A botch job by Sam Goldwyn, who exercised his power as producer by changing directors—from Howard Hawks to William Wyler—halfway through the shooting. Some sources hold that Wyler shot only the last ten minutes, working from Hawks’s script; others claim that Wyler reshot much of Hawks’s work. But the first part of the film, the best, is unmistakably Hawks, as Edward Arnold and Walter Brennan (in an early part, his first Academy Award performance) fight for the hand of Frances Farmer, against the background of the north-woods logging country. The Edna Ferber story (like her Giant) then shifts generations, and the action loses much of its scale. Farmer remains a wonder, in one of her few fully realized parts as an early and lusty version of the Hawksian woman (1936).
Very fine Strangelovian fantasy that sank without a trace in 1979. Jeff Bridges, the scion of a very Kennedy-ish clan, sets out to investigate the assassination of his president brother, but becomes entangled in a web of darkly comic paranoia, spun by an endless parade of iconographically aggressive guest stars—John Huston, Anthony Perkins, Eli Wallach, Sterling Hayden, Dorothy Malone, Ralph Meeker, Richard Boone, Toshiro Mifune, Elizabeth Taylor. William Richert‘s visual style balances flamboyant comic-book colors and intelligent wide-screen framing, a strategy of restrained excess that keeps the picture continually on edge. The film is funny, but it’s frightening and vertiginous, too—a complex tone that apparently left audiences baffled.
A good example of the kind of soporific nonsense that won rave reviews and armloads of Academy Awards back in the 50s, while the finest work of Ford, Hawks, and Hitchcock was being ignored. George Stevens, a tireless moralizer and part-time embalmer of American myths (Shane), directed this melodramatic adaptation of Dreiser‘s An American Tragedy, and what does not seem facile in it seems overwrought. Curiously, this 1951 film now seems hopelessly dated, while Josef von Sternberg‘s 1931 treatment of the material, filmed under the original title, seems breathtakingly modern. With Montgomery Clift, Elizabeth Taylor, and Shelley Winters.