Tag Archives: Russ Tamblyn

Peyton Place (1957, Mark Robson)

Peyton Place takes over a year and a half starting in 1941. Director Robson has a really slick way of getting the date into the ground situation. Robson and cinematographer William C. Mellor go a little wild with Peyton Place–there’s a lot of location shooting and Robson tries hard to make the viewer feel enveloped. The film’s a soap opera, not requiring the viewer to situate themselves inside the story, but Robson invites it. The film’s a technical delight; Robson’s proud of its quality.

But the encompassing isn’t required because Peyton Place is a sensational soap opera. From the opening narration, the film declares itself sensational. The film starts with Diane Varsi’s narration then goes to Lee Philips arriving in town. Eventually, after being high school senior Farsi’s new principal, Philips will also romance her mother, played by Lana Turner. Most, if not all, of the drama has something to do with Varsi and Turner’s home or Varsi’s school or Turner’s business. And if it doesn’t have to do with them, then it’s war-related. Varsi starts Peyton Place its protagonist, with Turner sort of waiting in the wings to have her own big story. There’s all sorts of potential juxtaposition and alter ego and it ought to be great.

Only, by the end of the movie, Varsi and Turner are complete strangers to the viewer and each other. The film jumps ship from Varsi’s story two-thirds of the way in and she still narrates, but she’s not part of the action. And when she does return, she doesn’t get to make up any of that time. The film doesn’t even commit to her having an actual love interest in Russ Tamblyn’s troubled teenage boy. It’s a shame because Varsi and Tamblyn are great together, while she and Turner aren’t. Their scenes just aren’t particularly good.

Actually, Peyton Place doesn’t really have anything to do with Lana Turner. Her romance is entirely Philips pursuing her, usually at just the right moment to set off an argument with Varsi. Turner gets through it, but her only pay-off scene is a courtroom breakdown. It’d be more significant if it wasn’t followed by a superior courtroom breakdown, which is setoff in the narrative by Turner’s. So, lots of problems. Luckily the film’s beautifully produced and well-acted (even if in undercooked roles). Robson and screenwriter John Michael Hayes had to clean up the source novel for the censors, which Robson utilizes to give some of his actors more room. They use it well.

Except Philips. Philips is physically fine for the part, but he’s just a bit tepid. He’s supposed to be a sexy progressive dude who cares about education and sex ed and he’s never convincing. He just mopes around Turner until she gives in.

Varsi’s pretty good. She’s got a lot to do in the first half of the movie, it’s all her show. The scenes with Tamblyn are best because it’s her storyline more than anything else in the film. Tamblyn’s just her sweet male friend. His own backstory only exists when Varsi’s around. The film’s failure with it is another of the frustrations.

Anyway, pretty soon Varsi’s just around to support Hope Lange’s story–which is the center of the film as it turns out–or something with Turner, which always affects the high school and that subplot. Hayes’s script is masterful, no doubt, but it’s a masterful soap opera. He’s going for sensationalism, not the characters. Robson’s going for the characters and the visual grandeur of it. While the two approaches end up complimenting each other, there’s only so far Robson could take it.

Lange’s amazing. Sometimes she’s second fiddle in her own scenes, but Robson always makes sure to give her time to act. Seeing Lange’s experience through her expressions is what gives Peyton Place its heart. Robson helps, sure, but he knows Lange’s got to handle a lot of weight and figures out the best way to distribute it.

Also excellent is Arthur Kennedy, who has a similar relationship with the film as Lange.

Tamblyn’s good. Lloyd Nolan’s great as the town doctor who also serves as a guide through the film. Leon Ames is awesome as the mean local rich guy. Lorne Greene is the nasty prosecuting attorney in the third act. I’m not sure he’s good but he’s definitely loathsome, though the courtroom finale isn’t set up well in the narrative. Hayes does fine once he gets into the trial, but its inciting incident is a complete fumble.

Because Peyton Place isn’t a great movie. It’s got a lot of problems. It might even get long in parts, which isn’t a good thing–if you’re going to run two and a half hours, you can’t feel long. But it is a good movie, with some great filmmaking and some great performances. And Franz Waxman’s music is gorgeous.



Directed by Mark Robson; screenplay by John Michael Hayes, based on the novel by Grace Metalious; director of photography, William C. Mellor; edited by David Bretherton; music by Franz Waxman; produced by Jerry Wald; released by 20th Century Fox.

Starring Lana Turner (Constance MacKenzie), Diane Varsi (Allison MacKenzie), Hope Lange (Selena Cross), Lee Philips (Michael Rossi), Lloyd Nolan (Dr. Swain), Arthur Kennedy (Lucas Cross), Russ Tamblyn (Norman Page), Leon Ames (Mr. Harrington), Terry Moore (Betty Anderson), David Nelson (Ted Carter), Barry Coe (Rodney Harrington), Betty Field (Nellie Cross), Mildred Dunnock (Miss Elsie Thornton), Lorne Greene (Prosecutor), and Scotty Morrow (Joseph Cross).



Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954, Stanley Donen)

Seven Brides for Seven Brothers is a lot of fun. The songs are always pretty good, with some standouts and the dance numbers are fantastic (ditto the choreographed fight sequences–director Donen and cinematographer George J. Folsey shoot it all beautifully), and the cast is likable. But there’s not much ambition for the film.

Based on the opening titles–not to mention the first act–one might think the whole thing is going to revolve around the relationship between Howard Keel and Jane Powell. They’re newlyweds. After a fifteen to twenty minute courtship, she’s in love, he’s found the maid for himself and his six brothers. Turns out more than a maid, the brothers need a big sister, which leaves Keel without much to do. The film literally exiles him after a point, just because there’s nothing for him to do in the main action.

Because, as it turns out, the main action ends up being the six brothers kidnapping their six crushes and holding them hostage in their rustic, isolated Oregon farm for a winter.

The first half of the film is heavier with the musical numbers, but also with building up the cast’s likability. Keel, for instance, is at his most likable for the first five or ten minutes. Then, when he’s being a heel (no pun), Donen makes sure the film concentrates on the Brothers, who are always affable.

At least after Powell starts cleaning them up.

Russ Tamblyn’s good. Powell’s good. The rest of the brothers are all fine. Their romantic interests barely make an impression (as their big dance number is in long shot to show off the choreography).

Seven Brides for Seven Brothers isn’t deep. But it is expertly produced and, like I said, a lot of fun.



Directed by Stanley Donen; screenplay by Albert Hackett, Francis Goodrich and Dorothy Kingsley, based on a story by Stephen Vincent Benet; director of photography, George J. Fosley; edited by Ralph E. Winters; music by Gene de Paul; produced by Jack Cummings; released by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

Starring Howard Keel (Adam), Jane Powell (Milly), Jeff Richards (Benjamin), Russ Tamblyn (Gideon), Tommy Rall (Frank), Marc Platt (Daniel), Matt Mattox (Caleb), Jacques d’Amboise (Ephraim), Julie Newmar (Dorcas), Nancy Kilgas (Alice), Betty Carr (Sarah), Virginia Gibson (Liza), Ruta Lee (Ruth), Norma Doggett (Martha) and Ian Wolfe (Rev. Elcott).


Father of the Bride (1950, Vincente Minnelli)

Father of the Bride is such a constant delight, it’s practically over before its problems become clear. First off, it’s definitely about the titular Father–a wonderful Spencer Tracy–who not only narrates but is in almost every scene. The wedding reception, when he’s chasing around daughter Elizabeth Taylor to say goodbye, is about the only time he’s not running a scene.

The reception is also where the problems show. Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett write a great script, no question, but their situational comedy is so strong… things get lost. Joan Bennett, as Tracy’s wife and Taylor’s mother, gets shortchanged in the second half. She’s around, she has some good scenes, but nothing compared to her first half ones.

There are also a number of plot threads left unresolved or forgotten or just plain dismissed. Goodrich, Hackett and director Minnelli go for the best laugh they can get out of a scene. Some of these laughs do have narrative consequences and no one seems to have much interest in acknowledging them. It’s too bad.

But Bride’s problems don’t hurt the film’s ability to entertain. Tracy and Bennett are great–he’s so energetic, it’s very impressive she can hold her own. Goodrich and Hackett’s masterful script actively works his narration into scenes.

Taylor’s very likable as the daughter, though she doesn’t have a lot to do. Leo G. Carroll has a great part too.

Minnelli does well too. The settings are confined, but he never lets Bride get claustrophobic.



Directed by Vincente Minnelli; screenplay by Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett, based on the novel by Edward Streeter; director of photography, John Alton; edited by Ferris Wheeler; music by Adolph Deutsch; produced by Pandro S. Berman; released by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

Starring Spencer Tracy (Stanley T. Banks), Joan Bennett (Ellie Banks), Elizabeth Taylor (Kay Banks), Don Taylor (Buckley Dunstan), Billie Burke (Doris Dunstan), Leo G. Carroll (Mr. Massoula), Moroni Olsen (Herbert Dunstan), Melville Cooper (Mr. Tringle), Taylor Holmes (Warner), Paul Harvey (Rev. A.I. Galsworthy), Frank Orth (Joe), Russ Tamblyn (Tommy Banks), Tom Irish (Ben Banks) and Marietta Canty (Delilah).

Captain Carey, U.S.A. (1950, Mitchell Leisen)

Either Alan Ladd was in a bunch of makeup or he’d just had his eyes done because the way his eyebrows don’t move is disturbing. There are a few scenes where Liesen, presumably in an attempt to keep down the expository dialogue, has Ladd try to communicate with his eyes. They fail.

Those scenes, and a couple others with some particularly bad dialogue, are Ladd’s only bad moments in the film. Otherwise, he navigates through Captain Carey, U.S.A. rather well. The film is a mystery set post-World War II. Ladd’s back in Italy to discover who betrayed the O.S.S. during the war. It’s predictable (though there are a couple good red herrings) but the film gets about a third through before that predictability hurts it.

Liesen has some good moments–one big surprise–and he’s got a great cast for the most part. Unfortunately, the two principal supporting actors–Wanda Hendrix and Francis Lederer–are bad. Until the third act, the great performances from Joseph Calleia, Luis Alberni and Frank Puglia can overshadow. Eventually, they cannot.

Ladd manages to get through for the most part (watching him opposite Hendrix is particularly bad, since he’s holding up the scene himself and he can’t really use his eyebrows).

The film’s shot on a backlot with rear projection for Italy. Most of those shots are very successful. There are some impressive acrobatics around the street set from Ladd and Russ Tamblyn (whose lines are all in Italian).

It’s diverting but not distinctive.



Directed by Mitchell Leisen; screenplay by Robert Thoeren, based on the novel by Martha Albrand; director of photography, John F. Seitz; edited by Alma Macrorie; music by Hugo Friedhofer; produced by Richard Maibaum; released by Paramount Pictures.

Starring Alan Ladd (Captain Webster Carey), Wanda Hendrix (Baronessa Giulia de Graffi), Francis Lederer (Barone Rocco de Graffi), Joseph Calleia (Dr. Lunati), Celia Lovsky (Countess Francesca de Cresci), Richard Avonde (Count Carlo de Cresci), Frank Puglia (Luigi), Luis Alberni (Sandro), Angela Clarke (Serafina), Roland Winters (Manfredo Acuto), Paul Lees (Frank), Jane Nigh (Nancy), Russ Tamblyn (Pietro ), Virginia Farmer (Angelina) and David Leonard (Blind Musician).