Tag Archive | celebrities

StarChoice 13: SADDLE THE WIND

 (Aka:“Lo sperone insanguinato”, “Más rápido que el viento”, “Libre comme le vent”, “Vom Teufel gerittenColour – 1958)

Freddie Mercury, the lead lyricist and vocalist of Queen once said, “When I’m dead, I want to be remembered as a musician of some worth and substance.” Today, October 18, I remember Hollywood actress Julie London, who took to heavenly abode in 2000 and rests in peace at Forest Lawn, Hollywood Hills, Los Angeles, California, I think of her not only as a beautiful actress but also as the girl with the “come hither” voice who was voted one of the top female vocalists of Billboards in 1955, 1956, and 1957.

Born on Sept 26, 1926 in Santa Clara, California, the gorgeous Julie (aka. Julie Peck) with flaxen hair and eyes as blue as the South Sea Lagoons, was discovered by talent agent Sue Carol, wife of actor Alan Ladd. She made her first appearance in Nabonga (1944) and would go on to capture the attention of movie audience with a career that spanned about 35 years starring in movies and TV series such as “The Return of the Frontierman”, “Voice in the Mirror”, “Man of the West”, “Emergency!” . Always radiating charm and friendliness, Julie was once married to TV executive Jack (Dragnet) Webb and later to composer/Jazz musician/actor Bobby Troup and had led an unscandalous life raising five children (Stacy, Lisa, Kelly, Jody and Reese) from both marriages.

When we think of great ballads and love songs by some of the finest singers of the 50s and 60s, the “Liberty Girl” Julie, with her husky, intimate and sexy voice, stands up to the likes of Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra, Peggy Lee, June Christy, etc, with songs such as “Cry Me A River”, “In The Middle of A Kiss”, “I’ll Remember April”, “My Heart Belongs To Daddy”, “Can’t Help Loving That Man”,… all those wonderful songs which came one after the other. Those songs with the musical accompaniment of Barney Kessel (guitar) and Ray Leatherwood (bass) exemplified the intimacy and warmth of Julie’s voice and style, appealing to a legion of music lovers, though she never felt her sensual voice special and always endeavored to demote her talent and professionalism.

Sometimes I’d like to saddle the wind

And ride to where you are.
We may meet in a valley or on a green hill.
Will I be yours? You know I will!…

In particular, many would remember those lyrics (written by Jay Livingston with his chief musical collaborator Ray Evens) as the title song of a western movie called “Saddle the Wind” which Julie sang, to the melody of Elmer Bernstein, the movie in which she performed as the saloon singer Joan Blake, although she is not given credit for that song in the movie.

A Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer production, directed by Robert Parrish (John Sturges who is said to have directed segments of the film is uncredited), “Saddle the Wind” is a western melodrama based on a screen story written by Thomas Thompson and adapted by Rod Serling (Novelist and Academy Award Screenwriter Daniel Fuchs’ (“Love Me or Leave Me”) contribution is uncredited).

 

Synopsis: A lush, picturesque western valley in the Colorado rockies (presented by cinematographer George J. Folsey in CinemaScope and Metrocolor) was shared by the Sinclairs of Double S Ranch and another cattle ranch owner Dennis Deneen, the undisputed law in that valley. Healthy and handsome Steve Sinclair is a man of rectitude and stability. He had retired from the life of a ruthless gunslinger and had returned to the valley to settle down and lead a peaceful life on his ranch. Steve’s younger brother Tony, a charming but restless hot-blood believed he’s the fastest draw in the town which inevitably sets off a series of tensions for Steve. Hopeful that he could lift his kid brother above the low height of the waist holster of his gun, a low height for a man, Steve had tried to “bend that kid”. But despite his efforts to make the young extrovert soft, Tony was not cut that way – and would not accept anyone’s definition of his life. He would rather define his life.

 

One marked thing in Tony was that he adored his elder brother Steve, whom he considered numero uno, who had been his father and mother since the age of four. But that doesn’t mean Tony would be a kid brother much longer, rather a full-partner with a thirst for gun play – to make a name for himself. Things get trigger-happy complicated when gunfighter Larry Venables comes to the quiet community of ranchers seeking Steve, the killer of his brother. Although Tony knew about Steve’s gunslinger days, he doesn’t believe that Steve is still a faster draw in protecting himself. As for Tony himself, he is of age and no one will bully him into silence.

 

On the home front a problem had started to brew when Tony returned after selling their herd at the market in Jewelton, with beautiful Joan whom he wished to marry. He had also brought a six-shooter which Steve didn’t approve of. It would soon dawn on Joan that Tony is not the kind of man she hoped to marry and start a new life with. A further problem presented itself when Yankee squatters Clay Ellison and family, popped up in the valley, and asserted their right on a strip of land, pitting Tony against them to tragic consequences.

Keeping the film in the traditional pitch of the genre, director Robert Parrish had elected to illustrate the psychological aspects of the characters through visual communication, though Rod Serling’s colourful and exciting script revolved around a good measure of derisive and thoughtful dialogue. With seldom a dull moment to blur the sparkle, Parrish’s conscientious direction also brings out moments of inspiration by his ease and panache in handling both action and characterization ably assisted by assistant directors, Robert (Bob) Saunders & Mickey McCardle (uncredited).

Parrish (Bob Parris) who had won an Academy Award for film editing for Robert Rossen’s “Body and Soul” (1947), was known as a “nice gentleman” and never rose to the “front ranks” in Hollywood. A lover of big Macaws he kept with his wife Kathie, Parrish had directed “Fire Down Below” (1957) starring Rita Hayworth and Robert Mitchum, and would helm the direction of another western titled “The Wonderful Country” (1959) pairing Julie London with Robert Mitchum. In between those movies, he directed “Saddle the Wind” with “good two shoes” Robert Taylor and young dynamic John Cassavetes.

The performance of Robert Taylor gives the essential ruggedness to the role of Steve who, despite intense provocation, refused to revert to his past life of violence. The reason Robert Taylor came into “Saddle the Wind” has something to do with the state of M-G-M at that time. Trouble had started for M-G-M with the enactment of the government antitrust law allowing the cinemas to show any film they liked, unlike the earlier law which allowed them to show only material produced by their sponsoring studio. This change also altered the way films were produced, distributed and exhibited. As the studio system failed and the number of audience reduced, Hollywood’s output had naturally dwindled. Meanwhile a change took place in the preference of the audience when the popularity of television reached for them through cheaper imitations. The studio’s attempt to recover their position with smart moves such as releasing movies to television companies, or making sci-fi movies to cater to the increased number of teenage audience, did not bring a satisfactory profit and the studio was heading towards their first ever loss they will suffer in 1957, the year Louis B. Mayer, the legendary force behind M-G-M, would die.

Determined as ever to get back into the top position and save themselves from the path towards the loss, they wisely turned to their brightest stars, created by the star-makers of M-G-M who lauded their motto “….more stars than there are in heaven” (MGM publicity slogan coined by Howard Dietz). Like all major Hollywood studios, M-G-M was juggling around their contract performers, directors, writers and other technicians in different productions. They decided to use their leading stars more effectively to pull in the crowds.

By the early 1956, there were only few stars on long-term contracts with M-G-M: Robert Taylor, Leslie Caron, Elizabeth Taylor, Ava Gardner, Grace Kelly, Debbie Reynolds and Cyd Charisse of which Grace Patricia Kelly was getting ready to quit to prepare for her marriage to Prince Rainier III of Monaco, an event that would be called “the Wedding of the Century”. It was at this juncture that M-G-M decided to cast Robert Taylor, the most romantic reigning star of Metro whom Louis B. Mayer once told “the son he had always wanted”, as the leading man in “Saddle the Wind”, a decision that would prove right as the movie would become a box-office sensation. Ever subservient to Mayer who guided him for 17 years, Taylor never refused to star in a picture his father figure Mayer personally asked him to do.

Robert Taylor (1911-1969) (aka. Spangler Arlington Brugh) was a “punk kid” (according to Taylor himself) from Filley, Nebraska. When he joined with M-G-M and signed for a seven-year contract, he was the lowest-paid actor in the history of Hollywood with $35/- a week. Though he had acted in some memorable roles, it is “Magnificent Obsession” that would make him a prolific leading man. As he had turned to middle-age, Taylor’s boyish looks had turned sulkily handsome, sending aching shivers through the hearts of female viewers while his gay audience found his pretty boy looks fascinating.

Married to actress Barbara Stanwyck and later to Hamburg born German actress Ursula Theiss, he went through a string of romantic liaisons including actress Eleanor Parker but not as notorious as Frank Sinatra about whom his contemporary Dean Martin once remarked: “When Sinatra dies, they’re giving his zipper to the Smithsonian*.

In an era where all leading stars like Cary Grant, Tyrone Power and Robert Taylor had black hair, shining with brilliantine, many believed that it would be the durable and hardworking Taylor who would shoulder the mantle of Valentino but that honour would fall on Tyrone Power who would have a more meteoric streak of success than Taylor.

No sooner than Taylor finished Richard Thorpe’s “Tip on a Dead Jockey”, he (together with his wife Ursula Theiss) went to film location at Rosita (little rose in Spanish), a silver mining town founded in late 1872 (now a ghost town) in Custer County in Colorado, where “Saddle the Wind” will be shot through July 1957.

 

Julie London, looking younger than springtime, had arrived at the Colorado location with her daughter Stacy and fiancée Bobby Troup while the media was abuzz with speculation with the question if Julie really will be Troup’s altar candidate.

 

New York based method actor John Cassavetes (1929-89) who later became an experienced director, looks a bit odd in the western settings. Given that Taylor’s and Cassavetes’ acting styles provide an interesting contrast to the film, Cassavetes bequeath a human touch to the interesting role of Tony Sinclair who, despite his reckless ways, is still cared for by Steve.

 

British screen actor Donald Crisp (1880-1974) who performed in the role of Dennis Deneen, the undisputed law in the valley, had been working in Hollywood from 1906 with D.W. Griffith and had directed some silent movies, before he decided on acting from 1930 onwards. RKO stock player “hellraiser” Charles McGraw, as Larry Venables, is aptly menacing as the gunslinger out to kill Steve but meets his fate from the bullet from Tony’s gun. Other supporting actors with the familiar faces are:  Royal Dano, Richard Erdman, Douglas Spencer, Ray Teal, etc. All of the cast in the main roles, including those in main supporting roles, have provided commendable performances.

The film is produced by Armand Deutsch and others in the credits are: Film Editing: John McSweeney Jr.; Art Direction: William A. Horning & Malcolm Brown; Set Decoration: Henry Grace & Otto Siegal; Makeup: William Tuttle; Hair stylist: Sydney Guilaroff; Costumes: Helen Rose (for Julie London) and Stunts: Henry Wills & Jack N. Young.

The score for “Saddle the Wind” was originally provided by M-G-M’s staff composer/arranger Jeff Alexander (Jailhouse Rock). This score was not used when M-G-M subsequently subjected the movie to a number of post-production pickup shots and recuts and as a result, Elmer Bernstein’s (1922-2004) superior score was used for the movie. Bernstein had experimented in several genres such as: jazz (The Man with a Golden Arm), comedies (Airplane!), epics (The Ten Commandments), action (The Great Escape) and westerns, of which his score for “The Magnificent Seven” in 1960 would earn him his first “Western Heritage Award”. He would also receive several Academy Award Nominations for Best Original Score during his life time.

 

Even though the final climax set in the high country could have been improved, all the same, “Saddle the Wind” is an intelligent, well-written and well-acted movie that will keep your ears chasing the dialogue and keep you fervently involved in the colourfully portrayed story content, ensuring the movie’s status as a worthwhile western entry of the 50s. Undeniably, this fatalistic oater is very much a picture of Robert Taylor and John Cassevetes since Julie London’s part, being auxiliary, is underdeveloped. Nevertheless, it offers a good opportunity to reminisce Julie in her youthful beauty and husky voice when she sings that song two times in different styles.

Dearest one,my place in the sun
Is by your side, I know;
So if I could I’d saddle the wind.
Some starry night I’ll saddle the wind,
And straight to your arms I’ll go!…

 

There is something in that voice so sweet, the words so tender that it clings to us long after the DVD (available now with major dealers) is removed from the player….. like a memory of past happiness. And remembrance is, after all, what “Manningtree Archive” is all about. Ciao, Jo

   

(*Read: ”The Fieldson Guide to American History for Cynical Beginners: Impractical Lessons for Everyday Life” by Jim Cullen – Page: 132)

 

(Text: © JS/Manningtree Archive)

StarChoice 12: The Wrath of God

(Aka: La ira de DiosZum Teufel mit Hosianna – La collera di Dio – La colère de DieuColour – 1972)

A woman’s dress should be like a barbed wire fence: serving its purpose without obstructing the view”. That is a quote attributed to Italian actress Sophia Loren. Anyhow, that citation does not categorically affect the Hollywood sex symbols of the Forties: Hedy Lamarr, Lana Turner, Betty Grable, Jane Russell, Gloria Grahame, Ava Gardner and Rita Hayworth. These exotic women were personification of beauty of that era and did not need nudity to further their glamour. However, by the mid-Fifties, theywere challenged by tough competition from another set of actresses who, though active and having a mind of their own, flaunted the “lady” look – a combination of beauty with breeding, elegance and a tinge of Hauteur. It was a challenge Hayworth took head on.

Rita Hayworth (born Margarita Carmen Cansino) was groomed by her first husband Edward C. Judson (1937-42). He willfully made her lose weight, change the colour of hair and presented her to Harry Cohn, the head of Columbia Studios. I have read in the autobiography of Debbie Reynolds, about how Cohn told aspiring actress Joan Perry who was signed to Columbia during the same time as Hayworth, that he is going to make Joan his wife and Hayworth a star.  Once a replacement for actress Dolores Del Rio, and often cast in tempestuous roles, Cohn’s intense promotions would broaden Hayworth’s horizon and uplift her to superstardom earning her the sensual label: Love Goddess.

Remember, remember, Rita Hayworth “hot babying” in Charles Vidor’s film noir “Gilda” (1946), while singing the sizzling “Put the Blame On Mame”(originally sung by Anita Ellis)? After her enormous success in the role of the ultimate femme fatale, she had commented “Every man I knew had fallen in love with Gilda and wakened with me”. From the popularity of “The Lady from Shanghai” (1947) made by her then husband Orson Welles (1943-48), she would be eventually idolized as Hollywood’s first Royal Princess when she married Prince Aly Khan (1949-53). She was simple, unsophisticated, coupled with an intense desire to please others. Then again, she would become notorious for her romantic relationships with the likes of Victor Mature, Gary Merrill, Anthony Quinn, David Niven, Howard Hughes, Porfirio Rubirosa…. Before long her life was riddled with personal problems, encouraging her to hit the bottle and propelled her sliding down the slippery path into the gray twilight of downfall. This was further instigated by Alzheimer’s disease, symptoms of which had surfaced in early 1970 but was not diagnosed until 1980.

 

Hayworth had finished acting in director William Grefe’s “The Naked Zoo” (1971) when her friend actor Robert Mitchum, with whom she had co-starred in “Fire Down Below” (1957), well aware of the pathetic condition of a star that once immortalized beauty and sensuality, suggested that Hayworth be cast in “The Wrath of God”. Though Mitchum was not aware of her undiagnosed sickness, director Ralph Nelson (1916-1987) wouldn’t have minded having the presence of “Rita Hayworth” to top up the appeal of his movie. Seeing that her house behind Beverly Hills hotel was rented out due to financial difficulties, Nelson had to locate her in a low-cost rented Brentwood home where the discussion of the movie script was held with her in the dark of the room. However, none of this would deter him from casting her in the movie.

Ralph (Leo) Nelson (“Requiem for a Heavyweight” (1962), “Lilies of the Field” (1963)) had a history of conceding to special factors for the betterment of his movies. Actress Candice Bergen’s memoirs touch upon an incident related to the pre-production of “Soldier Blue” (1970) directed by Nelson. In order to retain Bergen in the role of the strong-willed, busty and lusty Cresta (according to the script), Nelson had sought the help of make-up men to make flesh-coloured rubber breasts to glue onto Bergen’s bosom so that she could measure up to the physique of busty actresses like Jane Russell and Jayne Mansfield. Fortunately, in the last moment she was saved from frontal nudity due to modifications of the script.

While Nelson set about putting together the cast and crew for his movie, Mexican locations were considered appropriate allowing for the generous budget and the theme of the story that revolved around a Revolution. Mexico was not unfamiliar to Hayworth. At the age of fourteen she had gone there with her family to surmount the liquor law that prevented underage girls like her from employment in American nightclubs. Similarly, Nelson was also familiar with Mexico for having shot location scenes for “Soldier Blue” in which he was also a supporting actor. As for Robert Mitchum, it was not only one of his favourite locations for many films, but also a place where he used to take off with his friends for days of drinks and fun.

Co-produced by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer with Cineman Films, Ltd and Rainbow Productions, Inc, “The Wrath of God” is based upon the novel by James Graham(pseudonym of prolific British novelist Harry Patterson who also wrote as Jack Higgins and Hugh Marlowe). It was written for the screen by Nelson.

As the story goes: The Mexican Revolution literally came to an end in 1920 when the one-armed revolutionary general Álvaro Obregón Salido was elected the president of Mexico, the first stable presidency since the beginning of the Revolution in 1910. However, Mexico would suffer another decade of violence and the story of “The Wrath of God” is set during November, 1922.

The movie opens in a Mexican town where executions of three counter-revolutionaries by the firing squad were taking place in the courtyard of the military barracks, while the townsfolk joyously celebrated the “Day of the Dead” (Día de los Muertos). Emmet Keogh, an Irish vagabond, impatiently waited before Hotel Casa Grande for the proceedings to finish. As the bodies were being cleared, he rushed over to the ticket counter in the railway station to book a ticket to anywhere there is peace. A toss from his coin settled the destination he would take  – up North!

 

Moments later, joyous for having obtained the ticket out of this hellhole, Keogh danced merrily down the cobblestoned streets with a fairy-tale charm. Meanwhile, melodious Latin American music played as accompaniment to the credits of the movie that flashed one after the other onscreen. Presently, he stumbled upon soldiers bringing up another three men into the courtyard in preparation for one more execution which has sadly become a regular affair here. He saw a black, dusty Mercedes car with hood down pull up before La Cabaña and a priest in a shovel hat and dirty Cassock step out of it. Inquisitive about other people’s affairs, Keogh went over to check the automobile. He was well pleased to strike up a match and help the priest light his long black cigarillo, an act that would institute an acquaintance between them.

Upon seeing the priest, all at once, one of the condemned men ran over and knelt before him. Keogh watched in amusement when the priest restrained a soldier who tried to interrupt and led the condemned man back to the line up in order to provide absolution to all the three men. Just before Keogh turned to leave, he saw the priest bless the three men after they were shot down.

Back in the patio of Keogh’s hotel, he was invited for drinks by Jennings, a fat jovial businessman who owned the hotel. Jennings was interested to persuade Keogh to wheel a truckload of good Scotch whisky about 100 miles north to Huila since his driver was shot dead that morning. The pay will be 200 dollars which Jennings promptly raised to 250 at the first sign of disinterest from Keogh who considered the job very risky. Given that Keogh appeared a trifle busy in getting out of this bloody country, Jennings dubious mind was already exploring ways to convince Keogh to shed his contagious enthusiasm and happily run his cargo up-country to meet his business obligations. His solution was simple: arrange with his mestizo to steal Keogh’s passport and other valuables while he took his bath. The plan went smoothly until Keogh, lying in the worn out bathtub filled with brownish water✺, caught the mestizo in the act. Stark naked and wet he was, giving chase to the thief, he shot at and wounded his leg though the culprit managed to escape into the crowd outside. It didn’t take long for him to realize that Jenning’s ploy had worked. To Jennings great relief, Keogh grudgingly agreed to transport the consignment for 500 dollars and the return of his valuables. Jennings was sure that they would get along famously.

Later, driving the truck-laden bootleg whisky down the rocky trail, Keogh was surprised to chance upon the priest standing next to his car parked by a rocky patch. Apparently, his car had a flat and hit the rock. Keogh was only happy to fix it for him and shortly they pushed the car off the rock, ready to roll. The priest happily introduced himself as Father Oliver Van Horne of the Boston Diocese, down here on a fund raising trip for the authorities back home. He shared the priest’s whisky and decided to meet up at the way-station in Huerta, some 40 miles away. It was there Keogh was supposed to coordinate with Gomez vis-à-vis the delivery of the cargo, which unbeknown to Keogh, was a consignment of rifles, pistols and grenades intended for the Counter-Revolutionary forces.

The night had worn on when Keogh’s delivery truck pulled into the courtyard of the way-station. He could hear the sound of laughter and someone merrily singing to the strums of guitar…“Humpa, humpa…..”✽Suddenly, he was accosted from the back by a stranger and was taken inside the inn. Luis Delgado, the singer and the leader of the rurales (the country police) assembled there, checked his papers and politely invited the señor for a drink. From Delgado, Keogh learned that Gomez of Huila to whom he is suppose to deliver Jenning’s letter has “committed suicide”, but Colonel Santilla, the leader of the Revolutionary Forces, would be interested in that letter.

 

All at once, the groups’ attention was diverted by a native Indian girl the rurales had found on the upper floor. Despite objections by Tacho, the frightened old man at the bar who claimed that she is dumb, the fascination for their object of amusement set off a string of merriment and abuse by the rurales led by Delgado which was ineffectually thwarted by the girl until Keogh interfered. But his challenge was short-lived, only long enough for the girl to move over to his side. Once again he was accosted from the back by yet another rurale. Keogh was soon roped and hung up on the wooden beam above. It was then the priest came in with his Gladstone bag, and put up one hell of a defense in a homicidal manner. God works in mysterious ways.

 

Violence resides every where in the world and arises at unexpected moments. Having decided to leave the place quickly to avoid soldiers who are sure to be informed by the sole survivor of the massacre who had escaped; it was decided to let Chela, the Indian girl, accompany them. She too was on the run and wanted to rejoin with her “aimara” (Aymara: an indigenous ethnic tribe) on the other side of the mountain. Tacho had confided to Keogh that Chela had stopped talking when she was a kid, when she witnessed her parents being killed.

 

Driving towards Huila up the bad roads running through the rugged range of mountains and waste land, they accidently stumbled upon an encampment of the Federal cavalry who eventually captured them after a breakneck chase. At this point, Van Horne and Keogh were provided with adequate torture by the lieutenant of the federales before, charged with the offense for dealing in arms with counter-revolutionaries, they were imprisoned in Col. Santilla’s prison in the small town of Hulia. In here, they would meet Jennings, already locked up and awaiting the firing squad. But Santilla, the military governor of the region, had other plans.

 

Given that Col. Santilla intended to prepare them for a mission he had in mind, the following day they were subjected to further humiliation before a mock-up firing squad, only to be saved in “the nick of time” by the Colonel who invited them to enjoy his hospitality. The Colonel’s knowledge about the “unholy trinity” he now held “in the hollow of his hands” was very creditable. Firstly, he knew that the totally corrupt Jennings, formerly Capt. Jennings, was censured by the British army for the misuse of regimental funds. Earlier he had assumed the role of Jameson, an informant for the Black and Tans (Irish: Dúchrónaigh) in Ireland, a paramilitary unit formed to suppress the Irish Republic Army but also attacked the civilian population.

While Emmet Keogh has a price on his head in Ireland for being a member of The Squad (a special intelligence unit created by Irishman Michael Collins, the originator of modern urban terrorism) and performed political assassinations; the good shepherd Padre Oliver Van Horne (a defrocked priest), is more interested in robbing banks, payrolls, rich. Curiously, he carries an automatic machine gun in one compartment of his Gladstone bag while the other section holds a princely treasure of 53,000/- American dollars in assorted currencies. Santilla had selected them for one particular reason: to kill a psychotic named Tomas de la Plata, who had created a reign of terror over Mojada and its inhabitants some 40 miles from his headquarters.

A deeply troubled man with a frenzied state of mind wrought from having to witness the atrocities committed to his family, De la Plata had banned the Catholic religion from his land. Jennings had more than a foggy idea about De la Plata due to business dealings done through agents, and only knew too well that he had been trying to raise money. De la Plata had been venturing to wheedle mining companies in the idea of working the old silver mine outside Mojada on a partnership basis. In consideration of that, Santilla had already written to him, on behalf of Jennings, informing that, being a representative of Herera Mining Company of British Honduras, Jennings would be arriving in Mojada tomorrow with two mining engineers to inspect the drift mine that hasn’t worked for years.

Most importantly, the people of Mojada are in desperate need of a priest since the last one sent by the church was hanged by De la Plata and the one before that was found wandering in the desert, stripped of his clothes, quite out of his mind. Van Horn will take with him the wooden statue of San Rafael de los Mineros, the patron saint of Mojada, which was rescued before De la Plata desecrated the church. Tomas de la Plata is a man who never allowed a challenge to his power to go unpunished, and his death will collapse his empire and free the people from repression. The remuneration for their work, if they survive, would be their lives and equal shares in 53,000 dollars in the priest’s bag.

 

That night, Chela secretly met up with Keogh and placed a silver amulet around his neck, symbolically laying her claim on him as per the custom of her tribe. As Keogh was getting used to their passionate encounters, Chela was concerned of Keogh’s knack of running into trouble. Through her chieftain Nacho, she vainly tried to stop the stony Irishman from going to “a bad end”.

Three lives for one. But survival has become something of a habit for Keogh. He would be part of the unholy trinity going to Mojeda to kill Tomas de la Plata who hates the sight of priests……

Robert Charles Durman Mitchum (1917-1997) had tried his hand as an author, composer and singer before he became the No: 23rd greatest male American screen legends of all time – a position he earned by mainly starring in roles of anti-heroes. Even though Mitch got $150,000/- for his role in Joseph Losey’s “Secret Ceremony” (1968) in which he co-starred with Mia Farrow and the million-dollar star Elizabeth Taylor,  by the late sixties, his heroic style had started to take the plunge even though, now and then, he had portrayed good acting.

 

Mitch’s Van Horn is assertive, aggressive, yet tender and moral. A role initially offered to Trevor Howard, it is similar to the one Mitch had played as a preacher with a gun hidden in his Bible in the 1968 movie “Five Card Stud”. He not only sports a casual acting style (especially the scenes when he couldn’t resist playing the priest awaiting direct confrontation with De la Plata) and his trademark drooping, bedroom eyes but also carry a machine gun and a switchblade cross, that also contributes to the action scenes.

 

Rita Hayworth had to struggle in her role of Senora de la Plata, which is a variation from the characters in the novel. At the doorstep of Alzheimer’s disease, her face had turned into that of a matured woman who had gone through many hardships in her life. Supportive to Hayworth, Mitch had considered her casting as an opportunity to renew their friendship. When Hayworth strived to remember her lines, the crew believed her to be in a state of intoxication from alcohol intake, and they were helpful to her, especially hairstylist Lynn Del Kail. But none of that could assuage her memory lapses, or reading from large cue cards, which is common practice in Hollywood. Even experienced actors like Marlon Brando (maybe due to dyslexia) frequently used them, albeit director Bernardo Bertolucci refused to have it written on actress Maria Schneider’s back for Brando to read conveniently during filming of “Last Tango in Paris”.

At this point, with Hayworth frequently caught in the “drift”, nervous and phobic, even refusing to do normal things, eventually, certain scenes had to be either shot from behind her head or with doubles and piece it together effectively by editors J. Terry Williams, Richard Bracken, Albert Wilson. Unfortunately, Hayworth couldn’t help but to turn in a feeble performance that would be an unfortunate finale to a great career in Hollywood. Anyhow, the marigold will lose its yellow, spring will not last forever – that’s life.

 

American leading man Frank Langella, an experienced stage actor, carries out a commendable performance as Tomas de la Plata, the psychotic who hated priests. He came into feature movies with “Diary of a Mad Housewife” which earned him a nomination for 1970 Golden Globe Award for New Star of the Year (Male). He did two further movies (“The Twelve Chairs” and “The Deadly Trap”) before he was cast in “The Wrath of God”. The Bulky character actor Victor Buono, a good friend of Mitchum, stars as the white suited businessman Jennings.

 

Scottish born actor Ken Hutchison, a Robert de Niro look-alike, starred as Emmet Keogh, the Irish patriot who is loved by Chela. Keogh’s love for the native Indian girl reflects his inner desire to attain peace with Mother Earth and to mend his aimless life of violence. Wonderful actor that Hutchison was, his career reached nowhere due to his incoherent lifestyle. His reputation suffered when, the previous year, consequent to a heavy drinking bout with him, director Sam Peckinpah was hospitalized while filming the movie “Straw Dogs” (1971).

Sexy Paula Pritchett as Chela, the Indian girl who had not spoken for 20 years, will make you long to kiss the air near her cheeks. Apart from this film, Paula had acted in only two more films: “Chappaqua” (1966) and “Adrift” (1970) though she would be in popular media when her nude pictorials appeared in the July 1972 edition of the Playboy magazine.

Greek-Canadian stage actor John Colicos (1928-2000) as the cultured Col. Santilla displays an aura of importance about him. His performance effectively portray a man vested with immense power but was compelled to begrudge a civilian who inadmissibly brandishes enormous power. Colicos came over to regular movie acting with “Anne of the Thousand Days” (1970) which did not tap his potentiality.  Three of his movies released in 1971, including “Raid on Rommel”, would set the trend for his brief appearance as Col. Santilla.

The film also features a good number of Mexican actors, known to Nelson for their supporting roles in “Soldier Blue”. Associate producer William S. Gilmore. Jr was also the co-producer of “Soldier Blue” and “Flight of the Doves” The film’s cinematography (in Panavision and Metrocolor) is done by Alex Phillips Jr., son of Canadian cinematographer Alex Phillips who went to Mexico to shoot that country’s first sound film after working in Hollywood in the 20s. Phillips. Jr. learned his trade from being an assistant to his father, and would become the official photographer of Adolfo Lopez Mateos, the president of Mexico from 1958 to 1964. While Hollywood occasionally sought his services, Central American locations such as Mexico, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic were his main field of operation. Being very active in his work, six of his films were released in 1972 itself including Sergio Olhovich’s “Queen Doll” (Muñeca reina) and his friend Sidney Poitier’s directorial début “Buck and the Preacher”. His classic camera work for Sam Peckinpah’s “Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia” (1974) is a noteworthy contribution which elevated that film to a cult classic.

The interiors where shot at Estudios Churubusco Azteca in Mexico City, the venue forsome sequences of movies such as “Kings of the Sun” (1963), “Licence to Kill” (1989), etc. On location shooting was done in different places in Mexico: Cuernavaca, Morelos (“The Magnificent Seven” (1960), “The Butch Cassidy and Sundance Kid” (1969), “Clear and Present Danger” (1994)); Guanajuato (“Guns for San Sebastian” (1968)), Los Órganos and Taxco (Guerrero) and La Luz.

Western location shoots had a men’s club ambiance that offered opportunities to enact childhood games of Cowboys and Indians and their hell-fire tactics. These high-adventure westerns featured hard-drinking macho men with guns holstered at crouch level and the fastest draw always rode off triumphantly with the woman into the sunset. According to a biography of Mitchum, Ralph Nelson ran a loose ship as the production was plagued by trouble. Riddled with many problems, mainly rooted in the indulgence of hard-drinking and drugs, Nelson was in a terrible turmoil. Aside from Rita Hayworth, Victor Buono’s behaviour proved to be anomalous. But none of these were severe enough to grind the production to an indefinite halt caused by a freaky accident suffered by Ken Hutchison about one and half months into filming. His arm was cut open from elbow down to the wrist by some broken glass and he had to be hospitalized for an indefinite period throwing the production schedule into total disarray. The situation also brought in the control of the insurance company and took away the equilibrium of the movie which shows in the final product.

Notwithstanding the above issues, the movie features many exciting action scenes staged by action coordinator Everett Creach together with assistant directors, Mario Cisneros and Jerry Ziesmer. The panoramic scenes shown with sweeping helicopter shots that emphasize the expansive spaces of the Mexican sierra when the cavalry sped in hot pursuit of Van Horn, Keogh and Chela, as well as the final battle scenes are notable. The interiors festooned with local colour, by production designer John S. Poplin, Jr. and Set decorator William Kiernan, look genuine and impressive.

Argentinean composer Lalo Schifrin (“Kelly’s Heroes”, “Dirty Harry”), winner of five Grammys and twenty-two nominations was once the concert-master of the Philharmonic Orchestra of Buenos Aires at the Teatro Colon. Schifrin provides an admirable score evoking melodies of his Latin American background mixed with traditional Hispano-American regional forms and rhythms. It features an instrumental ensemble of quena (a rustic flute), charango (a five-stringed guitar), siku (Bolivian panpipes), piano/organ and a wide variety of regional percussion instruments. The action scenes are augmented with rousing score noteworthy for musical tones that would elevate Schiffrin’s future soundtrack for director Robert Clouse’s “Enter the Dragon” starring Bruce Lee and sexy Ahna Capri.

For the Requiem Mass scene, Schifrin had used excerpts from Ariel Ramirez’s “Misa Criolla”✣ with Liturgical texts adapted in Spanish. “Gloria” is the Argentine variety of the carnaval, which is one of the most widespread dances of the high plains of north-west Argentina, Bolivia, and Peru. “Molly Malone” (aka “Cockles and Mussels”, “In Dublin’s Fair City”), a popular Irish song which has become the unofficial anthem of Dublin City, is presented by Schifrin at the beginning of the movie:

In Dublin’s fair city, Where the girls are so pretty, I first set my eyes on sweet Molly Malone, As she wheeled her wheel-barrow, Through streets broad and narrow…….

Yet another folksong is featured for the rurales leader Luis Delgado at the way-station inn:

“Humpa, humpa… We like to kill each other, We love to hate our mother, But there is still my brother, He always wish to hop on, hop on – humpa, humpa..

My father was a midget, My mother was too tall, As far as I remember,…………humpa, humpa…”

Despite the flaws of the film, “The Wrath of God” is full of memorable moments and simple one-liners. It is all about the restoration of order and faith while focusing on power and powerlessness.

The film was released simultaneously with German director Werner Herzog’s cult film “Aguirre, the Wrath of God” starring Klaus Kinski. Nelson’s film may not be confused with the Italian-Spanish production “Wrath of God” (L’ira di Dio – 1968) by director Alberto Cardone (as Albert Cardiff) starring Montgomery Ford and Fernando Sancho.

(The sleeve of our copy of the novel “The Wrath of God” shown here is a Grafton 1972 edition)

(Ariel Ramirez’s “Misa Criolla” in our possession is a version by Spanish Catalan tenor José Carreras recorded in the Santuario de la Bien Aparecida, Cantabria, Spain in July 1987.The CD sleeve is shown above)

(This review is dedicated to director Quentin Tarantino for his relentless efforts to promote the movies of the past.)

(Text: © JS/Manningtree Archive)

VIVA BRITANNIA – 1: LONDRES

Brace yourself! The Hollywood propaganda machine is already spinning to rake in the harvest from the success of the upcoming 23rd James Bond vehicle “Skyfall” slated for release in UK on October 26 this year. With the first ever 007 fragrance already launched, the posters, trailers, advertisements, even star promotions are all going to emerge in full swing. Conversely, as in the previous years, countless Dick-Tom-&-Harry of the media are going to come up with their versions of promotions through reviews, magazines, interviews, music albums, as well as books like “James Bond, The Authorised Biography of 007” by John Pearson (author of “The Life of Ian Fleming” (1966)), a fictional biography constructed from bits and pieces of Bond’s personal history littered in Ian Fleming’s novels.

Not unlike Superman, Tarzan, Flash Gordon, etc, the merchandise, collectables and mementos related to Bond films had invaded the market early since the first Bond movie “Dr. No” (1962) produced under the banner of Harry Saltzman and Albert R. Broccoli hit the screen. Commercial product placements, video games, jigsaw puzzles, toys, swimming fins, holiday tours worthy of James Bond, by-products licensed to thrill the iconic British spy such as Aftershave to underwear to drinks, skiing gadgets, spy-phone; limited collection of fashion trends from sunglasses to stilettos to fishnet tights; window displays – all of these have appeared through the course of the longest running Bond film series.

As Eon Productions celebrate 50 years of Bond this year and also with the impending excitement of Christmas and New Year, more novelties in this field bearing 007 trademark can be anticipated. At some stage in this phenomenon, certain careers will be made, some destroyed – all linked to one thing: financial success. Nobody does it better than James Bond.

In 2006, when “Casino Royale”, the debut film of Daniel Craig as James Bond came out, the upmarket London store Harrods (in Knightsbridge) put up a beautiful display in all their frontage windows featuring gadgets and styles from that movie. Some of those lovely scenes in London, photographed by me, are presented below for your enjoyment….

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(Text and photos © JS/Manningtree Archive)