Dedications: My four late friends Rory, Stan, Bryan, Jeff - shine on you crazy diamonds, they would have blogged too. Then theres Garry from Brisbane, Franco in Milan, Mike now in S.F. / my '60s-'80s gang: Ned & Joseph in Ireland; in England: Frank, Des, Guy, Clive, Joe & Joe, Ian, Ivan, Nick, David, Les, Stewart, the 3 Michaels / Catriona, Sally, Monica, Jean, Ella, Anne, Candie / and now: Daryl in N.Y., Jerry, John, Colin, Martin and Donal.

Saturday, 24 March 2012

Youngblood Hawke

At last I have caught up with YOUNGBLOOD HAWKE, a 1964 delicious entry in the Trash stakes that eluded me at the time. Its long - 2 hours and 20 mintues - and in black and white like those other farragos of that time that I like (like SYLVIA, A HOUSE IS NOT A HOME - see Trash label) and finally available on Warner Archives label. Here is the tasteful blurb:

"Herman Wouk's bestseller about a Kentucky-born writer's spectacular rise and fall among the big city glitterati gets the big-screen treatment courtesy of Warner Bros master of melodrama Delmer Daves. Daves, fresh from a string of successes, recruited celebrated composer Max Steiner to score the film, adding gravitas to the glitz.
James Franciscus stars as the title character, a truck driver who arrives in New York City intent on making it as a writer. Aided by a friendly editor Jeanne Green (Suzanne Pleshette) Hawk's star is on the rise, both among the intelligentsia and the jet set. Hawk inevitaby succumbs to the lures of high society, breaking Jeanne's heart and eventually seeing his career destroyed by the jealous husband of one of his paramours."

Every cliche is lovingly polished as our truck driver hero moves to New York to take the city by storm at the hot new novelist. It must have been an important project for Daves as he also wrote the script. Wouk had written those other blockbusters like THE CAINE MUTINY and MARJORIE MORNINGSTAR - another ponderous Warners melodrama with Natalie Wood and Gene Kelly in 1958, and well worth reviewing too - so must have been a hot writer like A SUMMER PLACE's a Sloane Wilson or THE BEST OF EVERYTHING's Rona Jaffe, not to mention PEYTON PLACE's Grace Metalious. James Franciscus looks good but is rather dull - a taller duller Robert Redford - and all wrong for the hero, it needed a Steve McQueen or Paul Newman, though they had enough similar roles on their hands (like Sinatra is all wrong for me in SOME CAME RUNNING as it needed a Monty Clift or Newman rather than One-Take Frank walking through his scenes, but I digress, as usual.).

The interest here is the great cast: Suzanne Pleshette is warm and sympathetic and lovely as usual as the book editor our hero leaves for wealthy society matron Frieda, a great role for French actress Genevieve Page. She takes the trashy material and makes it something else entirely, in a better film it would have got her an Oscar nomination at least (she is as good as Simone Signoret in ROOM AT TOP). The languid Frieda soon has Youngblood installed in an actor friend's luxury apartment with a great view of the New York skyline ("did it have to be an attic?" she says on visiting his humble apartment) but she pays a hard price for her transgressions when her son falls ill ... also on hand are Mary Astor making the most of a few scenes as a famous actress, and Mildred Dunnock as Youngblood's mother. The drama is piled on with family squabbles over money, as Youngblood rises and falls when the critics fall on his latest tome, as our hero sells out but of course by the last reel comes to his senses with the real girl he loves waiting for him - after that spell in an oxygen tent (just like Carroll Baker's HARLOW, in that trashiest of trash epics, the 1965 Harlow film. It is an interesting curio now like Fox's HILDA CRANE with Jean Simmons in '56 or Warner's delirious CLAUDELLE INGLISH in '61 or even RETURN TO PEYTON PLACE ! (all at Trash label).
Delmer Daves (left, with Mary Astor) had a curious career as director: he helmed some marvellous westerns in the '50s, like DRUM BEAT (one of the first westerns I was taken to, by my father), the original 3.10 TO YUMA, COWBOY, THE HANGING TREE (that great late Cooper western in '59), and he wrote WHITE FEATHER; then he switched to those Warner melodramas of the late '50s and early '50s: A SUMMER PLACE, followed by those Troy Donahue romances for the teen set like PARRISH, SUSAN SLADE, ROME ADVENTURE which also had Suzanne Pleshette (who was briefly married to Donahue then, they also did a Roual Walsh western, his last, A DISTANT TRUMPET, and of course she made a big impression as Annie Hayward in Hitch's THE BIRDS, and I liked her in those other mellers like FATE IS THE HUNTER and A RAGE TO LIVE.

Daves though went with another blonde for YOUNGBLOOD HAWKE - but James Franciscus [1934-1991, he died age 57] is just not that charismatic. The movie is really stolen by the slinky Genevieve Page (left), whom I liked a lot in EL CID as the spiteful Princess Urraca (right) trying to get the better of Sophia Loren's Chimene, and she featured in Dirk Bogarde's SONG WITHOUT END in 1960, BELLE DE JOUR, the 1968 MAYERLING, Billy Wilder's THE PRIVATE LIFE OF SHERLOCK HOLMES in 1970, and another seducer of a callow young man, but played for laughs, in the amusing 1968 film of Waugh's DECLINE AND FALL. She is still with us in her 80s and was working until recently.

We had quite a few seductive older ladies keeping younger men in the movies then: Joan Fontaine's ritzy society dame toying with and discarding her younger lovers in SERENADE in '56 (Trash/Fontaine labels), Vivien Leigh in THE ROMAN SPRING OF MRS STONE in 1960, Patricia Neal as Paul Varjak's keeper in BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY'S, Page here with YOUNGBLOOD ...
More on those Troy Donahue epics soon.

1 comment:

  1. This was just great! Thank you for sharing.