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There is little to add to the eloquent appreciations of Wild River by other users. Still, I want to pay my tribute. My father took me to see the film when I was a little girl and it made such an impression on me I have been searching for it for years. Odd, since I remembered nothing of the plot, retaining only fleeting images of autumn colours, Lee Remick's autumnal hair, the old ferry, an indelible impression of Montgomery Clift's face, the old woman surrounded by still 'figures in a landscape'. And the creation of a unique atmosphere so tangible, so lyrical, so elegiac it stayed with me for 40+ years. I've been wanting to know why it clung to me so. And wondering why it seemed to have disappeared without trace. This Christmas, in the fullness of time, my niece presented me with the DVD and I have at last seen it again. Why did it affect me so profoundly? That one's easy. Why had the film disappeared. That one's complex, as you know. What I hadn't expected was that stunning performance from the incomparable Jo Van Fleet. No Oscar? Were they mad? It is intensely interesting and sobering to reflect how politics can hold art hostage.
WILD RIVER is one of Elia Kazan's best films, with brilliant affecting performances, beautiful cinematography, atmospheric settings, and a multilayered plot with important thematic points to make about the rights of the individual vs. the needs of the larger society as a whole. Jo Van Fleet gives one of the all time great performances of the screen in this film as far as I'm concerned. The music is also beautiful and evokes the time and place of the setting, 1930s Tennessee.Why isn't this film on video? Wonderful, one of my favorite movies.
Once again I endured American Movie Classics' merciless mangling of one of
their rarely shown archival masterpieces, "Wild River," shown
non-letterboxed, interrupted excessively by endless strings of commercials
and their completely unpalatable promotions for showings of future films and
special programs. I've complained about this in other IMDb comments I've
posted so I won't give into the almost irresistible temptation to rail
against AMC once more. That said...
This film contains one of the all-time greatest performances by an American actress that it is possible to see. Jo Van Fleet is so convincing as the intransigent matriarch, who refuses to leave her island, that the injustice of her not receiving an Academy Award nomination for her performance still rankles. Perhaps the members of the Academy could not decide to grant her a nomination as the lead actress or as an actress in a supporting role and muffed the chance to show their admiration. Other comments here aptly point out all of the other outstanding elements in this film and the pain of seeing it so diminished in this TV broadcast (I did see it during its theatrical release, but had forgotten how eloquently most of it was done.) was, nevertheless, worthwhile. I join others who have expressed a desire for a DVD release (where the CinemaScope ratio would be approximated, we can hope.) Wish we could persuade Fox Classics to see if the response to a video audience would exceed the neglect this film was subjected to during its first exposure to the paying public.
I found this little gem to be an exquisite piece of ensemble work by some of the best screen actors to ever to be in front of a lens. Elia Kazan impeccable direction and a performance by Jo Van Fleet that could be a learning tool for some of these putrid so-called actress that now are being lauded as the neo-contemporary actress's of the day. When you see a film of this artistic magnitude you can easily understand the dumbing down process of the American cinematic media. Not one of the so-called stars of today could measure up to Lee Remicks complex and sensitive portrayal of Carol in Wild River. Montgomery Clift an actors actor , there will never be another. A master of controlled raw emotion and body language. Gone are the days indeed when this kind of movie production will return. Not special effects or remake after loathsome remake or some equally obnoxious star or starlet will match this cinematic jewel.
A touching unknown Kazan film ('60) that delves into the American
psyche like Welles did in Touch of Evil ('58)..kind of. The plot is too
basic and pure to explain, but it's not. This is also Bruce Dern's
first film and possibly Rip Torn's. Monty Clift is (post-accident)
still a brilliant actor (with half a shattered face for 10 years) who
conveys the ambiguity of job-man to this lovely, young mother (Lee
Remick) who was not even nominated for an Oscar, and it's down Alice's
Rabbit Hole with Jo Van Fleet (OScar winner in previous Kazan film
playing much older than she really was..again..like actors should be
able to do in famous Hollywood films) decrepit, sane, just and bigoted
...all in the same paragraph (while sitting in a rockintg chair) with
mud, dogs, Negroes, corruption, and the Tennessee commission.
A wonderful film. An 8 out of 10. Best performance = Lee Remick. There are other gliding Southern performances that grace the Magnolia trees, gator bait, and overalls that we have all come to love in an artistic, American way. Find this one!
When a movie character evoke the kind of feelings and emotion thought only capable in real life you can't help but wonder. Yet as a young man I literally fell in love with Carol Garth Baldwin in Eli Kazan's Wild River. Obviously you can't help but be attracted to the beautiful Lee Remick yet it is her portrayal of a 23 year old widowed mother of two and the backdrop of an obscure little Tennessee town that sets the stage for one of the true loves of my life. Jack Palance's character in City Slickers refers to a women he saw only once at a distance as being the love of his life. To this I can relate. Remick would go on and do some notable work in the years that followed this 1960 production and sadly die much to young of cancer at age 55. Yet what she and Kazan were able to do with this story and character will always hold a place in my heart. See Wild River, look into Carol's eyes and smell the cool damp October air in her hair. For me it will always be hauntingly magical.
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.
I had to say this movie was so stunning for me. The beginning black and white newsreel of a man who lost his three children in a flood is actually a real clip and it is my grandfather, so I was so amazed to see this. He passed away in 1972. My father lost his brothers and sisters in the flood which was in the 1930s Trumansburg, NY. I believe is was the flood of 1935. How amazing to see an actual news reel of my grandfather!!! I had a hard time finding the movie until I come across it on ebay. My father once had it, but he ended up losing it as the movie was not marked it was a blank VHS and it was unfortunately thrown away. I am holding onto the movie that I got until his birthday. It will make a unforgivable gift.
On May 18, 1933 the Federal Government under FDR's "progressive agenda", created the Tennessee Valley Authority, a vast scheme of regional development that involved, in part, the diverting of masses of water into valleys thus protecting large populations of people from the ravages of flooding rivers. Dams were created to assist in this enterprise and to harness the vast energy of the raging waters through turbines which in turn created electricity for communities that still lived in the "dark ages." WILD RIVER begins with stock news footage of the damage ravaged upon a community by a flood, in particular a heart rending first hand account of a man who has suffered a great loss. In comes the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) to save the day, a bastion of progress with Chuck Glover (Montgomery Clift) as its representative. The TVA, in order to complete its mission, must relocate all the residents within a particular area slated for water relocation but Mrs Ella Garth, an old hard-as-nails woman living on a small island in the middle of the valley, refuses to leave her land for any price. This is the context of WILD RIVER, but for director Elia Kazan, the TVA and its surrounding controversy are a microcosm for America's growing pains and the divisions between North and South that have persisted since the Civil War brought them to a head. Kazan contrasts rugged individualism, so much a part of the Nation's heritage, with an activist Federal Government citing the best interests of the community. The traditional attachment that the South has to "the land", where "the elements" are an accepted part of life is contrasted with the North's reliance on technology to tame the elements. The sophisticated Montgomery, full of enthusiasm and conviction for his mission, is immediately jolted into reality first by the steadfast conviction of the old landowner (in a towering display of acting by Jo Van Fleet), then by overt Racism "for a minute I forgot where I was.", and finally by his own mixed emotions. His passions are aroused by Carol (Lee Remick), Mrs Garth's stepdaughter, who is suffering from under stimulation, both physically and mentally. Widowed for over two years, she lives with her two children and the old woman on the island. When the handsome, educated Chuck arrives on the scene, she finds in him a source of combustion to feed a very deep well of passion. Once ignited, the fire threatens to envelope Chuck's controlled existence and intensify Carol's feelings of displacement. Rarely has confusion, vulnerability and molten sexuality been rendered more effective by an actress. Remick completely dispenses with any pretense about her sexual and emotional hunger and sets the screen on fire! While still smoldering, she manages to convey her separate, but equally passionate emotions for man and child during a tender scene between Clift and her daughter.
This is a most remarkable film, chronicling a piece of Americana and
presenting a compelling image of the tragedy of progress. And it is Jo
Van Fleet whose utterly convincing and captivating portrayal of an
80-year old hillbilly woman (she herself was 45 years old) makes WILD
RIVER a masterpiece. To reiterate what others have stated, the fact
that her performance was not even nominated for an Oscar is an outrage!
I tend to disagree with other reviewers in regards to the subplot
between Monty Clift and Lee Remick; I feel their scene slow things down
and I find myself fast-forwarding past them to get to the match of will
between Clift and Van Fleet. I do, however, understand the necessity of
the Chuck/Carol love affair - here you have a stubborn old woman who
simply refuses to leave her lifelong home and a sensuous young woman
who simply begs to get out! And Monty Clift becomes nemesis and savior.
But their scenes together are a total yawn when the good stuff involves
the reason Clift is there to begin with - not just his cat-and-mouse
with Van Fleet, but all the other obstacles he faces from the rest of
the populace of the rural south in the 1930's.
Still, an incredible film and worth viewing over and over again.
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