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Because it's there - well, I suppose that's a good enough reason to
climb a mountain. It was motivation enough to climb Everest. However,
in "The White Tower" everyone has a different reason for wanting to
climb a magnificent mountain peak in the Swiss Alps that defeated the
father of Carla Alten (Valli), a young woman whose goal in climbing is
closure. Glenn Ford, as Ordway, is finally convinced to take the climb
- his goal is Valli. And so it goes, as six climbers start on a ascent
to the top.
This is a gorgeous Technicolor film that was intended to be seen in a theater. The scenery is magnificent, and the cast of climbers is excellent: Ford, Valli, Claude Rains, Lloyd Bridges, Oscar Homolka, and Cedric Hardwicke. Like Walter Slezak in "Lifeboat," Bridges plays the Aryan Nazi, Hein, who hasn't forgotten his Fuhrer. He puts himself in competition with Ordway (Ford), the American looking for some post-war peace, and he hates Raines and Homolka for being the "weaklings" who are holding the team back. Rains is an alcoholic writer - he is unhappily married and wants to feel again; Hardwicke was a friend of Valli's father and wants to support her quest. Homolka is a reluctant guide who goes on the trip in spite of himself.
Valli is much more vivacious and outdoorsy than she was in "The Third Man" or "The Parradine Case." Ford always has such a wonderful quality - shy, with a gentle manner, beautiful smile and that disarming, soft voice - how any woman could resist him is a mystery, though I give Valli credit for trying. He'll be 90 on May 1, bless his heart. The film has some suspenseful moments and is definitely worth a watch.
Beautiful scenery and intensely colourful Technicolor sets and costumes highlight this mildly interesting mountain-climbing production. The performances feel rather restrained, with none of the actors really fleshing out their characters, and there is a dead-on typical romance to weigh the whole thing even further down. The film can be positively credited however for its attempts to show the motivations behind mountain climbers, although it is still a bit dull either way. The final few scenes are great though: very suspenseful and rather intense, but in the middle section the film tends to sink, amidst a few other minor problems. But those to whom the material appeals will probably get a kick out of it either way, and it certainly is a delight on the visual scope.
This is one of those movies that is fitting to it's era... Actually, not a
bad and personal romance and adventure with odd assortment of characters
each for their own reasons want to climb this 'White Tower' mountain...
a great cast.. Claude Rains, L Bridges, C Hardwick, etc.. but most of all
VALLI, a special woman among women.. (also in the 'The Third Man')... I'm
great fan of 'The Third Man' and fell in love with her,.... and seeing
again was a real treat..
Great vistas (quite abit of on-location shooting in the French Alps), photography, color.... For those who know what I mean,.. this has a 'kinda' "High and Mighty" feel to it.. One other note germane to that era of film making, the ages to the characters/actors.. all older and more mature than what we're used to today... Chauk one up for the good old days.. ENJOY
It takes a while for "The White Tower" to take off. After the long,
slow start, this film keeps picking up speed until the surprise ending
(or near the end), which takes on new meaning today as a result of the
recent controversy concerning Mt. Everest and comments by Sir Edmund
Hillary. I don't want to give away the ending of the film, but be sure
and read what Sir Edmund Hillary had to say a few days ago about the
peak he conquered in 1953, three years after "The White Tower" was
released and relate his words to what happens in the picture.
In beautiful Technicolor but before Cinemascope, it is easy to spot the interior sets, yet the exterior ones are breathtaking, even on a small screen. The cinematography is first rate. Too bad the script and direction weren't as effective. The script attempts to work a soap opera romance into the proceedings which becomes so melodramatic and naive that the viewer is asked to believe that attractive and likable Glenn Ford as Martin Ordway would risk his life and limb for the loves of a woman, even the vivacious Alida Valli as Carla Alton.
The performers do the best they can with what they're given. Lloyd Bridges as Hein, the never-say-die Nazi, makes a hearty effort to bring his despicable character to life as does Claude Rains in the somewhat nondescript role of Paul DeLambre.
Enjoy the scenery, the fine cast, and the excitement of the last fifteen minutes or so of the show and maybe you'll forget about the tired, hackneyed beginning and middle.
I was fortunate enough to see it in the 1950-51 time period in color. The heroine played by "Valli" (who used only that one name that I knew of at that time) wore tight sweaters, and was at least as spectacular as the mountain they were going to climb. The story stayed fairly close to the book. One line that we used for quite a while after that was "To rest is not to conquer", said by the "villain" when they stopped en route to the mountain. After all of these years, I was rereading the book for the umpteenth time, and thought it might be fun to see the movie again. It seems to be out of print. For a complete description of the plot and the characters go to "RKO movies", and look for the title..
The White Tower is an allegorical film about the need for cooperation
among people and nations. It's no accident that this film was made
during the early years of the United Nations when there was so much
hope for its success. Maybe we will be one world, one day if we all
The story takes place in Switzerland and the White Tower is as yet an unclimbed Alp. Alida Valli's father died making an attempt and she wants to climb it. She manages to convince five guests of the resort hotel she's staying at to climb with her.
Her party consists of Glenn Ford, Lloyd Bridges, Claude Rains, Oscar Homolka, and Sir Cedric Hardwicke. The story is what happens on the mountain and what the challenging climb brings out in all of them.
Not all of them survive the trip. But you ain't gonna get me to spill the beans.
Lloyd Bridges is the most interesting of the characters. He's a former Nazi who's doing it to prove Deutscheland is really uber alles. He gets quite a reality check on the mountain.
The White Tower has some good color photography of some really fabulous mountain scenery. The story at times gets a big talky and bogs down, but the climax is both spectacular and real.
It's a suspenseful premisescaling a killer peak. The trouble is that
the suspense doesn't really gel until the final few minutes. In the
meantime, Valli and Ford get romantically acquainted in several
over-long scenes that sap the pace. Technically, the movie combines
real mountains (French Alps) with sound stage mountains in pretty
effective fashion, certainly better than most process shots of the
period. And that location photography of the French Alps produces some
stunning shots of gorgeous alpine valleys, which, I suspect, is the
real star of the movie.
The plot motivation has Valli paying tribute to her dead father by scaling the White Tower. Unfortunately, she takes along a mixed bag of male support that's none too persuasive, including a 61-year old Claude Rains and a 56-year old Cedric Hardwicke, along with a youthful Ford who nevertheless treats the project like a walk-in-the-park. Remember, this is supposed to be a peak never before climbed, and she's a girl with a mission. Nonetheless, some of the dangling-from-rocks scenes amount to good cinema. I just wish someone had told Ford or the director that you don't mountaineer without gloves, especially in snow.
The story itself shifts gears abruptly in the final few minutes when WWII is refought on a tense snow bank. Actually, Ford should have suspected Bridges' politics when he first saw that Afrika Korps campaign cap. Instead, he has to prove the advantages of a cooperative ethic (democracy) over Bridges' superman ethic; at the same time, I like the movie's surprisingly unconventional climax, which manages to reinforce Ford's ethic. Anyway, the film is spotty, at best, but those scenic shots do compensate for a lot.
While watching this on TV as a black and white version I began to
wonder the unusually heavy looking make-up on the faces of the actors.
Well, now I am wiser to know that this was originally a Technicolor
film and therefore required heavier make-ups. Simple.
But I only wish I'd seen the color version because of the breathtaking scenery. I still enjoyed the film very much, though. Excellent cast and fine camera work. The outdoor scenery and a little clumsier parts made in studio blended together rather nicely, anyway.
The cast includes no big name stars but you won't miss any either. Valli and the boys deliver their roles as believable and interesting characters without fuss or glamor. Their appearances are very earthy just like the surroundings and it gives good contrast to the story which seems to develop slowly at first, but reaches very dramatic and symbolic levels towards the end. These symbolic levels are also treated so that it doesn't start to bury the story too much. You can take this simply as a romantic adventure drama with a few surprises, if you like. This romantic piece sure has a heart but also brains and it uses them well.
Young woman returns to her Swiss hometown and is determined to climb a virgin peak, the infamous "White Tower", which even her mountaineer father could not scale. She recruits a disparate group of men to accompany her, including ne'er-do-well Glenn Ford who has love in his eyes. Screenwriter Paul Jarrico adapted James Ramsey Ullman's novel for the screen, with hardly a trace of good humor but much strenuous character interaction. The RKO production is solid, with a good deal of on-location shooting in saturated Technicolor, but there's nothing charismatic about these people. Driven into danger by different ideals, they're hardly more than stock figures. Some of Ray Rennahan's cinematography is striking (particularly at the beginning), and Roy Webb composed a lovely score, yet this is hardly a classic instance of rugged adventure. ** from ****
Which has lasted the test of time.
An odd bunch of people who come together with the goal of climbing the Alpine mountain as in the name of the movie but they make it work.
It does not use up to much time getting to know the group letting their stories unfold as the movie story unfolds.
Glenn Ford does not have much kit but he seems to scrounge it just when he needs it without ever having to ask.
As in most films there is a love story which fits right in with the plot.
A canny feel good movie and a pleasant way to spend 98 minutes of anyone's time.
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