Thursday, January 31, 2013


In the 50s and 60s, there was a lot of interest in Edgar Cayce, known as the "Sleeping Prophet," a psychic who would go into a hypnotic trance and produce proto-New Age teachings on metaphysical topics. In conjunction with this craze, a man named Morey Bernstein published a book in which he claimed to have used hypnotism to send a neighbor back into a past life as a woman who lived in 19th century Ireland named Bridey (Bridget) Murphy. This film is a dramatization of the book, though using the word "dramatization" may be a bit of a stretch, as this mostly consists of scenes of Bernstein putting the woman (here named Ruth Simmons) into a trance on a suburban living room couch; he asks her questions; she, with eyes closed, responds; and we see misty flashback recreations—without spoken dialogue—of Bridey's rather uneventful life. The movie starts with the actor Louis Hayward as himself, strolling around the set and delivering a prologue explaining that they aren't making any reality claims for the story we're about to see. His character is a suburban businessman who has no interest in hypnotism until he sees someone at a party use hypnotism as a parlor trick. Hayward studies hypnotism and, though he himself is not susceptible to it, learns to use it on others. Soon he puts his neighbor (Teresa Wright) into trances, takes her back to her childhood and beyond, to her previous life as Bridey. Nothing much happens to Bridey: she falls in love with a young man named Brian, marries him, grows old, and dies, though she is able to give Hayward the names of people and places she knew and a brief description of the afterlife—she also speaks in an Irish brogue while in trance.

Aside from a brief debate among psychologists and religious leaders about the implications of Wright's experience, there are really only two dramatic complications. One is when Wright's husband (Kenneth Tobey, hero of the original THE THING FROM ANOTHER WORLD) begins objecting to the hypnosis sessions—he is talked into letting them continue. The climax of the film comes about when suddenly, Hayward can’t bring Wright out of her trance. As befits this rather passionless film, the suspense lasts about a minute. An online critic calls this a cross between a radio play and a stage play, and that's about right, though it also feels like a 50s TV drama. Wright does the most she can without going over the top in her trances. James Kirkwood Sr., father of the co-author of A Chorus Line, plays the older Brian in the trance visions. [Netflix streaming]

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

DARK CITY (1950)

Cops raid a bookie joint and though the head of the operation, an unhappy WWII vet (Charlton Heston), escapes, he's pissed off because he believed he was paid up on his protection money. His cronies (the older Ed Begley, the cocky Jack Webb, the slow-on-the-uptake Harry Morgan) are left high and dry, and they wind up engaging a traveling salesman (Don DeFore) in a rigged poker game; the first night, they lose to him to build up his confidence, only to fleece him the second night. Because the money he lost belonged to his company, DeFore kills himself. Soon, Begley is found hung in his apartment, an apparent suicide, but a police captain (Dean Jagger) thinks it was murder, and sure enough DeFore's brutish and mentally ill brother is on their trail, trying to pick off the players one by one.

This is a solid film noir, though Heston, in his big studio debut, is a little lightweight for a noir hero. We get some gloomy backstory (he was court-martialed for accidentally killing his best friend in a fight over Heston's wife, from whom he is now divorced) and he feels conflicted about the crooked poker game in the first place, but he never really seems to be in great moral turmoil, though he does go to DeFore's widow to help her out financially. Lizabeth Scott (pictured with Heston) as Heston's squeeze, a nightclub singer, doesn't have a lot to do, but she does a nice job with her songs, including "I Don’t Want to Walk Without You." The supporting cast is great, with Webb in particular doing a nice job in a role that is 180 degrees away from his best-known part as Joe Friday on Dragnet—and of course Harry Morgan was not only his co-star here but also in the 1960s incarnation of Dragnet. DeFore was mostly known for light comedy but is surprisingly good in a serious turn here, and Viveca Lindfors is fine as his widow. There are a number of good setpieces, including the opening raid, the foggy nighttime streets that evening, and the chase and fight at the climax, but Begley's paranoid scene just before his murder is exceptional, and reason enough to watch the film.  [DVD]

Thursday, January 24, 2013

LOVE NEST (1951)

Soldier William Lundigan returns to New York City to find his wife (June Haver, pictured at left with Lundigan) has used their nest egg to buy an apartment building that's falling apart. She knows he wants to write a novel about his experiences in Paris ("What's the name of that restaurant where the existentialists don’t hang out?"), but he winds up spending all his free time fixing up the apartments and dealing with the tenants, including Frank Fay, an older man who says he is an estate evaluator but who is actually a serial swindler of widows, now at work on another lonely tenant (Leatrice Joy). Then along comes an old Army buddy of Lundigan's, a busty WAC (Marilyn Monroe) of whom Haver becomes immediately jealous, though Monroe seems more interested in another one of Lundigan's friends  (Jack Paar). Plot complications ensue, including: 1) the arrival of a federal agent looking to bust Fay for his past misdeeds even though he insists he's found real love with Joy; 2) an attempt to re-wire the entire building before it gets condemned; and 3) an incident in which Lundigan spends the night in Monroe's apartment—innocently, of course, though Haver doesn't see it that way. 

This is a cute sitcom-ish movie with a perfectly pleasant couple at the center, one plus being that neither Lundigan nor Haver is the traditional wacky/screwball type. The film does have an odd little edge, provided by Fay who plays the swindler in a low-key fashion, keeping us off balance about his real agenda: Is he sinister? Is he just lonely? Does he really love Joy? And when he offers the couple the money to fix the wiring, will he really come through? The ending is almost downbeat, saved by a clever epilogue. Fay was at one time married to Barbara Stanwyck, had his career almost derailed by alcoholism, and is best known for originating the lead role in HARVEY on Broadway (taken in the movie by James Stewart). He only did a handful of movies, so it's worth seeing this film just to catch one of his performances. It’s also interesting for other supporting players:  Monroe before she became a leading player, Paar before his TV hosting days, and Leatrice Joy (who was married in the 20s to John Gilbert) long after her silent film career. Cute and a little strange. I liked this odd exchange: Monroe, paying rent money to Lundigan: "It seems strange giving money to a man you know"; Lundigan: "I bet it does." [FMC]

Wednesday, January 23, 2013


The police are irritated at radio sleuth John Howard who continues to make them look like fools by putting together clues to unsolved crimes and announcing the guilty parties on the air, so the police commissioner assigns Roscoe Karns to get some dirt on him. The next morning, Howard wakes up to find not his wife (Margaret Lindsay) but a female corpse in his bedroom. The body is that of a former actress who lived in Howard's apartment building and was friendly with another neighbor, a doctor (Miles Mander) and his wife. With the cops on Howard's trail (though Karns doesn't think Howard is guilty), Howard and his wife do some digging around and find out that the actress had another apartment, taken under a different name, and possibly had a couple of mystery men in her life, who might now be after Howard, along with the cops. Can Howard and Lindsay, with the help of houseboy Keye Luke, find the killer before the killer finds them?

This was obviously an attempt by the low-budget Republic Studios to start its own "Thin Man" series—Howard calls his wife "Mommy" and Lindsay complains about the low-lifes they wind up hanging out with; the surprise is that it almost works. The production values are considerably higher than for the usual Republic film of the era: well-appointed sets, good acting, solid direction and cinematography.  Howard (Cary Grant's rival in THE PHILADELPHIA STORY) makes a fine B-movie William Powell; Lindsay is OK, though she tries a bit too hard. Keye Luke is also good, though he has to do some silly dialect stuff (turning his "R"s into "L"s); he calls himself "smart China boy" and gets off one of the better lines: after seeing the dead woman, he tells Howard it's too bad they killed a beautiful woman when there are so many ugly ones in the world (not PC, but I chuckled). The film falters in its writing: the story gets muddled quickly, and the identity of the killer is fairly obvious. But the movie never slows down and the action scenes are pulled off nicely (especially the finale at the radio studio).  It's too bad Howard didn’t get to play the character, Greg Sherman, again. [Netflix streaming]

Monday, January 21, 2013


What was it about the early 70s and doomed romances?  This film is like a less eccentric HAROLD AND MAUDE which turns into LOVE STORY. Timothy Bottoms is a shy, aimless, asthmatic college-age kid from a rich family whose father, a Pulitzer-prize winning historian, sends him on a cycling tour of Spain one summer, hoping he'll find himself. His asthma keeps him constantly catching up with the other cyclists, so he impulsively quits the group and hops on a bus tour where he sits next to Maggie Smith, a plain-looking woman probably near 40—she lives with aunts and older boarders, as we learn in a very amusing phone call—who whistles tunelessly to herself and reminds me of an older, less neurotic version of the Julie Harris character in THE HAUNTING. He's sweaty and wheezing and is responsible for getting a melted Almond Joy bar stuck to Smith's ass, but over a few days' time, the two become friendly. After a drunken night at a bar, he makes an ill-timed pass at her but they remain friends. We know something is wrong with her because she has spells of slurred speech and takes brightly-colored pills, and one night she tries, rather half-heartedly, to commit suicide. After their relationship becomes sexual, Bottoms rents a car and trailer and talks Smith into leaving the bus tour and motoring about with him. After some misadventures (including her brief flirtation with a Spanish duke who lives in a small castle), he proposes to her and she tells him she's dying of some fatal disease. Will they make the most of the time they have left together or are they too afraid to make a go of it?

I had my doubts in the beginning—Bottoms seems too mannered to be a believable character and Smith has too much spark to really come off as a dowdy spinster—but eventually the film works. Smith is amusing and it's fun to watch her being won over, bit by bit, by the charming and vulnerable Bottoms—he comes off a bit like a continuation of his character in THE LAST PICTURE SHOW. The film's tone is a little wobbly; despite an underlying seriousness, many scenes are funny, though rarely laugh-out-loud so, and the film is at its best when it's being light. The last 10 minutes are almost disastrous; it's like the movie was running too long and they just chopped a 20 minute conclusion in half, so the ending, though satisfying plotwise, is very unsatisfying in the way it plays out. The photography of the Spanish countryside is lovely and director Alan Pakula displays some stylish moves now and then. [DVD]

Friday, January 18, 2013


This would-be historical epic, made on a budget way too low to provide any epic qualities, begins with Captain John Smith (Anthony Dexter), one of the founders of the Jamestown colony in Virginia in 1607, telling his story to King James I. Smith's men are at odds with Wingfield (James Seay) and his followers, who are out for private glory and gold rather than settling a new land, so Smith is accused of mutiny and held on board a ship headed back to England. He manages to escape, swims to shore, and witnesses a band of Indians preparing to attack. Smith blames Wingfield's brutal treatment of them for the attack, but he joins Wingfield in fighting the Indians off, though they wind up with few supplies. Smith takes two men, Rolfe (Robert Clarke) and Fleming (Alan Hale Jr.), and sets out to make peace with the Indian chief Powhatan (Douglass Dumbrille). They have a friendly encounter with Powhatan's daughter Pocahontas (Jody Lawrence) while she's bathing in a pond, but Powhatan still decides to kill the white men. As Smith is about to be beheaded, Pocahontas throws herself on Smith and begs her father to spare his life. Powhatan agrees to, but Smith must marry Pocahontas in order to cement the peace between the Indians and the settlers. Back in Jamestown, Pocahontas teaches the British how to live off the land; meanwhile, Wingfield's men find gold and plot to keep it, leading to tensions with Smith's men and the Indians. After some action involving gold and weapons, Smith goes back to England, and Pocahontas stays in Jamestown, having fallen in love with Rolfe.

This plays like a dramatized documentary that I might have seen back in elementary school in the 60s. The actual events are, I'm guessing, simplified and/or fictionalized; the sets are adequate; the acting is all over the place. Dexter (pictured on the right with Seay on the left) is wooden; Dumbrille seems to be trying for threatening but dignified, though he often just seems constipated; Seay—who I know as Kris Kringle's doctor in MIRACLE ON 34TH STREET)—is sufficiently schemey-evil but not very energetic; Hale (the Skipper on Gilligan's Island) is cheery and hearty in his few scenes; Lawrence barely registers at all. Best is Clarke who is far more appealing than Dexter—it's a shame the movie didn't center on him. Directed by Lew Landers, an old pro at B-movies, with little visual flair. This movie doesn't crop up much, though oddly it is out on a burn-on-demand DVD. Even though it's not a particularly good film, I’m thankful that TCM aired it last Thanksgiving week. [TCM]

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

PRIVATE HELL 36 (1954)

In New York City, a man gets out of an elevator carrying a briefcase full of money and leaving behind a dead body. A year later in Los Angeles, one of the "hot" bills, a fifty, shows up when cops Steve Cochran and Howard Duff break up a drugstore robbery. They track the bill to a shady lady singer (Ida Lupino) who got it as a tip from a drunk. Cochran, who finds himself falling for Lupino, gets her to help them out when they discover more of the bills in circulation at a nearby racetrack, hoping she can identify the guy in the crowds. When she does, the cops go on a wild chase which ends with the crook's car careening off a cliff. The cops find his dead body and the missing money scattered around the wreck. As they collect it, Cochran decides to hold back about $80,000 for the two of them, figuring their boss (Dean Jagger) will never know the difference. Cochran rents a trailer (#36, hence the title) to stash the money; Duff begins to have second thoughts, and a mystery figure contacts Cochran by phone, indicating he knows they have the money and trying to get in on the action. The violent climax plays out at Trailer #36.

This is a nifty B-noir, or more precisely, half-police procedural, half-noir. Because we get to know Cochran and Duff (pictured at left) as average cops investigating a fairly run-of-the-mill crime in the first half-hour, the moment when Cochran goes rogue packs a punch, especially because he's so charming, and uses that charm to romance Lupino, who, though a tough gal, becomes quite likeable. Duff's character could have been rounded out a bit more, and maybe been made more ambiguous—he goes along with the plan reluctantly because he can't bring himself to cross his partner, so it's almost too clear too quickly that Duff is the good cop to Cochran's bad, or at least amoral, cop. The two have good chemistry and give nicely naturalistic performances. Early on, Duff says to Cochran, "Sometimes I wonder why we go steady," and Cochran replies, "Because I'm irresistible." And generally, Cochran is, which is why we continue to emphasize with him for so long. Lupino (above with Cochran) is great in a role, like Cochran's, that shows her character change over time, from crusty distruster to admirably tough dame. Early on, as the cops question her, she says dismissively, "I’ve seen this all on Dragnet." Jagger is very good as the chief. Dorothy Malone plays Duff's wife and Richard Deacon has a small part as the druggist who gets robbed. An early film for director Don Siegel (INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS, DIRTY HARRY) and a good one all around. My only quibble: the title; though the film climaxes at the trailer, the film skimps on any suggestion that anyone's going through hell, though Duff is clearly conflicted. [Netflix streaming]

Monday, January 14, 2013


This is a cute little romantic comedy with some music and dance but not a lick of jazz at all. Barry is a struggling songwriter who plays piano day and night in his apartment, keeping other tenants awake. The landlady threatens to throw him out and keep the his piano for the rent payments he's missed, but her husband Max, a night watchman at a nearby office building, is more sympathetic. One morning as Barry is banging away at a melody, Ruth, the young lady next door, hears him and begins humming along, finishing the tune. He runs next door, drags her to his room, and forces her to re-create her song, and Our Lovers have just Met Cute. From this point, a number of plotlines are put in motion: 1) It turns out that Ruth works for two song publishers, Kemple & Klucke, and both of them enjoy flirting with her; in fact, they wind up placing a bet as to which one can get her to go out on a date; 2) The landlady kicks Barry out when she catches Ruth in his room, but Max agrees to get Barry a new room across the street, and even promises to get his piano to him as well—leading to a Laurel & Hardy-ish piano-moving scene; 3) Max lets the lovebirds into an unused radio studio room in the office building so they can work on their song, but by accident, their session winds up transmitted that night; the song is a big hit and the radio station owner wants to hire the two and buy the rights to the song. However—4) the radio station owner can't figure out who the singers were, and 5) Kemple & Kluck might also want the song. Not to mention the jealousy sideline when Barry thinks Ruth is sweet on Kemple and/or Klucke, when all she's trying to do is sell them his song.

That’s a lot of plot for a 70 minute movie, but still the pace slows too often in the way that many early talkies do: the actors sometimes deliver dialogue too slowly and deliberately, as if the director was afraid that the audience might have a hard time keeping up. The worst offender is Sally O'Neil as Ruth who is stiff and rarely seems natural. Johnny Mack Brown as Max is much better, though his Southern accent sounds forced (even though the actor really did come from Alabama). But they have enough chemistry that you root for the couple. There is a long vaudevillian comedy routine between Kemple (Joseph Cawthorne) and Klucke (Albert Conti), and Max (Clyde Cook) has his own slapstickish business with the aforementioned piano. Barry's song, "Someone," is a nice little ditty, and there is a dance number in a nightclub, but this isn't a musical, and as I noted earlier, there's not even a hint of jazz. Cute and harmless. [TCM]

Friday, January 11, 2013


Millionaire philanthropist Zachary Scott is giving a party to announce his new international peace institute; his childhood friend Louis Hayward arrives late with his girlfriend Mallory who resembles someone from Scott and Hayward's past. This triggers a flashback to the beginnings of the romantic triangle of Scott, Hayward and Diana Lynn when they were teenagers. Scott's parents are divorced and both are remote figures in his life, with his mother actively oppressive; Scott tries to run away and Lynn's family takes him in. In college, Hayward, in love with Lynn, asks Scott to intercede for him, but Lynn confesses that she loves Scott instead.  However, soon Scott is running in even higher social circles and secretly dates Martha Vickers, who has family connections that Scott can use to further his career. Later, Scott does the same thing when he decides he wants to take control of an independent utilities company run by Sydney Greenstreet—he seduces Greenstreet's younger wife (Lucille Bremer). Back at the party in the present day, as Scott tries to seduced Hayward's date, a drunken Greenstreet barges in to seek revenge.

The amazing thing about this melodrama, which is structured a bit like CITIZEN KANE, is that it shows what B-movie director Edgar G. Ulmer was capable of with a decent-sized budget. Ulmer is known for films made on shoestring budgets which usually had some interesting elements that transcended their Poverty Row origins (DETOUR, BLUEBEARD), but with this one he seems to have had a higher budget and the film is both a little quirky and Hollywood-glossy. Performances are decent across the board: Scott (pictured with Lynn) is good, especially at conveying a certain ambiguity about his actions and motives; Hayward is just OK partly because he is less fleshed-out; Greenstreet and Bremer are quite good in roles that require them to stretch a bit outside their usual screen personas. This film sometimes gets placed on lists of noirs but it's really only tangentially related to noir by visual style, in the same way that KANE is. [Netflix streaming]

Wednesday, January 09, 2013


Phillip Eden is a gambling playboy with a difference: he has a small daughter in tow, Alice, who is devoted to him and whom he has stolen away from his ex-wife Florence. One night, after Phillip has lost his last dollar and is cooking some soup at the stove, his former mistress Bernice arrives at his shabby apartment to tell him that Florence is on his trail and will be arriving soon to take Alice back. Phillip ties Bernice up in the apartment and goes on the run with his little girl, not realizing that the stove never got turned off—the place fills with gas and Bernice dies. Eventually the police catch up with Phillip in Italy and he's sentenced to fifteen years in prison. Florence takes Alice, who over the years forgets about Phillip. Eleven years later, Alice's former nurse visits Phillip to tell him that Alice had an accident and can no longer walk; she suspects that Alice could recover, but her mother has willfully turned her into an invalid and has discouraged her from dating Stephen, a charming young newspaperman. Phillip breaks out of prison and goes to see Alice. Florence tries to send him away but he pretends to be John, a brother of Phillip's, and ingratiates himself not only with Alice, but also the butler and Stephen, Alice's would-be beau. Can Phillip free Alice from her mother’s influence before the police catch on to who he really is?

This rarely-seen drawing-room melodrama is nothing special, but it has its moments. It would be a lot more interesting if someone other than the uninteresting Richard Dix played the lead—he's not terrible, but he's just so colorless and sluggish. Growing a mustache when he adopts the brother persona helps a bit. The movie feels like a non-comedic spin on the philosophy at the center of YOU CAN’T TAKE IT WITH YOU and AUNTIE MAME—one (specifically, Alice) should not live life afraid, but instead live freely and fully. Dorothy Wilson, who has a quirky but pretty face, is fine as the daughter; Erin O'Brien-Moore is good as the unsympathetic mother; Bruce Cabot is the boyfriend; Eily Malyon, who often plays sinister maids, is fine in the small role of the non-sinister nurse. If only someone like Ronald Colman or William Powell had been given the lead.  [TCM]

Monday, January 07, 2013


A crowd gathers to watch the police arrest a man for the murder of an elderly pawnbroker in her own shop, and in the midst of the commotion, young law student Robert passes out on the sidewalk. His friend Rafe gets him back to his apartment to recover where he is visited by his mother and his sister Debbie, who is about to marry an older man in order to get some financial help for the family. We find out that Robert is no longer in school, though he did have an article published arguing that extraordinary people should be above the law. Robert goes to the police in order to get back some items he had pawned and Lt. Porter engages him in a philosophical discussion about his article. When Porter suggests that even extraordinary people would be plagued by guilt about a crime, Robert says that their consciences wouldn't bother them because the crime would have been done for a good reason. Robert has become a suspect in the murder and Porter plays a lengthy cat-and-mouse game with him to get him to crack. Meanwhile, Fred, a man from Debbie's past, has shown up. Debbie worked for him until Fred's wife discovered they were having an affair—she fired her, leading, in Robert's mind, to Debby's sad plan to marry for money. He wants to get in touch with her, though Robert tries to stop him. In the midst of all this turmoil, Robert becomes friendly with Sally, a young woman whose alcoholic father has just died (and to whom earlier Robert had given a hand) and they sleep together. He confesses to Sally that he murdered the old lady—now it’s just a matter of conscience willing out.

This is a scrappy black-and-white B-movie adaptation of Dostoevsky's classic (which I started years ago but never finished) and it's not bad. Set in the slightly seedy environs of Santa Monica, you get a sense of lots of sun but also lots of personal darkness among the characters. We don't see the murder as we do in the 1930s adaptation and the central relationship between the killer and the cop doesn't play out as well here—their scenes together go on too long and are dramatically slack. But George Hamilton in his first movie role is good as Robert, channeling Anthony Perkins in his twitchy neurotic mode. Frank Silvera as the cop is adequate but alternates between sleepwalking and heading over-the-top. Marian Seldes (pictured above with Hamilton), who went on to a long and distinguished career in the theatre, is Debbie, and the lesser-known Mary Murphy is fine as Sally. The movie has a loud jazzy score by Herschel Burke Gilbert that works better than Duke Ellington's intrusive score for ANATOMY OF A MURDER. [TCM]

Friday, January 04, 2013


One night, outside the house of Oxford don Dirk Bogarde, a car accident occurs. When Bogarde goes out to help, he finds his student, Michael York, dead, and York's fiancee, Jacqueline Sassard, drunk and nearly unconscious. He takes her in and hides her upstairs while he tells the police what he knows about York. In an extended flashback, we learn that York had come to Bogarde to get the confidence to come on to Sassard, an aristocratic German student. He does, but then Bogarde himself starts to fall for her, despite having a pregnant wife (Vivien Merchant) and two kids. To make matters worse, another married don (Stanley Baker) begins an affair with Sassard, even spending the night with her in Bogarde's house when Baker assumes the house is empty. Back in present time, the triangle of Sassard and the two dons is resolved in a way that leaves no one unscathed.

Joseph Losey, an artsy filmmaker, directed this from a script by Harold Pinter, a writer known for his obscure narratives use of silences and pauses. Nothing much happens on the surface; as Pinter has said, the real drama happens between the lines. What I like best about the movie is how it becomes clear that all the characters are "acting" their parts, rarely letting what they really feel show. Bogarde (pictured above with York) is especially good, keeping his loves and lusts and jealousies simmering beneath his mild-mannered demeanor. All the characters except York stumble about causing accidents of one kind of another, hurting people but not really caring. Bogarde reignites an old affair with the provost's daughter; Baker carries on with Sassard even though his wife finds out; Sassard, the biggest cipher in the movie, seems to love no one, but is the one who pays the least for her behavior. Only the young York (in his first movie) seems principled, but he becomes the victim of a literal accident. The movie is interesting but rather bloodless, though Bogarde and Baker give excellent performances, especially in a long scene of a drunken house party. Harold Pinter has a cameo comic-relief role as a TV producer, and Alexander Knox stands out in the small role of the provost. [TCM]

Wednesday, January 02, 2013


Where to start? With me, I guess. I love Hemingway, especially his short stories, particularly the collection In Our Time which can be read as a short story cycle about a young man coming of age. Many of the stories in that collection name the central figure as Nick Adams and it's generally accepted that even the stories with a differently named character (such as "Soldier's Home" with Harold Krebs) can be read as being about Nick Adams. This film is essentially a cobbling-together of the In Our Time stories into one episodic narrative, and as such it largely duplicates the experience of reading the collection in one sitting. I have avoided this movie for years because of the truism that movies are never as good as the books they're based on. This is certainly no substitution for reading the original stories, and there is a substantial loss of dramatic tension in the last half, but it's not horrible—faint praise, I know...

Nick (Richard Beymer, pictured) grows up in the woods of Michigan with a sensitive, passive father (Arthur Kennedy) and overbearing mother (Jessica Tandy). We see the father, a doctor, heading over to an Indian settlement to tend to a difficult birth, despite the fact that the husband (Simon Oakland) has earlier humiliated Dr. Adams in front of Nick. While drinking with a buddy (Michael J. Pollard) during a windstorm, Nick decides to leave town and ride the rails by himself. He spends some time with a banged-up, washed-up boxer (an unrecognizable Paul Newman, below with Beymer) who is tended to, with obvious love and devotion, by his former manager (Juano Hernandez); Nick later becomes an assistant to another washed-up fellow, a promoter of burlesque shows (Dan Dailey). In New York City, Nick tries to get a job as reporter, but is told he doesn't have enough life experience, so he signs up with an ambulance corps in Italy and is promptly wounded. In the hospital, he falls in love with his nurse but she is gravely wounded during a bombing raid; he gets a priest to marry them on her deathbed, but she dies in his arms. Back in Michigan, Nick gets a hero's welcome but also finds that his father committed suicide. Unable to live with his mother, he leaves once again for New York hoping he has enough experience to make his way.

I assumed that Richard Beymer (Tony in WEST SIDE STORY) would be the biggest problem; he was a scrawny, mannered actor who rarely brought much force to his roles, but he's actually OK here as the somewhat passive central figure. The nature of the film's structure means that none of the other actors is on screen for very long, but they all do what they can. Newman and Hernandez are the most memorable, and Kennedy and Tandy are perfect as the parents. The Italy sequence, shot on location—and based in part on Hemingway's novel A Farewell to Arms—is impressive in terms of production values, but weak dramatically, despite a good performance from Ricardo Montalban as a friend of Nick's. It's telling that the first half, full of short, disjointed episodes, comes off better than the second half which is more a single piece. [TCM]