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.

Monday, 26 August 2013

Forgotten '70s movies: Newman! Remick! Fonda! Sarrazin!

The dawn of the Seventies had some big outdoor movies: Altman's M A S H and that stunning western McCABE & MRS MILLER. SOMETIMES A GREAT NOTION (called for some reason NEVER GIVE AN INCH here in the UK, maybe the original title was too clunky - though not as clunky as the film...) could have been a contender, but quickly got lost and never seen again here. Looking at it now, easy to see why ...

When a logging town in Oregon, goes on strike against a large lumber conglomerate, the non-union Stamper family, headed by Paul Newman and his father Henry Fonda, keep working and quickly become the enemy of every now-out-of-work family in town. Shot on location along the Oregon coast, the film’s characters are dwarfed by the monolithic landscape and the buzzing of chainsaws, resulting in a leafy green palette that’s simultaneously scary and overwhelmingly beautiful. Based on Ken Kesey’s follow-up novel to ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO'S NEST Paul Newman’s second film as a director (after directed his wife in the highly-regarded RACHEL, RACHEL in '68) mixes hard-luck violence with genuine sympathy. But maybe being director as well as star, orchestrating the large family get-togethers and the logging sequences, meant there was no room for the central  story of husband and wife. The men are the focus here with the women firmly in the background, serving big breakfasts and washing .... Newman was in his prime here but his rather unlikeable character does not play for sympathy.
Henry Fonda as the clan's stubborn father is second billed and we see a lot of him, at the expense of Lee Remick, rather sidelined as the wife. Eventually she packs her suitcase and leaves about three-quarters through. It would have been nice to see Newman and Remick as a great romantic/dramatic team - like she was with Lemmon or Clift. But they don't have that many scenes together with no central focus. They were of course both in Ritt's THE LONG HOT SUMMER in 1958, each partnered with someone else (Woodward, Tony Franciosa). It seems Newman's character does not even miss her, as he is busy with Hank Fonda's injury and death, and the stunning central sequence of his brother Richard Jaeckel slowly drowning as he is trapped under a log, as Newman tries to free him .... 

It all looks marvellous, with some appropriate country style music, and the green and leafy Oregon countryside and that marvellous house all look correct. Michael Sarrazin also scores as the long-hair hippie son who returns home and rejoins the family business, and he has a few nice scenes with Lee's neglected wife, whom he understands more than her husband does.

This film was actually on release when I saw and met Lee Remick at London's BFI National Film Theatre in 1970, I remember a clip being shown, before we moved on to Remick's other roles. Report on that at NFT label,

and this is my tribute from 2010 to the marvellous Lee Remick - for me up there with Julie Harris and Geraldine Page ... 

Soon - Remick and Claire Bloom in the film of Iris Murdoch's A SEVERED HEAD (also 1970), and one of her later tv movies EMMA'S WAR

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