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.

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Summer re-runs: the annual Wild River re-view

WILD RIVER – what a blissful way to spend an afternoon, re-watching Kazan’s 1960 WILD RIVER – it is so perfect and involving one loses track of time, I would not change a frame of it.  Clift is quite animated here (after walking like a zombie through SUDDDENLY LAST SUMMER in '59 after that road accident during RAINTREE COUNTY...), perhaps Kazan had better rapport with him than Huston for his next two (THE MISFITS where he is really side-lined for most of the film, and FREUD which I really must steel myself to see). He is the Tennessee Valley Authority man who arrives to oversee the flooding of an island and the removal of the owners before the land is flooded to harness the river - this is the rural Deep South in the depressed 1930s ...
The revelations here though are Lee Remick and Jo Van Fleet. Lee is utterly spellbinding in every scene as her emotionally stunted widow comes back to life, she and Clift are such a perfect team. There is that marvellously nuanced scene where they return to the house she lived in with her late husband ... Then there is Jo Van Fleet, 45 playing 90 as the old Ella Garth. There should have been at least nominations for them.
Jo Van Fleet & Lee Remick
The plot is dreamlike and takes it’s time as we get used to the TVA and the locals (and the thorny subject of equal pay for black and white) and Ella’s island and her stubbornness in not wanting to leave her land. It has to be my favourite Kazan [I used to be obsessed about EAST OF EDEN, maybe now it will be WILD RIVER - I was never bothered about SPLENDOR IN THE GRASS as much]. Bruce Dern is an uncredited extra and that 1930s rural poverty is so tangible it permeates everything. The poster tried to makes it look like an actioner, but it is mainly a quiet, reflective film. It may be my favourite Clift role (apart from THE HEIRESS, FROM HERE TO ETERNITY, A PLACE IN THE SUN), he hardly strikes one as the action hero as he squares up to the local bullies ... Remick too, after Kazan introduced her in A FACE IN THE CROWD in '57 has one of her best roles, right after her sexy Laura Manion in 1959's hit  ANATOMY OF A MURDER... (Remick label).

Kazan's drama combines a lyrical romance worthy of D.W. Griffith or John Ford with the natural poetry of Robert Flaherty, as we are almost in that early 20th century Americana period of silent films, in a very convincing 1930s setting as outsider Clift and wistful, vulnerable widow Remick are drawn together and find the resolve to stand up for themselves. It is a great Fox Cinemascope film too from that great era of Fox films, often from literary sources (HEMINGWAY'S ADVENTURES OF A YOUNG MAN, THE SUN ALSO RISES, THE DIARY OF ANNE FRANK, NO DOWN PAYMENT, THE WARWARD BUS, THE SOUND AND THE FURY etc - which are great to catch up with now - Dramas label.


  1. Yes, WILD RIVER is one of Kazan's best; it is also one of the two films that was scripted by Paul Osborne, the other being EAST OF EDEN, so therein lies some of the similarities. Lee Remick's performance in WILD RIVER is one of her most lyrical and sensual: she always said that this was her favorite movie. For years it was unavailable because the Deluxe color had faded badly (even the negative had turned all pink) and it took years for the color restoration (done with the financial backing of Martin Scorsese, just before Kazan's death). Now it has retained its lovely color, and the film is finding its place as one of Kazan's great works.

  2. Fascinating informative comments as ever, DC !