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When I saw the previews to "Kings Go Forth" in 1958, I was excited. This looked like an important picture with big stars (Frank Sinatra, Tony Curtis, Natalie Wood). That I already realized this at the age of 9 still strikes me as fairly remarkable. Later, I couldn't remember much about it after seeing it, except for its climactic battle scene. So, when it showed on Turner in 2005, I decided to watch it again. The interracial theme is certainly dated now, but this was strong stuff in 1958, particularly for someone from the South. After all, at that time southern department stores had separate restrooms for "White" and "Colored," and interracial marriage was ILLEGAL in southern states. However, the interracial theme is really not all that important to the story, as the themes of Sinatra's alienation, Wood's infatuation and Curtis' narcissism are probably elements familiar to MOST of us. Ever pine for a girl/guy friend who fell hard for someone else who was showier or better looking? I would, however, like to touch on what I believe is an unfair criticism of the film; i.e., that Natalie Wood is not convincing as someone of mixed race. Blonde, blue-eyed Cameron Diaz is Swedish and Cuban, and has said in interviews that her father's skin is black and that it is very likely her children would be.
I thought Natalie Wood and Tony Curtis were just great in this movie, as was Leora Dana as Natalie's mother. Wood never received her due as an actress and I thought her French accent was just fine. Curtis is absolutely chilling in his confrontation with Dana and Wood and it is easy to understand why Sinatra would want to kill Curtis. I think Sinatra is somewhat miscast as the "ugly duckling" who pines for Wood. After all, we've all seen too many movies where Sinatra's won the hearts of girls as pretty as Wood (if there ARE any other girls as pretty as Wood). Watching the film again, I couldn't help but wonder what Charles Bronson could have done with Sinatra's role. Nonetheless, given the potentially explosive (at that time) interracial element, it is unlikely "Kings Go Forth" would have been made without Sinatra's participation. Further, the episodic structure of "Kings Go Forth" plays against the sexual tension of a love triangle. Finally, the ending is almost annoyingly noncommittal. It shouldn't be; after all, there are enough clues as to what should eventually transpire between the principals. I think, here, the problem continues to be Sinatra. He is simply too aloof and passionless.
Given my criticisms, you may be surprised to know I really like "Kings Go Forth." I give it a "7". Oh, and for the record, the French ARE, historically, a VERY racially tolerant people. Witness "Cajuns," the French and Indian War, Josephene Baker and their acceptance of Indo-Chinese Eurasian children.
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