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John M. Stahl
Tom Rath lives in Connecticut and commutes to work every day in Manhattan. He's happily married and has a loving wife and three children. Money is a bit tight and when the opportunity arises, he applies for a public relations job with a major television network. During his long commute to work everyday, Tom reminisces about the war. Although 10 years have gone by, he is still haunted by the violence and the men he killed. He also thinks of Maria, an Italian girl with whom he had an affair while stationed in Rome. At his new job, the head of the network Ralph Hopkins takes an immediate liking to him. Tom soon realizes that he will have to choose between becoming a wholly dedicated company man or maintaining a healthy work-life balance. When he learns that Maria gave birth to his son after he left Italy, he decides to let his wife know and ensure that the boy is cared for. Written by
One of Gregory Peck's movie children was played by Portland Mason, who was the daughter of actor James Mason, and an Italian delivery boy was played by Johnny Crawford a few years before he would achieve fame on the popular TV Western, "The Rifleman". See more »
As Betsy is driving Tom home from the train at the beginning of the film, the car doesn't correctly respond to how she moves the steering wheel. See more »
I had trouble finding this film in the local video store but finally saw it on television. It's well worth watching. It's a wonderful commentary on the American suburban corporate culture emerging in the years following the second World War. Peck plays the stereotypical businessman living in Connecticut and taking the New Haven Railroad into New York City each day. He is faced with a number of seemingly mundane dilemmas, such as settling a deceased relative's estate, how to deal with a dissatisfied wife more ambitious than he, whether to switch jobs for better pay, and whether he should tell his new boss what he *needs* rather than *wants* to hear. Hanging over him are the ever-present memories of his wartime combat experience, which intrude on him occasionally especially during those otherwise empty hours spent commuting on the train.
I disagree with the reviewer who found the film boring apart from the war scenes. One of the reasons why this film works so well is that it regularly jolts the viewer, nearly lulled into complacency by the apparent ordinariness of suburban life, with those sudden flashbacks of the horrors of war. The juxtaposition of these quite different scenes was quite deliberate and speaks volumes in itself. How is it possible for someone who has spent four years both killing and avoiding death to settle into a normal life of family and work? Obviously it's not easy.
Furthermore, death continues to haunt the family in various, almost light-hearted ways, particularly by way of the children who were born after the carnage had ended and for whom death is no more real than the gunfights in those television westerns to which they are so conspicuously addicted. A scene near the beginning has one of the girls suffering from chicken pox, a fairly minor malady, as everyone knows. But she tells her father she has "small pox" and her sister keeps teasing her with the morbid suggestion that she is going to die. The father tells her to stop, but she keeps it up. He knows what death is all about; his children do not.
The term "workaholic" had not yet been coined in 1956, but the contrast between the man who chooses a fuller, less driven life including time for family and the man married to his career could not have been more starkly portrayed. The viewers find themselves applauding the choice Peck eventually makes and pitying March for not having done so himself.
I am a great fan of the score's composer, Bernard Herrmann, whose music is uniquely capable of evoking a range of strong emotions in the listener. The music here is typically Herrmann, although it is not as central a "character" in this film as are his scores in, say, "Vertigo" and "Psycho." It is impossible to imagine the latter two films without the music, while this film seems less obviously dependent on its score.
Although I quite liked this film, it is overly long and could have been better edited. The several subplots needed to be better integrated into the whole. What, for example, was the purpose of the challenge to Peck's inheritance, other than to show the persistent salvific role Cobb played in his life? This subplot could easily have been cut and the film would have suffered nothing in terms of its overall impact. In fact, it might have been better for being more tightly constructed.
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