Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, September 17, 2009


WILD RIVER (1960). Director: Elia Kazan.

Chuck Glover (Montgomery Clift), a representative of the Tennessee Valley Authority, tries to persuade an elderly woman, Ella Garth (Jo Van Fleet), that she must leave her home before the whole area is flooded to make a damn for electric power as well as to tame a river that has taken many lives. [A very affecting prologue presents what appears to be actual newsreel footage of a heart-broken man telling how most of his family was swept away by flood waters.] But Ella is very eloquent about what the land means to her, and why she is adamant about dying in her home. In the meantime Glover begins a romance with the old lady's grand-daughter, Carol (Lee Remick) and has to deal with racists who object to his hiring black workers and paying them a decent wage. This is another interesting social drama by Elia Kazan, imperfect and not always riveting, but bolstered by fine acting and photography. The secondary love story between Chuck and Carol isn't that compelling, even though Remick gives a lovely performance and Clift, as ever, is solid. Van Fleet, who was actually only 46 when the film came out, is simply superb as Ella Garth, and as others have noted, it's a shame that she wasn't even nominated for an Oscar.

Verdict: Worth viewing for an outstanding Van Fleet. ***.

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