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, 11 March 2014

Echo O'Brien - "the old maid from Toledo"

ALL FALL DOWN was a novel I discovered when I was 16 back in that great year 1962. (I still have a copy, inscribed by my Australian penfriend, Garry Kendall, which he gave me in 1969, as I had lost mine).  It's central character is Clint, a teenger who was just like myself, living with his parents  - he was in Cleveland, Ohio, I was in County Kerry, Ireland, but apart from that we seemed very similar. Clint hero-worshipped his older brother Berry Berry, and noted all the pecularities and conversations between his parents, Annabel and Ralph. It starts with Clint in Key West, Florida hoping to find drifter Berry Berry, then its back to Cleveland where  Annabel's friend, Echo O'Brien comes to visit from Toledo, in her lovingly restored old car. Clint falls for Echo who loves him like her kid brother, Berry Berry turns up and he and Echo fall in love, but he turns out to be a worthless heel, she knows it can't last, and she is pregnant .... there is an automobile crash. Clint confronts his brother (who has a history of beating up and abusing women) whom he is finally able to walk away from.
Its a nicely told story, by James Leo Herlihy (who also wrote MIDNIGHT COWBOY, another good novel before it was a film, and also some short stories, he was gay and also a part time actor (he plays the man Jean Seberg is settling down with at the end of IN THE FRENCH STYLE, in 1963. Herlihy who was also a teacher, committed suicide in 1993, aged 66. 

ALL FALL DOWN, as per my other posts on it, at 1962 label, made a terrific film, tender and lyrical, one of the great black and white early '60s films, and scripted by William Inge - it was certainly in keeping with his territory and themes - and one of 3 John Frankenheimer turned out that year (THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE and BIRDMAN OF ALCATRAZ were quite significant too!), it was Frankenheimer's great period (SEVEN DAYS IN MAY, THE TRAIN, and others followed) and he assembled a great cast: Angela Lansbury and Karl Malden as the parents, Warren Beatty in his youthful prime as Berry Berry (after SPLENDOUR IN THE GRASS and THE ROMAN SPRING OF MRS STONE), young Brandon de Wilde as Clint (he had already appeared in the fim of Herhihy's play BLUE JEANS in 1959) and went on to HUD and others, before his untimely death in 1972 aged 30, see De Wilde label) - and Eva Marie Saint luminous as Echo.

Saint, 90 this year and still working, is one of those fascinating actresses who began in the '50s, along with Lee Remick and Joanne Woodward and the maturing Natalie Wood - there was Shirley McLaine too. Saint was already 30 by the time of her debut in ON THE WATERFRONT in 1954 (others, like Jean Simmons and Sophia Loren who began as teenagers had already clocked up a decade of stardom by that age...). She is in RAINTREE COUNTY and possibly the slinkiest Hitchcock blonde of all, as duplicitious Eve Kendall in NORTH BY NORTHWEST (above) in 1959, ideally paired with Cary Grant. She got on with Hitch very well, as she recounts in the documentary on its making which she hosted. Later roles included EXODUS, and back with Frankenheimer for GRAND PRIX in 1966, and 36 HOURS and LOVING in 1970. 
She is just perfect as Echo, a glamorous spinster finding love for the first, and last, time ... her scenes with Beatty and De Wilde are marvellous, Lansbury and Malden are note perfect too as the warring parents - particularly that Christmas when Ralph brings the 3 tramps home and Annabel craftily manoeuvres them out ... Annabel is the typical Inge over-bearing mother and led to Lansbury's monster mother in MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE, despite being just 3 years older than 'son' Laurence Harvey! 

ALL FALL DOWN may be seen from Client's point of view, but it is Eva Marie who is the still centre of the film with her perfect portrayal of Echo, the woman finding and losing love. It is another great 1962 female performance, in that great year for them (when Lee Remick lost for DAYS OF WINE AND ROSES in competition against Bancroft, Davis, Geraldine Page and Katharine Hepburn - Jeanne Moreau was not nominated either for her JULES ET JIM ... Looking at ALL FALL DOWN now it is still engrossing and fits in with those dramas of the '50s and '60s, and captures that era perfectly (like those other 1962 favourites THE CHAPMAN REPORT and ADVISE AND CONSENT, and it remains one of Eva Marie Saint's best roles. Beatty too is mesmerising here, like he was in LILITH and MICKEY ONE, before BONNIE AND CLYDE came calling ...

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