|Index||7 reviews in total|
FOX had nothing but the finest talent in the 1940's and 1950's. This is
a prime example in taking a Hemingway short story and expanding it to
an 85 minute movie while still being faithful to the source.
John Garfield is very good as the American jockey stranded in post WWII Italy where he's raising his son and staying one jump ahead of his past. Lovely Micheline Prelle, who meets him in Paris, plays her role perfectly and will make us understand why women will go for a guy like Garfield and leave guys like you and me in the dust. (You, anyway!)
A strong plus is the look we get at Europe (mostly Paris) as it was 58 years ago. I've seen Paris many times, but it was more beautiful, more itself, less overrun with tourists, in 1964. Even more-so in 1950. One of the great benefits of old movies.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Though helmer Jean Negulesco was at his best making modestly budgeted work @ Warners in the '40s, he's best remembered for his travel-happy CinemaScope pics @ Fox in the '50s. (They're tremendous fun seen on a 'really big' screen.) But his earlier work for Fox gets lost in the shuffle, including this awkward version of an Ernest Hemingway story made with fellow Warner émigré, writer/producer Casey Robinson. It's an interesting film that doesn't quite work about an expatriate jockey (a haggard looking John Garfield) and his unhappy son who stay barely ahead of the gamblers & 'fixers' on the racing circuit. With neither the kid nor 'la femme' (a Paris café owner with a chip on her shoulder) supplying the expected warmth & interpersonal chemistry, the film can't decide whether it wants to play tough or sentimental, which gives the film a 'sec' quality you hardly expect from a set-up that's not too far from THE CHAMP. As a threatening mob type, Luther Adler steals all his scenes, just as he did three decades on doing similar duty in ABSENCE OF MALICE. And dig those crazy extras in the night club scenes. What's 'Daddy-O' in French?
A career which began in 1937 and which is still buoyant today in 2010!
Micheline Presles was one of the greatest French actresses of all time
whose longevity is rivaled only but that of Danielle Darrieux.(both
actresses were featured in the delightful comedy "Le Jour Des Rois" in
Although she was fluent in English, she was not as lucky in her American movies : her work with Fritz Lang was downright disappointing and this one (ridiculous French title :" La Belle De Paris" !!!)is hardly better. However John Garfied is one of my favorite American actors (not a star,a true artist)and it's him and his co-star who give this parboiled melodrama substance ;the screenplay looks like a cross between "the champ " (thirties version ) and "the set up ", a jockey instead of a boxer.
The races take place in Chantilly and in Auteuil ,two racecourses (racetracks) famous here in France .Jean Negulesco shows respect for the audience :French people speak French between them and Presles begins to teach her first language to the jockey's son.She also sings songs in French and in English:I do not know if she was dubbed.
Considering the two leads' talent,"under my skin" is watchable but not particularly memorable.
I think that if John Garfield had lived he might have gone abroad as
did so many of his peers did in the McCarthy era and such projects as
Under My Skin might have had followups. The film is based on an Ernest
Hemingway story about an exiled jockey living in Europe with his son,
father and son being played by Garfield and Orley Lindgren.
It might have started out as a Hemingway story, but a seasoned film buff will recognize bits from Broadway Bill/Riding High, National Velvet, and The Champ. Garfield and Lindgren have to beat it out of Italy as he crosses up gangster Luther Adler and they flee to Paris. Where they take up with songstress Michelline Prelle and look for work, but Adler follows them there with an offer he thinks they can't refuse.
The shame and stigma for Garfield having been a cooperating witness at the HUAC hearings is roughly parallel to his role as a crooked jockey. Under My Skin is as much an explanation film for Garfield as On The Waterfront was for Elia Kazan. I think there's more Garfield/Jean Negulesco the director than Hemingway in this, Hemingway was never as sentimental as this film is.
Still it's not a bad one and I think Garfield may have done more projects like this had he lived.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
(There are Spoilers) Based on the Earnest Hemingway short story "My Old
Man" the movie "Under My Skin" is about a mobbed up jockey who late in
his life learns that being honest, especially to his son, will make up
for the all the dishonest things that he's done all his life.
Dan Butler, John Garfield, has been on the run from both the mob-that he stiffed back in Italy- and the racing stewards for years in his both throwing and not throwing races that he rode in. Now in the City of Lights-Paris-Dan feels that he finally got it all together with a job waiting for him at the major racetracks as a top flight jockey. Dan also expects to have a place to stay provided to him by his good friend Claude who runs a major nightclub in the city.
As things turn out no owner or trainer wants Dan to race his horses because of his mob connections! As for his good friend Claude it turns out he was killed by the mob in his being associated with Dan in a race-fixing scandal that went wrong: The horse that was supposed to lose won!
In the film Dan get's involved with Clauds girlfriend Paule Manet, Micheline Presle, who now runs his Paris nightclub. Paule who at first hated Dan's guts for having her fiancée get murdered, by the mob, in his race-fixing scheme later gets to like him! That's when she meets his cute and cuddly ten year-old son Joe, Orley Lindgren, whom Paule ends up giving French speaking lessons to.
It's also in Paris that Dan meets up with mobster Louis Bork. Luther Adler, whom he stiffed back in Italy by winning, and not throwing, a race that he bet heavily against him. Without being able to get any mounts at the local racetracks Dan has to find some way to pay Bork off in order to prevent him and his henchmen from murdering him. It's later when Dan buys a horse, for almost nothing, that by being its both trainer and jockey he can finally get back into action and throw races for Bork to bet knowing that he'll always be out of the money. That's until little Joe gets the winless horse, in having him become a jumper not runner, into tip top shape and in the winners circle!
Despite it's short duration, under 90 minutes, the movie drags at times in it's constantly focusing on Dan and Paule's relationship which comes across as phony as a three dollar bill. I couldn't for a moment believe that Paule would have anything to do with Dan not in that he was indirectly responsible for the murder of her boyfriend,and Dan's good friend, Claude but his shoddy treatment of her, until the last ten or so minutes, all throughout the film.
***SPOILERS*** It was in the end that Dan finally gets it all together in what turned out to be his final race, the 4 1/4 mile Steeplechase Classic Grand Prix, where he went all out to win, despite being threatened by Bork with death if he did, and redeemed himself; not only to Joe Paule and the racing public but him-crooked jockey Dan Butler-as well!
John Garfield who suffered from heart disease all his life was hospitalized during the filming of "Under My Skin" with a near fatal heart-attack that laid him up in bed for some three months. It was two years later that Garfield sadly passed away when his weak heart finally gave out-on May 21 1952-mostly due the pressures of the House UnAmerican committee's in hounding him literally into his grave for his involvement with Communist Front Groups. Political and society active groups That he, in not knowing that they were Communists, was an unwitting member of.
Back during the era when there was a Production Code, folks who were
wicked HAD to be punished and the leading men had to be nice guys.
That's just the way it was. However, over the years, this code began to
ease just a bit--and in the case of "Under My Skin" it seems to have
eased a lot, as the leading character, Dan (John Garfield) is with
barely a single redeeming quality through much of the movie.
The film begins with Dan and his young son running away from bookies in Italy. It seems that he double-crossed one of them (Luther Adler) and now he and the kid are hiding out in France. Always looking for an angle, Dan is looking for that one score to make it big...but at heart he's just a cheap hustler. His son, on the other hand, doesn't yet realize the sort of guy his dad is...but you know sooner or later he will.
For once, Dan has a chance to do the right thing. He's gotten a horse who is a winner and he can take this horse to the top...if it wasn't for the bookie. This scum has finally caught up with Dan and threatens to kill him if he doesn't throw his next race. What's Dan to do-- take it safe or work, finally, for some self-respect?
Despite being a very downbeat film, this is a very good movie. It's quite unique and the acting is excellent. My only gripes are technical. Although I really liked this film, I was NOT impressed by having Garfield play a jockey. Sure, he's not exactly tall but he's way too tall and bulky to be believable. It's a shame, as he was otherwise excellent in the film. Additionally, some of the scenes are sloppy--such as the opening scene where the guy running is pretty obviously NOT Garfield and the horse race scenes where Garfield is clearly NOT riding a real horse but is acting against a rear- projected bit of footage (in a few, however, such as the BIG race near the end, it's done MUCH better). For these reasons, I couldn't score the film a bit higher--but it still is well worth seeing. Just don't expect a feel good film!!
More proof that John Garfield was a vastly underrated actor,great story of jockey torn between easy money and the respect he risks from those who love him. It may shake your faith in racing industry but top notch cast makes it ring true.
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