After making a reputation in frantic comedies (highlight: Duck Soup ) and more sophisticated ones (Ruggles of Red Gap and The Awful Truth ), writer-director-producer Leo McCarey evolved an output that swings from comedy to sentiment and melodrama, even juggling tonal ambiguity within scenes. His early high point was the 1937 Love Affair, more famous as his own remake, An Affair to Remember. McCarey can be especially strong with ambiguous family dynamics in which people are embarrassed by those they love; his great example is Make Way for Tomorrow, about which Orson Welles told Peter Bogdanovich it would “make a stone cry”.
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Henry King’s I’d Climb the Highest Mountain ranks with Jacques Tourneur’s Stars in My Crown and Robert Duvall’s The Apostle as a remarkable film about a Southern preacher.
It’s narrated by his new bride (Susan Hayward), recalling the trials and anecdotes of the year she spent with her parson husband (Richard Lundigan) in northern Georgia, where the film was shot on location with several local non-actors as extras. That’s why you hear moments of jarringly authentic accents amid the scattered bits of Hollywood convention, like the fact that Hayward must look freshly made-up even in childbirth.
This film opens with the testing of an aircraft that an entrepreneur hopes to sell to the U.S. Air Force. A TV journalist conveniently informs us that the Air Force insignia have already been applied to the plane in anticipation—in other words, that the film will be using stock footage. (Kudos to the Classic Sci Fi blogspot for identifying the alleged “X-109” as footage of the F-104 Starfighter.) We experience five clumsy minutes of such footage (especially noticeable in an HD transfer) combined with process shots and bad effects to convey the idea that pilot Fred Norwood (John Ericson) is dodging a flying saucer that doesn’t show up on radar. He gets canned in an uncomfortable scene.
Kentucky follows two plotlines. In one, the beautiful daughter (Loretta Young) of one proud family is secretly courted by the son (Richard Greene) of a rival family without telling her his real identity. In the other arc, the son helps the daughter train a horse called Bluegrass that will run in the Kentucky Derby and restore glory to her family’s declining fortunes. If that doesn’t tell you how this picture turns out, perhaps you’ve never seen a movie before.
If you’re in the mood for an excellent, fascinating 1950s movie about the Korean War, with African-American actor James Edwards (Home of the Brave) in a memorable supporting role, then look for Samuel Fuller’s The Steel Helmet. Alternatively, if you’re looking for a film directed by Anthony Mann and scripted by Philip Yordan for their own production company, and co-starring Robert Ryan and Aldo Ray—then look for God’s Little Acre. If you can’t find either of these first choices, a distant second is the movie just released on DVD and Blu-Ray by Olive Films, Mann’s Men in War.
Lt. Benson (Robert Ryan) leads the weary, jittery, unshaven survivors of his platoon on a 15-mile trek to Hill 245, where American reinforcements supposedly wait. He encounters a jeep driven by rock-jawed Sgt. Montana (Aldo Ray), an insubordinate cuss who devotes his loyalty and love to a shell-shocked archetype called the Colonel (Robert Keith). Montana announces that they’ve decided to drop out of the war.