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, 24 March 2014

Filmed Theatre: A View From The Bridge

Arthur Miller’s A VIEW FROM THE BRIDGE must have been a powerhouse play back in the ‘50s, with Van Heflin in the lead as that Brooklyn longshoreman Eddie Carbone. Did Miller see him as a tragic hero who was a common man, a blue collar longshoreman in a gritty working class world? That’s how he is presented in Sidney Lumet’s film released in 1962. It is almost an European film, interiors were filmed in Paris, with Raf Vallone, Jean Sorel, Raymond Pellegrin, and Americans Maureen Stapleton and Carol Lawrence (the original Maria in WEST SIDE STORY). However the overheated dramatics seem a tad risible now as the films veers into Greek tragedy territory. Was Lumet trying for another ON THE WATERFRONT?

Eddie Carbone, a Brooklyn longshoreman is married to Beatrice and unconsciously in love with Catherine, her niece they have raised from childhood. Into his house come two brothers, illegal immigrants, Marco and Rodolpho. Catherine falls in love with Rodolpho; and Eddie, tormented but unable to admit even to himself his quasi-incestuous love, reports the illegal immigrants to the authorities.

Miller’s play focuses on the old world Italian immigrants making their home in America and bringing over their relations, some of whom want to integrate, as does Rodolpho, who can gain citizenship when married to an American girl. Vallone’s Eddie builds up an unreasoning hatred of the younger man, because of his attraction for his niece. Lawrence either is naive or just puts it out of her mind, but Stapleton sees what is happening all too clearly and tries to reason with her husband. Things come to a climax when Eddie kisses Rodolpho, implying he is homosexual – but surely if he were that should please Eddie as then Rodolpho would not be interested in Catherine …..

Pauline Kael in her pertinent review (in I LOST IT AT THE MOVIES) skewers the film’s odd thinking perfectly. 
As she puts it: “What does Eddie Carbone want?” – he no longer desires his homely wife (Stapleton at her most irritating) whom he is only supposed to have sex with for evermore. Kael also had words on that kiss - the first time men kissed (it seems) on screen, and neither were meant to enjoy it! Meanwhile the young couple fall for each other. Eddie loses his good name and is a lone man at the end, armed with his meathook as he and Pellegrin, armed with his, confront each other. It is powerful stuff typical of its era, but rather over the top. Vallone however in his prime is never less than compulsive, Stapleton excels as ever, and Sorel was that popular young actor of the time who had a long career – more on him at Sorel label. 

I saw Arthur Miller at a book signing for his novella "Plain Girl" in his later years, when he signed copies but nobody could talk to or speak to the great man. But just to see him and get a signed copy was enough. 

PS: I mentioned above that A VIEW FROM THE BRIDGE was not performed much now - I was wrong, a new production is opening at London's Old Vic from April to June, with the intriguing casting of Mark Strong - the discerning director's hard man or villain of choice - as Eddie Carbone. Strong, from THE LONG FIRM to THE EAGLE, THE GUARD, ROCKNROLLA and ROBIN HOOD and more, should be ideal here. 

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