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Joseph M. Newman
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When the great potato famine hits Ireland, the diaspora begins as thousands emigrate. Among those leaving the Emerald Isle is Katie O'Neill and her husband, who decide that the promised land is South Africa and make their way there. Once there, they discover the hardships that are the reality of the homesteader experience. To complicate matters, Katie meets up with the love of her life, Paul van Riebeck. Will there be betrayal on the veldt? Written by
Henry King is ,par excellence, the director of the storybook works.The titles speak for themselves,particularly in this phase of his career ,the fifties:"the snows of Kilimandjaro" (1952),"love is a many splendored thing"(1955)"The sun also rises" (1957) and "tender is the night" his final effort (1961).All these movies feature some of the most beautiful actresses that Hollywood has ever known:both Hayward and Gardner in "kilimandjaro" ,Gardner alone in "sun" ,Jones in "love" and "night".
Susan Hayward is the star here.She plays a bold and impetuous heroine,a la Scarlett O'Hara,with whom she shares the Irish blood.Like her,she's always compelled to pick up the pieces and she does it with persistence. Like her she becomes a merry widow very soon.Tyrone Power( one of King's favorites:"Llyod s of London (1936)"captain from Castille (1947)"prince of foxes"(1949)and finally the impotent officer in "sun also rises")is the noble hero,full of panache.His parts look like each others in King's movies.Richard Egan has the only ambiguous role:generally cast as the villain ,he shows a friendly side in the first part.
But what matters is the cinematography:using the cinemascope as few can do,Henry King work wonders when it comes to directing movements in the crowd:the Zulu's attack ,with its splendid panoramic shots displays an extraordinary sense of space.A gigantic African western in which the Zulus play the part of the Indians.Another sublime plan :the tree struck by lightning during the fight Heyward/Egan.
Detractors will say that psychology is not King's forte:they simply do not understand that the interest does not lie in the characters but in their confrontation to a hostile environment .Actually the beauty of the landscapes enhance the characters who've got to rise to the occasion.
In 1992,Ron Howard casts Nicole Kidman and Tom Cruise in "Far and away".OK they sail for America,but they are Irish and they start over in a new land.Nothing really changes.
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