A young field administrator for the TVA comes to rural Tennessee to oversee the building of a dam on the Tennessee River. He encounters opposition from the local people, in particular a ... See full summary »
In the post-war, the alcoholic and bitter veteran military and former writer Dave Hirsch returns from Chicago to his hometown Parkman, Indiana. He is followed by Ginnie Moorehead, a vulgar ... See full summary »
A young field administrator for the TVA comes to rural Tennessee to oversee the building of a dam on the Tennessee River. He encounters opposition from the local people, in particular a farmer who objects to his employment (with pay) of local black laborers. Much of the plot revolves around the eviction of an elderly woman from her home on an island in the River, and the young man's love affair with that woman's widowed granddaughter. Written by
Sam Neff <firstname.lastname@example.org>
At the beginning of the film Chuck comes to town on a Greyhound bus. The bus is a late 40's early 50's model bus. Much larger then the buses used in 1934. See more »
[Carol says nothing]
I know I'll probably regret it, and I'm sure you'll regret it... but... get your hat, and a coat, wash up. Alright?
[Carol nods yes]
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The brilliant acting is what makes this movie as great and as generally underrated as it is. When you think of the over-the-top "movies" today which are basically two hours of explosions, gunfire, and other hijinks, when watching a quiet masterpiece like Wild River with such rich and evocative character performances, you are reminded of how movies were made and how they should be made.
There were two stories running concurrently in this movie. Two conflicts. You had the broader conflict of the Garths, headed by matriarch Ella (Jo Van Fleet), who was battling the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) to retain their land from the TVA who wanted to buy it so that their dam could produce more electricity for the area. Then you had the eventual (and explosive once it hit) romance between TVA official Chuck Glover (Montgomery Clift), who was sent to the Garth homestead to convince the old lady to give up her land, and Carol Garth Baldwin (Lee Remick), a widowed young mother with two kids who was staying with her grandmother on the family property and had stayed there since her husband died. You have the conflict of the individual fighting against the state, and the more interpersonal conflict of two people on the opposite sides of the larger conflict who are fighting their feelings for each other. Both eventually give in, though Ella Garth gives into her dilemma, if you will, far more begrudgingly than Carol gives into to hers.
The scenery is also vivid and lends much to the story. Other minor conflicts are evident in the film, such as the hostility the fairly liberal Glover has to deal with when he hires blacks to work alongside the local whites at the site. I enjoyed Albert Salmi's and Bruce Dern's brief appearances in the movie, particularly since I have seen their other, later work with Remick.
At first, I felt pretty unsympathetic towards Ella and sort of did see her as a stubborn old lady with too much of a sentimental attachment to her home. I felt somewhat bad for this initial reaction. I an sure after more viewings (there will be many more) than my heart will soften and I will perhaps even view the TVA as a bunch of mean bullies. They didn't come across that way to me, especially when a character like Monty Clift comes to the rescue of the organization (and to Carol's).
I could see the practicality of the TVA wanting to relocate Ella and have her land used for the dam project, so as to generate electricity and wealth for the common good. That is the major conflict in this movie: The right(s) of the individual versus the right(s) of the commonality. I found myself siding with the latter. Change in our individual lives happens all the time, and so does greater "progress". Carol was ready to move on with her life as the budding romance between her and Chuck was consummated in marriage. I can see, though, how Ella would be more heartbroken to leave and more upset about having to do so. She presumably spent her whole live there, working the rich bottom land as and being unceremoniously uprooted by a bunch of bureaucrats rightfully angered and embittered her. Even in the course of this paragraph, my feelings about her and about her predicament have changed.
Finally, one cannot review Wild River without exploring where I read someplace, "one of filmdom's great romances." Absolutely. Talk about electricity! The pairing of two sensitive and elegant actors in Remick and Clift was brilliant casting on Kazan's part. It reminded me of A Place In The Sun and the tender and forbidden romance between Clift and Elizabeth Taylor, though Clift's and Remick's romance in Wild River is more powerful than even that famous one because it is so understated at first and then explodes with sensuality and passion. Two scenes stand out in my mind: the famous one in Chuck's car (chuck wagon?) with the sleeping kids in back, and soon thereafter when they move into the house and embrace again by the cupboard. Next, Carol essentially asks Chuck to marry her. "In some things you are stupid and I'm not and you need me." (not quite verbatim) Talk about a woman taking charge and knowing what she wants!! Very sexy.
So in the end, after the masterful performances by Remick, Van Fleet, and Clift, the conflicts are resolved. The dam project goes ahead and Ella leaves her land to move in with Carol and her new family. Carol made it out of everything happier than Ella did. I got the feeling Carol wanted to leave the old home and wanted her grandmother to leave as well, though she knew how much the property meant to her grandmother. And I believe I caught Ella giving Carol the look of death at the end of the movie when they were on the porch of the new home. She soon died and lost the will to live, it seems, after the relinquishment of her beloved familial land. Progress indeed comes with a price.
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