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CRISIS remains perhaps the only film that is completely forgotten when lists of Cary Grant films are offered. Even some of Grant's lesser vehicles are discussed, in depth, but Richard Brooks' CRISIS, which features a really stellar cast is 'lost' in contemporary cinema circles. There is no logical reason for this. Grant gives one of his very rare straight dramatic performances -- and one very very different from the dramatic range in NONE BUT THE LONELY HEART. It is a strong, forthright piece of work. The film deserves rediscovery for any number of reasons -- Grant's work, the first sign of Brooks' major talent... and one of the few (if only) Grant films that deals with modern political issues. I had remembered the film very well from my youth and never saw it listed for TV showings or any retrospectives. Thus, finding a rare DVD copy was wonderful ... and, surprisingly, very rewarding. Here's to someone pulling CRISIS out of obscurity and into a rung on the Cary Grant pantheon.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Sometimes timing of movies ruins a possible award - witness how two splendid
films, ALL ABOUT EVE (about the underbelly of the theatre)and SUNSET
BOULEVARD (about the underbelly of the movies) came out in 1950, and managed
to keep each other from sweeping the Oscars that year (although both did
share in the Oscars). Each had great actresses in performances of stature
(Bette Davis and Anne Baxter as Margo and Eve, and Gloria Swanson as Norma
Desmond) up for best actress - but it was the year for Judy Holiday for
Billie Dawn in BORN YESTERDAY.
That same year, this nice little political thriller came out. It told the story of political intrigue in Latin America, complicated by the failing health of a dictator, and how an American doctor is torn between the threats of the dictator's regime and of the local revolutionaries. Cary Grant actually had a non-suave role here - he had serious things confronting him, like his dislike of his prospective patient (Jose Ferrer) and fears for his wife. Richard Brooks in his screenplay looked at such figures as the Argentine Perons (Signe Hasso plays the dictator's wife, like a clone of Evita), and notes the huge statues and pictures of the dictators - an early observation of what we call "the cult of personality". Ferrer is properly despicable, as a man capable of any act of violence for advantage, but also sickly due to his brain tumor. He also occasionally brings out points that pure democracy fans do not like to discuss: as he tells Grant Americans are perfectly willing to patiently stand in line for purchasing items or seeing movies, but in his country after a few minutes people standing in line start fighting and rioting. The opposition to Ferrer is little better than he is. Witness Gilbert Roland, who okays the kidnapping of Grant's wife, and once the dictator is dead starts telling Grant "These people are children who need a leader to tell them what to do." Someone disagrees with Roland, for he is shot by a sniper shortly after. The film ends with Grant sarcastically taking care of a panicking Roland and sneering at his political beliefs at the same time.
It was ahead of its time in dissecting Latin American political reality. So why is CRISIS so little recalled, while other Grant thrillers (like NORTH BY NORTHWEST or NOTORIOUS - both by Hitchcock) are remembered. Not due to production or script or acting. Rather timing. In 1950 Douglas Fairbanks and Glynis Johns and Jack Hawkins appeared in the movie STATE SECRET. Set in a fictional Balkan country (supposedly Yugoslavia, but fictitious) a British surgeon is forced to take care of an ailing dictator, who undergoes a secret operation. But the dictator dies, and Fairbanks tries to flee the country aided by Johns. Almost the same type of plot (although a different part of the world). Both films deserve revival. And like ALL ABOUT EVE and SUNSET BOULEVARD, both checkmated each other's full effectiveness in that year of coincidences 1950.
Crisis represents yet another attempt by Cary Grant to break away from
his light leading man image and do something with more drama. His last
attempt was None But the Lonely Heart which got great critical notices,
an Oscar nomination for him and died at the box office. The public just
didn't want to see him in stuff like Crisis.
The film is one of a very few non-musical productions by Arthur Freed at MGM. And the original story was intended for Spencer Tracy who was to be a neurosurgeon traveling in Latin America with a 10 year old daughter. The powers that be decided a little romance was needed so Tracy was substituted by Grant and he was given a wife played by Paula Raymond instead of a daughter.
He's a neurosurgeon and when the powers that be discover him in their country he's brought to the presidential palace to operate on Peron like dictator Jose Ferrer. Then the rebels capture Paula Raymond and Grant's got a dilemma.
Signe Hasso who was cast in the role of the first lady bears more than a passing resemblance to Eva Peron does the best job in the film. Cast in Latino parts are such Hollywood Latinos as Raymond Novarro, Gilbert Roland, Antonio Moreno, and Pedro deCordoba. All perform well.
Crisis marked Richard Brooks's directorial debut and he wrote the script as well. Unfortunately the same thing happened here as did to None But the Lonely Heart. Great reviews and it lost money. Brooks was established as a director though.
"Crisis" is a study in how a strong supporting cast can make a movie complete. While Grant and Ferrer give powerful performances, they are enhanced by even better performances by Signe Hasso and Ramon Navarro. The latter two, with subtle, understated characterizations, round out a thoughtful script and cast. The story is compelling -- medical/ethical conflict, interwoven with a political drama which doesn't attempt to sway. It does provide a backdrop which doesn't interfere but enhances.
Cary Grant is a noted surgeon traveling with his wife (Paula Raymond)
in a Latin American country when there's a "Crisis." This 1950 black
and white film also stars Jose Ferrer, Leon Ames, Ramon Novarro, and
Gilbert Roland. Grant, as Dr. Ferguson, and his wife are trying to
leave the country due to political unrest when they are kidnapped and
brought to the home of the country's dictator, Raoul Farrago (Ferrer).
There, they learn from his wife (Signe Hasso) that the leader is dying
of a brain tumor, and options for an operation are few as no one wants
him to live. Ferguson agrees on certain conditions. Ultimately, his
wife is involved in a riot, and he sends her home. It isn't until the
surgery is over that he learns that certain things have been kept from
This is actually a very good and underrated film, not the usual Cary Grant type of role or movie, which in itself should have sparked some interest when it was released. People know the handsome Grant and his debonair persona, his gift for physical comedy and the way he has with a line - but it's nice to remember occasionally that underneath all that star power and tailored suits there's a fine actor. Here he plays a man who makes a commitment to a patient he plainly doesn't like, and he has to fight to control his emotions. His anger over the situation makes this difficult. Ferrer is terrific as a violent man who thinks of his people as dumb children as he feathers his own nest with money that rightfully belongs to them. As his Evita-like wife, Signe Hasso has a chance to show her capabilities, and she's excellent - charming on the surface, worried about her husband, and hard as nails underneath. Hasso was a wonderful Swedish actress often relegated to B movies or to small roles in A films. Eventually she turned to theater and television. Here we see, had the roles been there for her, what a find she truly was.
It's always great to see old-timers Gilbert Roland and Ramon Novarro, the latter as Colonel Dragon, and the former as a revolutionary who wants Grant to kill Farrago on the operating table. Actually he's no better than Farrago, and Ferguson gets a bird's eye look at oppression politics.
A very good film; worth seeing for Grant, Ferrer and Hasso.
Even someone who's been keeping track of old movies for many years can be forgiven if this one slipped under the radar. Surgeon Cary Grant and his wife are vacationing in a South- or Central-American paradise when they are abducted by government forces. Seems the country's dictator (Jose Ferrar) has a brain tumor but is afraid to leave the country due to revolutionary activity. Grant is pressured into performing the operation. Only problem is, the guerrillas have captured his wife, threatening to kill her if Ferrar survives the operation. But the letter informing him of this never reaches Grant.... Supporting cast includes Leon Ames, Ramon Navarro (Ben-Hur of the silent era) and Signe Hasso as Ferrar's wife, an Evita Peron clone. This is a tense and often intelligent drama (and slightly out of Grant's usual debonair range) that doesn't merit the obscurity it seems to be buried in.
I suppose people who are just looking for a vehicle to swoon over Cary Grant will be find this movie dull. Not that he's not '"swoonable" in this. He's great! But this film has to be viewed as a serious drama that attempts for the first time in Hollywood (!) to look at the issues of a Third World country. It's the first time! Hollywood was still making safe, 'nice' movies, and was heavily in the horror and insanity of McCarthyism. That a film like this could be made at all, is amazing. This is a pretty 'small' film, shot mostly on soundstages with a little known supporting cast. But that cast is great, especially Jose Ferrer, who really gives one of his very best screen performances. The score is excellent, the tension is well-paced, and the script... well, it may seem dated today, but considering how many people didn't know (and still don't know!) what's happening in other parts of the world, it packs a lot of information in usually, a very eloquent way. And you just gotta love the idea of the dictator watching his surgeon rehearsing the surgery that might possibly take his life! For it's time, this is a remarkable film. Today, it is less so, but still is very worthwhile entertainment.
I had thought I'd seen just about every film Cary Grant made until I saw "Crisis" on Turner Classic Movies today. I found it a well-done suspense thriller, which at the same time examined some heavy moral decisions that must be made in times of stress and crisis. The moral dilemma of a doctor facing a decision to save a life, when the patient's death would benefit so many is truly a difficult one. Does the doctor live up to his oath to heal, or does he live up to his moral values which demand that tyranny be opposed and destroyed? Do professional ethics supersede moral values? The battle within the doctor is well delineated. The climax of this battle within himself is sobering. The acting is excellent, especially that of Grant and Jose Ferrer. Ferrer's depiction of the dictator is chilling indeed. The end comes as a decided relief.
This is Richard Brooks' first directorial effort. Examining the work half a
century after it was made, the film presents a director who knows how to get
the most from his actors through the written word and the way it is spoken.
Three actors sparkle: Cary Grant, Jose Ferrer, and Signe
Compare Cary Grant's acting in the Hitchcock vehicles and in this. Grant presents a maturity in his speech patterns that do not show up under Hitchcock's direction. I think much of the quality of the performances is probably due to the director who took his first film seriously--probably a lot more than he did in his later career.
All in all, this is a curious film--quite unusual in several ways compared to the average Hollywood products in the Fifties. Is it only a question of humanism winning over all evils? Or more?
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
They say it was to be a widower and his child ,like in the novel.But
the producers got their vow and they paired Grant with the bland Paula
Raymond.Actually the real female star is Signe Hasso,a beautiful
fascinating woman.Jose Ferrer is ideally cast as the great dictator.
The main weakness of the screenplay is the fact that Grant does not receive the message:his moral dilemma is not as harsh as it could have been.Nevertheless ,"Crisis " is a strong debut from a great director .
Ferrer: "You 've done me and my people a great service."
Grant: "I haven't voted for you"
Ferrer :"Neither have they"
The ending does not take the easy way out: the "revolutionary " man is actually a perfect demagogue and the country is probably waiting for the next dictator.
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