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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The film opens with Newman, as a military officer, testifying at a
trial, which reminds one of "The Rack." Indeed the subject once more is
the way people surrender their ideals and moral standards under the
pressures of war
But here the emphasis is on women, and the story
details the endless suffering and sacrifices of four sisters on the New
Zealand Homefront during World War II
Newman, an American marine, becomes involved with one of the sisters (Jean Simmons), whose husband has recently been killed in combat It's hardly a smooth relationship: Simmons doesn't trust the GIs, who exploit and abuse the local women; Newman, who has been, in his words, "recently unmarried," has no faith in women or in romance He is tough, unsociable, defensive, and trying to remain detached; and he uses his position as investigator of servicemen's prospective brides to advise men against marriage
This is the first of Newman's genuine alcoholics When Simmons first meets him, he's in a bar, preoccupied with his liquor, and later, when she asks him how he copes with life, he shows her a bottle and delivers what would become characteristic Newman lines: "This is what I spend the night withand no regrets . . . And nobody gets hurt."
Gradually this confused and cynical man is unable to resist Simmons, who, he realizes, is the only woman he's ever really liked He abandons what she calls his "hot affair with the bottle," although they seem to avoid a sexual relationship Some melodramatic events threaten to keep them apart, but all ends happily in a huge CinemaScope closeup embrace
Newman manages to mask his insecurities and neuroses Instead of showing his usual aggressiveness with women, he becomes very dependent, seeing Simmons as almost a mother and letting her see his weaknesses Most Newman characters are emotionally immature but they are rarely as open about itrarely as overtly passive, dependent and adolescent
I have to admit, when I first heard of this film, I didn't think it
would keep my interest or attention. The casting, albeit comprised of
talented performers, seemed a little odd: 40 year old Fontaine and 13
year old Sandra Dee as sisters sounds a little far fetched, but the
pairing actually plays out believably on screen. The age difference
translates into a believable mother/daughter type of sisterly
relationship, which is appropriate since Fontaine's character has been
left to tend to her three sisters after her parents' death.
Preconceived notions aside, the story is a compelling one, centering around four sisters in WWII New Zealand. Fontaine, Dee, Jean Simmons, and Piper Laurie all turn in admirable performances as the Lesley sisters in a plot that can sometimes seem a little implausible, or at the very least, ahead of it's time. Paul Newman also co-stars as a Marine officer who plays a pivotal role in the lives of the sisters, namely Simmons' character.
Not the best role of any of the principal actors' careers, but definitely worth seeing, especially if you are drawn to WWII era dramas.
War starts, the New Zealand men go off to fight, and four sisters are left
to cope with that- and the arrival of the American fleet! It sounds like a
recipe for the most hackneyed sort of wartime romance weepie, but this film
is certainly not that.
First, this is an ensemble movie, where no one 'star' dominates. From Paul Newman (probably the best-remembered name now) on, we are given a whole clutch of accomplished and finely nuanced performances.
The cinematography is superbly judged: this is one of those lovingly observed pictures where a shot of 'two people talking' is rarely just that; the backgrounds and choice of shots are a delight. This must be viewed in the original format, not 'scanned'!
The script is intelligent and daring. Sexual topics such as promiscuity and having children outside marriage are dealt with in a surprisingly straightforward and sophisticated manner for a 1950s movie. And, it must be said, they are dealt with in a human and sympathetic fashion. There is no hint of the lurid sensationalism nor of the tight-arsed repressiveness that films of this era often display when dealing with such subject matter.
In a situation where the old well-patterned expectations have gone by the board, the sisters attempt to keep track of their universe with a wall-map of the world on which they plot where their men are now. The scope of this exercise is enlarged to include the dead, and then American 'friends'. Ultimately, the map is screwed up and thrown on the fire as the old world- including the old moral universe- goes up in smoke.
The only jarring note is the plot device allowing the film to open and close with a murder trial. One of the sisters has married a 'local'- clearly marked as unsuitable by his working class tones and chest hair! The relationship ends in worse than tears. This element of the film has all the sophistication of an Enid Blyton 'Famous Five' childrens book, and sits uneasily in such an- otherwise- intelligent performance!
filmed in New Zealand in 1957, One could wonder what paradise looks like from a couch potatoes vicarious point of view. 4 Sisters living in Christchurch New Zealand find love, happiness and sometimes tragedy after they embark in whirlwind relationships with visiting WWII American Soldiers. A cast of characters worthy of Hollywood splashes the screen with an older seasoned Joan fontaine matching wits with her 15 year old sister named Sandra Dee, To top it off you have Piper Laurie and jean Simmons as the other two sisters. Even though none of the sisters were born in New Zealand, they sure did a darn great job acting and making me believe that they couldn't have been born in any other country except New Zealand that i had to find out for myself! i would personally like to thank the New Zealand People for letting Hollywood film a great movie and letting the world watch the pristine, paradise settings of the NZ landscape !!!
Very good Paul Newman about the effect that war has on people's lives
as they try to cope with their loneliness due to separation.
It was a great ensemble cast with Newman and Jean Simmons (Oscar nominations for The Happy Ending and Hamlet), Joan Fontaine (Oscar for Suspicion, and nominations for Rebecca and The Constant Nymph), Piper Laurie (Oscar nominations for Carrie, Children of a Lesser God, The Hustler), and Sandra Dee.
For a 1957 film, it really took on issues such as infidelity and illegitimate children and the casualness of sex during wartime.
Newman was great as the officer charged with investigating girls who soldiers wanted to marry and take back home. He played a character very familiar in his films - one that had a close relationship with the bottle.
This movie is wonderful. It's romantic, truthful and perfectly cast. It shows how lonely women can be without the love of a man in their life, and how wounds take so long to heal, and how easily they can be made. Jean Simmons is beautiful and sensitive in her portrayal of a New Zealand lass trying to remain decent and understanding emotional pain and restriction in a time of war. Paul Newman is positively gorgeous and plays his role as a cynical soldier so well i could seriously believe him really being one. The ending of the movie, although somewhat predictable, is lovely and suitable. I recommend this film to all lovers of Jean Simmons, Paul Newman and the classically romantic dramas of the 50's.
James A. Michener's WWII tale of four sisters in a seaside New Zealand home who experience the highs and lows of love. With nearly all the men in their town off fighting in the war, the gals are at first apprehensive, but finally grateful when the streets fill up with American Yanks on leave. Joan Fontaine, as the eldest of the clan, falls for handsome soldier Charles Drake from Oklahoma (and has his child out of wedlock!), while Jean Simmons manages to get close to cynical, hard-drinking Paul Newman. Piper Laurie, as sort of the beautiful black sheep of the family, tires quickly of her sudden marriage and heads off to nearby Wellington to play the field. Sandra Dee, in her film debut, is very cute as a dimply, growing 15-year-old with a passion for boys. Attractive M-G-M production surprises in its openness of sexual matters, yet the flashback framework was unnecessary, as were the stock-shots of battleships on the horizon (making it seem as if the girls live on their own private island). Though each actor gets equal screen-time, Laurie nearly steals the picture with a finely-etched portrayal of a young woman desperately trying to find herself--and feeling the strangulation of family ties (she's also extraordinarily lovely here). Not up to the classics of the wartime movie genre, but certainly not bad. **1/2 from ****
Having spent six years living in New Zealand I was especially gratified to see some of my old haunts and gorgeous scenery up there on the screen. When I was there 1986-1992 the people were still very upset about the goings-on between their native daughters and the visiting Americans despite 40 years having gone by. I was struck, in reading the reviews, both external and internal, by the insufferable condescension shown by the reviewers toward the finely nuanced shades of human emotion they had just been privileged to witness as created by author James Michener and director Robert Wise. Some of these people wouldn't know an authentic emotion if it shouted "Boo" at them. The clichéd use of the terms "women's movie" and "soap opera" ought to be finally banned from any attempt at serious criticism. Such marvelous performances by all concerned (both English and American) are to be treasured and appreciated rather than sneered at from some vantage point of aesthetic superiority on high. The emotional melting of the uptight moralistic Joan Fontaine and the pained, cynical Paul Newman are both heartbreakingly beautiful moments in this film. And the cottage pre-departure embrace between Newman and Peters reminded me of the similar moment on the beach between Lancaster and Kerr in From Here to Eternity of four years before. I think Until They Sail is one of the most wonderful movies I've ever seen.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Jean Simmons, Joan Fontaine, Piper Laurie, Sandra Dee and Paul Newman
star in "Until They Sail," a World War II romantic drama directed by
Robert Wise. Four sisters watch their husbands and boyfriends go off to
war and meet different fates. The central story is the romance between
the widowed Barbara (Simmons) and an American marine (Newman). This is
an early film for Newman; he has fourth billing.
The drama emphasizes the tremendous loneliness of the American soldiers and the New Zealand women and the resulting changing morality. The liaisons that result are sometimes one-nighters, sometimes serious that end with a soldier's death, and sometimes end in marriage and relocation. Anne (Fontaine) falls in love with a soldier (Charles Drake) and becomes pregnant; Dee (Piper Laurie) has a husband she doesn't love who is a prisoner of war - she moves to Wellington and takes up with an assortment of soldiers; and Barbara's husband is killed. Evelyn, a mere child at the beginning of the war, matures as it continues and falls in love.
"Until They Sail" begins with a courtroom scene and continues as Barbara's flashback. It moves somewhat slowly and has a tendency to be talky. The performances are uneven. Laurie, a vibrant actress, nevertheless seems as if she belongs to a different family, much more American than a New Zealand resident. Fontaine gives a gentle portrayal of a woman who finds love later in her life. As Barbara, Simmons gives us a serious young woman with certain standards who nevertheless finds herself drawn to the cynical Newman character. Though she enjoyed an excellent career, Simmons never had the career she deserved, belonging to an era that put her in competition with Elizabeth Taylor and Audrey Hepburn. It's a shame - of the three, she's the best actress. Her work in "Angel Face" is proof enough of that and that she is a stunning beauty who, when allowed, could also be sexy. In "Until They Sail," she again conveys her thoughts with no dialogue. At the end, she stands outside alone and the viewer can read her mind, as they could when she walked into the house in "Angel Face" after the death of her parents.
This is a pleasant film, not spectacular, worth seeing for an early Newman and some likable actors.
I don't know how big a star Newman was at the time, but his "cool-hand" cynic is amazing in this film. The pairing with Jean Simmons (some one I'd always thought of as a bit prim and cold) worked perfectly. Though superficially a hackneyed romance, Until They Sail really works because the central couple are so mature and dismissive of the war romances they see around them. The New Zealand setting was unexpected and charming. I'd love to see this in a double bill with the technicolour lushness of The Revolt of Mamie Stover: Full of passionate women fighting repressive 50s social attitudes.
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