Thursday, November 24, 2011

The Breaking Point

Michael Curtiz, 1950, bw (8.7*)
Well after To Have and Have Not (1944), which was loosely based on the Ernest Hemingway novel and which introduced Bacall to Bogart, this remake from famed director Michael Curtiz (Casablanca) attempted to remain more faithful to the novel, and the author himself thought it was the finest cinema adaptation of any of his works. This was a much more serious and cynical treatment than the Hollywoodish original.

John Garfield is the small boat captain who’s not too particular about who hires out his boat, as he’s seeing some rough economic times, and he needs to make a boat payment pronto or it could e repossessed. He takes on a charter that definitely involves clandestine, illegal activity that may find him in over his head.

Patricia Neal turns in one of her best performances as the woman who drifts into his life from the other side of tracks (or other side of the harbor in this case), and her coy, self-assured demeanor seems more real than Lauren Bacall’s in the original (and I liked Neal even more), as if she’s honed this act on many men before now, and on a classier batch then Garfield. The two had an apathetic, jaded type of chemistry onscreen, which seems more likely given most Hemingway characters; Garfield treated her like a distraction, not an attraction.

The reason the film has been forgotten is that just before it’s release Garfield was called to testify before the HUAC in Congress, and the studio dropped support for the film and the actor like a hot potato, and Garfield’s career never really recovered, ending just two years later. Though Garfield is certainly no Bogart as an actor, in a way he’s even more of an average joe type of guy, so this is the perfect role for him.


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These are the individual film reviews of what I'm considering the best 1000 dvds available, whether they are films, miniseries, or live concerts. Rather than rush out all 1000 at once, I'm doing them over time to allow inclusion of new releases - in fact, 2008 has the most of any year so far, 30 titles in all; that was a very good year for films, one of the best ever.

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