on occasion.

      Like

  4. Backtracking and totally off topic………….

    Colin,we recently discussed those Vertice,Spain DVD’s
    of old RKO flicks which recently have only crossed my radar.
    These titles,mainly from 2014 are now OOP but can be picked up at
    competitive prices on ebay.
    As you mentioned that you might “take a punt” on some of them
    I thought I would guide you towards some of the better ones
    and indeed anyone else if interested.
    The following three titles have removable Spanish subtitles
    with one click on the discs menu.
    All titles come with firm slipcases and have de luxe 24 pp booklets
    (in Spanish) with neat full colour reproductions of press ads and
    lobby cards.

    SUED FOR LIBEL (1939) Leslie Goodwins
    Kent Taylor
    As the last Kent Taylor fan still standing apart I guess maybe
    Jerry and Barry Lane I am biased regarding this release.
    Taylor’s character is an part time magician so there’s lots of Tom
    Foolery-cartoon like sight gags. There’s also a murderer on the loose
    who sees off victims with a scalpel. Nice 1930’s Radio background
    and a thrill a minute climax. Print quality pretty good.

    THE TRUTH ABOUT MURDER (1946) Lew Landers
    Bonita Granville,Morgan Conway.
    Print quality wise the best of the bunch. A pretty good murder mystery
    ‘though sadly B Movie smoothies Edward Norris and Gerald Mohr are
    underused. Film cops out at he end regarding gender politics as the film
    decides a woman’s place is not in the legal profession; but in the kitchen
    baking biscuits………mine’s a Maryland Cookie!

    THE BRIGHTON STRANGLER (1945) Max Nosseck
    John Loder, June Duprez.
    This vintage RKO title has far better production values than the
    other two but fall short of the Val Lewton titles and indeed the John
    Braham Fox Flicks of the same era-however fans of the Braham titles
    will find much to enjoy here.
    There are ISSUES regarding the transfer;the tense climax has some horrid
    imperfections that I think are due to a VHS upgrade as were I believe
    the other titles. Also the English soundtrack leaves much to be desired
    and for that reason,I guess the film has been denied a Warner Archive
    release.

    The first two titles are far too obscure to appear as Warner Archive
    Blu Ray’s and the latter title may hopefully be restored by Warners at
    some point-too bad Warner Archive are now only releasing Blu Ray’s

    Like

  5. Still off topic I’m afraid I notice that Vertice have several
    vintage George Raft RKO titles among their output.
    The Raft title I’m after is NOCTURNE mainly because it co stars
    Virginia Huston an actress I really admire who sadly only made
    a scant few movies.
    Like Colin I’m pretty ambivalent towards Raft apart from vintage
    fare like EACH DAWN I DIE where he shines.
    I must also at some point pick up a copy of JOHNNY ALLEGRO
    one of his better late 40’s films.
    THE RED LIGHT is a much underrated Noir with a heavy dose of
    Religion which shouldn’t work in Noir but somehow it does-for me
    at least. Interestingly and credited on screen is second unit director
    D Ross Lederman assisted by none other than Robert Aldrich.
    Lederman is fast becoming one of my favourite B directors-
    pretty much top of my most wanted B Flicks is BUSSES ROAR
    an early “Bomb On A Bus” movie.
    I think Jerry will put us right here did not Lederman direct some cracking
    early Buck Jones pictures ?
    Right now the Warner Archive copy of NOCTURNE is darned expensive
    and is almost certain to be superior to the Vertice version.
    Speaking of cracking B Movies Jerry and Colin mentioned Robert Florey’s
    sublime FACE BEHIND THE MASK and yes Australia’s Imprint did release
    a very nice Blu Ray version-as a B Movie junkie a must have for me-
    I sure wish more of these early Columbia B Pictures would make their way
    to DVD or Blu Ray.

    Like

    • You’ve raised some interesting points, John, as you always do. Yes, D. Ross Lederman directed some early Buck Jones talkies for Columbia and even more of Tim McCoy’s westerns for the same studio. He was always a director of ‘B’ movies but his long career suggests that he got a lot of good film for small budgets.
      He spent the 1950s directing episodes for popular TV series, including “THE RANGE RIDER” and “BUFFALO BILL JR”. That interests me too as that was the decade I found my love of movies and grew up with all those TV western series.

      I had not realised about Delmer Daves’ health issues and consequent discomfort on location shooting until Colin raised the point. After that Daves’ locations were rather more comfortable though no less picturesque. And because of his standing he attracted some fine actors into his dramas, such as Claudette Colbert, Karl Malden, Dorothy McGuire and Lloyd Nolan.

      It’s odd in a way but George Raft’s facial features became rather less mobile, shall we say, as he got older but I still like those later films, “JOHNNY ALLEGRO”, “JOHNNY ANGEL” & “NOCTURNE”. Just really easy entertainment.

      Like

        • He impressed me more in that role, more than he did in other movies where I found him somewhat stiff. He seemed to shy away from the kind of villainous parts that he arguably could have handled better. Rogue Cop saw him take on an extraordinarily mean, spiteful part and play it to perfection. That’s a gutsy thing to do, and I would have liked to have seen him trying it more often.

          Liked by 1 person

        • All this talk about George Raft prompted me to give a first watch to a somewhat Damon Runyon-esque comedy from his days as a star on the Paramount lot, “YOURS FOR THE ASKING” (1936). Raft was very good in it and a fairly-new-to-Hollywood Ida Lupino really caught the eye in a captivating turn.
          Character actor James Gleason was perfectly cast as the ex-hood helping run Raft’s casino. Gleason was great in these types of role. However, Paramount nearly cast him as Hopalong Cassidy in their new western in 1935. Thankfully someone had second thoughts and put Bill Boyd in the role.

          Liked by 1 person

          • Gleason was one of those character actors who was pretty much always hugely enjoyable whenever he showed up on screen. So many of his supporting roles stick in my mind, but I reckon his turn as the cabby who falls under Cary Grant’s spell and takes part in a marvelously slapstick piece of ice ballet in The Bishop’s Wife is a pure delight.

            Liked by 1 person

  6. Thanks for that Jerry-Lederman seems to have
    closed his career in the same way as another underrated
    director of similar vintage Lambert Hillyer.
    Lederman’s THE LAST RIDE and KEY WITNESS are excellent
    B Movies leaving me to want to see lots more.
    Scanning through Colin’s back pages I see there is an overall
    lack of Raft titles……BTW Colin many happy returns for
    next Thursday I think.

    Like

  7. My turn to go ‘off-topic’, Colin. Has anyone out there, I wonder, been watching the TV western drama “THE ENGLISH”?? Co-produced by Amazon for the BBC and with an all-British cast and the Spanish prairies standing in for Wyoming and Colorado. This has been a 6-part story – violent, uncivilised.
    Owing more to Spaghettis than the traditional westerns I favour perhaps; no Randolph Scott western to be sure.
    Strangely though I found myself wanting to see it through to the end. I might have dismissed it had it not been for the fact that the star (and executive producer) Emily Blunt and writer and director Hugo Blick wrote that they loved the American West and westerns.

    I would love to know if anyone knows of it.

    Like

    • I haven’t seen it but I know of it because I had a friend of mine ask me about it not that long ago. I also read a recommendation from another friend on Facebook, one who is a fan of classic westerns as it happens.

      Like

      • Yes, despite the violence and very different ‘feel’ from a classic western, it has ‘heart’. It has been critically acclaimed here in the UK and there is a very definite understanding of the western genre on show. There is much authenticity in the fact that there are Scots, Welsh and Irish as well as the English roaming and settling this new land. I am minded especially of the English rancher, Tunstall, at the centre of Billy The Kid and the Lincoln County range war.

        Like

  8. Hi, Jerry – I have watched THE ENGLISH and found it riveting. It was outstanding in many ways: the cinematography, acting and direction made for a marvellous viewing experience. The use of landscape – even though the series was shot in Spain – brought the beauty of the frontier alive. The amount of graphic violence got close to my limit – I was wondering how any man or woman lived to middle age in those days – and I had to look away at times. It was great to see so many British actors getting into unfamiliar territory: Toby Jones as a tough old stage driver anyone?

    Liked by 1 person

  9. My Christmas viewing only kicked in yesterday as work had me fully occupied before that. So far, it’s consisted of:
    Holiday Affair (1949), a seemingly atypical vehicle that allows Robert Mitchum to woo Janet Leigh while Wendell Corey looks on.
    Welcome Stranger (1947), an easy-going and charming effort that may not be doing anything especially original but Bing Crosby and Barry Fitzgerald being Bing Crosby and Barry Fitzgerald are just a joy to watch.
    The Bishop’s Wife (1947), an old favorite that never seems to get old.
    Portrait of Jennie (1948), a beautifully directed fantasy from William Dieterle, a dreamy, wonderful meditation on the timeless nature of everything that is of importance, from art and love to life itself.
    And later on tonight it will be the turn of Otto Preminger’s Anatomy of a Murder (1959).

    Like

  10. A quality list of films for your Christmas viewing, Colin. Films have been on hold for a few days as we have family here.
    I feel sure you will have seen “ANATOMY OF A MURDER” before. Terrific courtroom drama with Jimmy Stewart firing on all cylinders! I always love those early jazz scenes where we get to see the great Duke Ellington.

    Like

    • Yes, I’ve seen Preminger’s movie a couple of times before, but the last viewing would have been maybe twenty years ago. I got the Criterion Blu-ray as a present so it was a chance to reacquaint myself with it, and that disc really does look superb. A fine move that has me in the mood for more Preminger.

      Like

  11. Grinch that I am and by accident rather by design on
    Christmas Eve I watched the beautiful 4K restoration
    of I,THE JURY the Studio Canal non 3D version.
    It looks stunning especially as I have recently been binging
    on loads of old B Movies on DVD.
    I,THE JURY is the antithesis of the “feelgood” Christmas
    Movie as Mike Hammer goes on a violent rampage on Christmas
    Eve-even Santa gets blown away.
    To make things worse each chapter is prefaced by traditional Christmas
    Card images.
    The movie belongs to Peggie Castle (never better) and John Alton.
    If Colin cannot take Lawrence Tierney I just don’t know how he’s
    going to cope with Biff Elliott.
    Always thought Cameron Mitchell would have made an awesome
    Mike Hammer.
    Forget Elliott’s charmless persona (Ralph Meeker he ain’t) and
    enjoy.
    “How could you” “It was easy”

    Like

    • I have held off on that, John, mainly due to the fact I’ve never heard a good word about Elliott’s work on the film. I will pick it up at some point though, probably when it’s discounted in a sale in the future. Even then, I suspect I’ll do so for the contributions of Peggie Castle, Margaret Sheridan, and of course John Alton.

      Like

    • John, They are all terrible as Mike Hammer. An unplayable part. As for Cameron Mitchell, certainly the best actor in the bunch but has the weakest personality.

      Like

  12. Overall,that’s a wise decision Colin
    although Alton’s work is sensational the actual
    look of the film compensates much for Elliott’s lack
    of appeal……..just what were they thinking.
    I would say however that the film is essential for any
    Noir addict-it’s a visual feast.
    Oddly enough Elliott was a close friend of Jack Lemmon-
    I recall he had a telling scene in SAVE THE TIGER-one of Lemmon’s
    finest and most underrated dramatic roles-got the Blu Ray on my
    “must pick up” list.
    Good to hear that you admire Margaret Sheridan-I sure wish that
    she had made more movies.
    I do hope Studio Canal release THE LONG WAIT-so far they only have
    it for streaming-it’s an ideal title for their new Cult Classics imprint.
    I,THE JURY is a far far better vehicle for Peggie Castle I might add.
    I note that Signal One are releasing Bogart’s THE ENFORCER in
    February I guess it will be from the same master as the old Olive
    one which I don’t have so for me it’s a welcome release.

    Like

  13. Yes Colin- I saw that Arrow set-I wish that they
    had chosen some more obscure titles rather than ones
    that are already available-Arrow do seem to have lost
    interest in vintage titles so from that point of view it’s a
    welcome release.
    These Noir sets keep a coming I’m interested to see what
    Indicator come up with in future Universal Noir volumes
    especially as you can later get their titles as stand alone editions.
    We have been discussing THE RED LIGHT and I may suggest
    you bump it up on the viewing list-it’s a really tough little
    movie-very stylish in look- and you will be very taken by the
    redemption theme that enters the film towards the closing chapters.

    Like

  14. Must catch up with this one, thanks to your detailing of the cast, which is far richer that I could have realized back in the day. Franciscus has always seemed a lightweight to me. A replacement for Charlton Heston in Apes world. Really? Just seemed a good-looking guy who lacks gravitas. Compare Stephen Collins in the first “Star Trek” movie. But maybe he was right for this role. Genevieve Page’s infrequent U.S. roles are always worth searching out. In “El Cid” she gave the most interesting performance in a poorly written role. And she was the perfect seductress in “The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes.”

    Liked by 1 person

    • The cast is an especially appealing one; a succession of familiar faces that it is a pleasure to spend some time with.
      As I said, I found Franciscus fine in his role and I reckon he got that raw naivety across well. Of course I can’t predict how you will respond. Anyway, I’m pleased that I stimulated your interest and I hope you have a chance to check it out.

      Like

  15. The penultimate film of Delmer Daves was also one of Max Steiner’s last scores. Daves had befriended Steiner and used him on all of those late teen-oriented romances with Troy Donahue et al. In fact, it was A SUMMER PLACE that gave the venerable composer something he had never enjoyed before — a pop hit. Percy Faith’s bouncy arrangement of a secondary motif became a worldwide bestseller as “Theme from A Summer Place.” By this point in his career Steiner was in failing health and depressed by the suicide of his only son. I was surprised to learn from Steven Smith’s recent biography that the composer of KING KONG, GONE WITH THE WIND, CASABLANCA, THE BIG SLEEP, and countless others was in financial difficulty by the 1960s. Failed marriages and gambling debts were at fault. So Daves’s patronage was a late-career blessing for him.

    Like

    • I very much enjoy those late career scores that Steiner produced and it’s pleasing to think they brought him some needed rewards in those years. Around this time he also scored A Distant Trumpet for Raoul Walsh in what would be the director’s last movie and it’s a wonderful, driving piece:

      Like

  16. I would never have guessed the Thomas Wolfe inspiration from the movie itself. For a more explicit, though unmemorable, account of that writer’s career see GENIUS (2015) with Jude Law as the writer and Colin Firth as the famous Scribner editor Maxwell Perkins. I worked at Scribners for many years and can testify that YOUNGBLOOD HAWKE’s impression of the publishing world has more to do with Hollywood fantasy than the real thing. Compare THE BEST OF EVERYTHING, essentially a romantic soap opera but somewhat more realistic in its milieu.

    I was glad to catch up with the movie at last. All I remembered from the old days was the steamy poster art, which comported ill with my image of James Franciscus as television’s idealistic teacher Mr. Novak. The movie didn’t work for me. Too many narrative gaps and convenient coincidences. Somebody is always walking in on the poor guy at exactly the wrong moment. He is even discovered more or less in flagrante with Frieda three (!) times – by his editor, by his mother, and by Frieda’s little son. The novel is nearly 800 pages long, and you can see that Daves had trouble boiling it down. A decade later it might have become a miniseries with a better chance of success.

    One interesting (if unreal) detail is the way the unknown, untried author is flown into New York and lifted by helicopter directly into Manhattan. The then-new Pan Am Building is prominent in the skyline, and we may imagine that the author will be deposited on its controversial rooftop helipad. The latter was eventually shut down when a landing accident resulted in multiple fatalities on the roof and the ground below.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.