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, 12 June 2017

America, America, 1963

Having covered those American dramas we like recently, see below, here is one that slipped through the net, so it seems appropriate to finally see it now. Elia Kazan's AMERICA, AMERICA (also known as THE ANATOLIAN SMILE), filmed in 1963 - after his successes WILD RIVER and SPLENDOR IN THE GRASS, this though is a small, black and white drama, which seems to not have made much impact at the time. It it the story of Kazan's uncle who left Anatolia in Turkey and was determined to make his way to America and it covers all the pitfalls he met along the way ...

Elia Kazan, ethnic Greek but Turkish by birth, tells the story of the struggles of his uncle - in this account named Stavros Topouzoglou - in emigrating to America. In the 1890's, the young, kind-hearted but naive Stavros lived in Anatolia, where the Greek and Armenian minorities were repressed by the majority Turks, this repression which often led to violence. Even Stavros being friends with an Armenian was frowned upon. As such, Stavros dreamed of a better life - specifically in America - where, as a result, he could make his parents proud by his grand accomplishments. Instead, his parents, with most of their money, sent Stavros to Constantinople to help fund the carpet shop owned by his first cousin once removed. What Stavros encountered on his journey, made on foot with a small donkey, made him question life in Anatolia even further. Once in Constantinople, his resolve to earn the 110 Turkish pound third class fare to the United States became stronger than ever.

The 1950s of course was Kazan's prime time, and he continued well into the 1960s but but that kind of overwrought drama was going out of style by then .... his THE ARRANGEMENT in 1969 was more of the same (where the now older uncle character is played by Richard Boone) and it did not really work then.  

The film is fascinating in lots of ways and the lead, Stathis Giallelis, while no new Brando or Dean or Beatty, acquits himself well (In his 70s now, he was recently a guest at the annual TCM movie season in New York). I imagine first or second generation Americans would relate to it more than us Europeans. Some comments on IMDB refer to it as a lost American masterpiece, on a par with THE GODFATHER .... well, that may be a bit extreme, but its certainly worth seeking out and is finally on dvd, it barely got released here in England at the time, I was 18 then and desperately trying to see it. 

2 comments:

  1. Not much impact? It had four Oscar noms, including Best Picture!

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    1. Even so, it barely played here in England after an initial short first run, I remember it well, as I was new in London aged 18 then, in April 1964 - our "Films and Filming" magazine ran a spread on it and on Kazan, but the film was nowhere to be seen ...

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