Tag Archives: Jeffrey Hunter

Seven Miles of Bad Road (1963, Douglas Heyes)

Once you get past Jeffrey Hunter (at thirty-seven) playing a character about fifteen years younger–and some other significant bumps, Seven Miles of Bad Road isn’t entirely bad. It shouldn’t be entirely bad, even with those bumps, but it’s an episode of “The Chrysler Theatre,” shot on limited sets with limited imagination from director Heyes.

Heyes also wrote the teleplay, which tries real hard. Heyes is talking about big issues–he’s talking about men, women, post-war, youth, age, responsibility, regret. There’s subtext about race and class and all sorts of things. Heyes doesn’t know how to direct any of it. He doesn’t know how to direct his actors. Neville Brand–as Eleanor Parker’s abusive husband–is simultaneously good and bad in the part.

The overbearing Jerry Goldsmith music doesn’t help.

Parker and Hunter have their problems due to Heyes’s direction, but they’re effective. Parker’s got a couple fantastic scenes.

1/3Not Recommended

CREDITS

Written and directed by Douglas Heyes; “The Chrysler Theatre” executive produced by Roy Huggins; music by Jerry Goldsmith; produced by Richard Berg; aired by the National Broadcasting Company.

Starring Eleanor Parker (Fern Selman), Jeffrey Hunter (Gabe Flanders), Neville Brand (Sheriff Rufus Selman), James Anderson (Bert) and Bernie Hamilton (Joe).


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THIS FILM IS ALSO DISCUSSED IN SUM UP | ELEANOR PARKER, PART 3: BARONESS.

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The Searchers (1956, John Ford)

John Ford is never trying to be discreet with The Searchers, he’s just not willing to talk down to the audience. In the first ten minutes of the film, he and screenwriter Frank S. Nugent quickly establish John Wayne’s character and his relationship with his family. Ford, Nugent, Wayne and the rest of the cast make it clear–one has to wonder what kind of direction Ford gave the actors (Ward Bond in particular)–but there’s no such thing as expository dialogue in The Searchers.

There are a handful of moments where Wayne is talking to someone and he eschews the idea of going into exposition. The one time he does it–right at the end–is with co-star Jeffrey Hunter, whose character has needed some expository explanation the whole time. More than anything else, the film hinges on their relationship. The film positions Hunter and Wayne against one another while they search together for the same thing–kidnapped Natalie Wood. Their differing reasons, never fully explained, and how they collide with each other throughout the search drive the film.

Almost every relationship in the film is complex–Ford gets magnificent performances out of the cast–just because Wayne’s character is so intentionally out of place amongst the settlers. Meanwhile, Hunter goes through a big, quiet character arc. He has some great courtship scenes with Vera Miles, who’s sort of the unspoken third lead.

Beautiful direction, photography from Winton C. Hoch, editing from Jack Murray.

The Searchers is remarkable.

4/4★★★★

CREDITS

Directed by John Ford; screenplay by Frank S. Nugent, based on the novel by Alan Le May; director of photography, Winton C. Hoch; edited by Jack Murray; music by Max Steiner; released by Warner Bros.

Starring John Wayne (Ethan Edwards), Jeffrey Hunter (Martin Pawley), Vera Miles (Laurie Jorgensen), Ward Bond (Rev. Capt. Samuel Johnston Clayton), Natalie Wood (Debbie Edwards), John Qualen (Lars Jorgensen), Olive Carey (Mrs. Jorgensen), Henry Brandon (Scar), Ken Curtis (Charlie McCorry), Harry Carey Jr. (Brad Jorgensen), Antonio Moreno (Emilio Gabriel Fernandez y Figueroa), Hank Worden (Mose Harper), Beulah Archuletta (Look), Walter Coy (Aaron Edwards), Pippa Scott (Lucy Edwards) and Dorothy Jordan (Martha Edwards).


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The Last Hurrah (1958, John Ford)

While the title refers to politics, The Last Hurrah also, unfortunately in some cases, provided to be the last hurrah of a number of fine actors as well. It’s a fitting–I can’t remember the word. It isn’t eulogy and tribute seems intentional. I don’t know if Ford knew he was making the last film like The Last Hurrah, and there are a number of films like it. Watching it, the mood, the politics, and James Gleason reminded a lot of Meet John Doe. Jane Darwell, for some odd reason since she wasn’t in it, reminded me of The Informer. The Last Hurrah is very much the last film in style–and not the exact style, Ford was a fluid filmmaker–Ford pioneered in the 1930s. While Touch of Evil is, I suppose, a later stylistic descendent, The Last Hurrah‘s the last in the storytelling vein.

Ford’s direction here, his composition, his camera movements, are all very assured, very confident, but also very sentimental. He ties the composition to the story content, letting the frame express what sometimes Spencer Tracy cannot verbalize. I meant to start with Tracy, then I thought I’d save him, but now’s as good of time as any. Tracy’s performance, down the way his nose moves when he breathes, is perfect, so perfect it’s hard to remember he’s Spencer Tracy and was probably in a hundred movies. He’s nothing like any of them. He and Ford, whether by design or accident, create something amazing–Ford for constructing the framed arena capable of supporting Tracy’s performance–but also needing nothing less–and Tracy for filling this field.

The other performances, starting with Jeffrey Hunter, are excellent. Hunter’s great as the film’s emotional reference. He’s new to it, so is the viewer. The rest of the characters have all been around a while; Hunter doesn’t lead the story or even provide an access point, he just shows on screen what the viewer is experiencing. Frank S. Nugent’s script’s something fantastic, but in the story it tells, and the way it tells it. Everyone’s good so it doesn’t make sense just to list them all, but Basil Rathbone’s great as a villain, Carleton Young as Tracy’s assistant, Dianne Foster as Hunter’s wife and Edward Brophy. Brophy’s role’s hard to describe and what he does for the film. Pat O’Brien too, in maybe the least flashy of the film’s roles for good actors.

The way Ford finishes it. Coda. Is coda the word I’m looking for? Maybe The Last Hurrah is coda for certain kind of film, the adult drama of the 1930s and 1940s. Anyway, Ford’s last shot in the film. The pace, the sound, the shadows. It gets blood from a stone. It reveals a deeper capacity for feeling. It’s his best close.

4/4★★★★

CREDITS

Produced and directed by John Ford; written by Frank S. Nugent, based on the novel by Edwin O’Connor; director of photography, Charles Lawton Jr.; edited by Jack Murray; production designer, Robert Peterson; released by Columbia Pictures.

Starring Spencer Tracy (Mayor Frank Skeffington), Jeffrey Hunter (Adam Caulfield), Dianne Foster (Mave Caulfield), Pat O’Brien (John Gorman), Basil Rathbone (Norman Cass Sr.), Donald Crisp (Cardinal Martin Burke), James Gleason (‘Cuke’ Gillen), Edward Brophy (‘Ditto’ Boland), John Carradine (Amos Force), Willis Bouchey (Roger Sugrue), Basil Ruysdael (Bishop Gardner), Ricardo Cortez (Sam Weinberg), Wallace Ford (Charles J. Hennessey), Frank McHugh (Festus Garvey), Carleton Young (Winslow), Frank Albertson (Jack Mangan), Bob Sweeney (Johnny Degnan), Edmund Lowe (Johnny Byrne), William Leslie (Dan Herlihy), Anna Lee (Gert Minihan), Ken Curtis (Monsignor Killian), Jane Darwell (Delia Boylan), O.Z. Whitehead (Norman Cass Jr.) and Arthur Walsh (Frank Skeffington Jr.).


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