An immigrant Nevada rancher brings a woman from Italy to be his second wife but when he neglects her, she becomes involved with his trusted assistant. Nominated for 3 Academy Awards including Best Actor.
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Anthony Quinn forcefully wants to marry the unwilling Carol Omart
"The Wild Party" (1956) is a movie that should be seen by devotees of noir, those who like its stars, jazz fans, and fans of offbeat Hollywood curiosities that flopped despite good casts and honest efforts.
I like the capable Nehemiah Persoff, but he's miscast as an out-of-work jazz pianist who speaks in imitation-beatnik lingo. He opens the story which is told in flashback. The beatnik angle just doesn't stick when he does it, and that's partly because it's so overdone, so Hollywood-style. This happens in all the Hollywood movies portraying the beatnik ways that I've ever seen, at least according to my personal observations at Club 47 back in those days (on Mt. Auburn Street, Cambridge), with fellow musicians, and with beatnik types.
Kathryn Grant is a spaced-out hanger-on who is turned off of the world but still hung up on Anthony Quinn's character, a former well-known football player ("Tom") who is down on his luck and fortunes and has turned to sponging and preying off of vulnerable people. He's aided by a psychopathic knife-wielding Jay Robinson who looks and acts entirely respectable until the opportune time comes to intimidate the victims.
They all need money badly and a couple becomes their prey. That's a naval officer, Arthur Franz, and his debutante wife-to-be, Carol Omart, who is delaying their marriage. Franz's character is singularly inept for being an armed forces man. We have to accept that he's no physical match against either Robinson's knife or Quinn's size, physicality and brawn.
Jay Robinson is a memorable performer in such crazed parts. Think of his Caligula portrayals in "The Robe" (1953) and "Demetrius and the Gladiators" (1954). Quinn is a powerhouse, an actor of huge intensity, but he's let down here by a script that asks us to believe that he transitions from bitterness and a chip on his shoulder, from memories of past glories, and from petty extortion to both kidnapping and a mad love for Omart, after merely dancing with her and attempting to seduce her clumsily.
The jazz score features Buddy DeFranco on screen with his quartet and a score by Buddy Bregman for a big band that included the top West Coast musicians.
Invasion of the middle class by motorcycle gangs, by wild teenagers, by drugged out beatniks, by hippies, by gangsters, by fugitives and by assorted other types out of the mainstream life of most Americans was a long-running theme in movies. It sold. "Hot Rods to Hell" showed it was still alive in 1967. As is usual in such matters of mass fear and belief, the real attacks and the real undermining of the middle class would come from completely other directions that were totally unanticipated and still not understood by those affected.
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