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Although this film is meant to be Beatty's showpiece, De Wilde actually
carries the film. Lansbury & Malden chew the scenery more often than
not, but their performances do eventually fall into place. Eve Marie
Saint is wonderful, as are the actresses cast in several minor
supporting roles - Evans Evans, Barbara Baxley and Constance Ford.
While Beatty is at the height of his youthful beauty, his
interpretation of "Berry-Berry" feels undeveloped.
The opening twenty minutes, filmed in Key West, establish a unique atmosphere that is quickly lost, when the film moves to "Ohio" scenes filmed on a studio back lot.
Contrary to a previous posting, Lansbury is thirteen years older than Beatty, who plays her son. Actor Brandon De Wilde died at age thirty, and one wonders what direction his acting career might have taken. His name has been forgotten by most, but his talent is obvious in this film.
Angela Lansbury is only four or five years older that Warren Beatty (One year older than Laurence Harvey, her son in Manchurian Candidate)and yet, through her performance everything makes sense even the most senseless of acts perpetrated by the characters around her. I wonder if David Lynch has seen this film. I don't know why but I sense a link. Viscerally. Brandon de Wilde, floating through the story, beautifully. Aware, trying to find a way out, lovingly, without destroying anything when everything seems destined to destroy him. I love this film.
This is exactly why I go to the library and rent movies. See all the
movies you know about, watch the dreck that questionably pass for
entertainment, and sometimes discover buried gems that nobody has heard
of, yet stars people like Warren Beatty and Angela Lansbury.
'All Fall Down' is a tale of a family that are about to be ripped apart at the seams because of their oldest son. Warren Beatty plays Berry-Berry, a drifter if there ever was one. Going from town to town, from job to job, and usually winding up in jail, but this is all unknown to his family, who see him as a hero, mainly because he got away from town mostly. When his younger brother, played so achingly innocently by Brandon DeWilde, visits him in Florida only to wind up bailing him out of jail, he still loves him. Berry-Berry does wind up back home though, where Mom and Dad (played excellently here by Lansbury and Karl Malden) and unsettled house-guest Eva Marie-Saint await him diligently. His relationship with all 4 members of the household are all different, which results in the conclusion, which you're wondering what will happen to the family now.
I'm just amazed at Beatty's performance here, smoldering with machismo, yet unsure of everything else, Beatty easily wows everyone he sees, family included. Although Brandon DeWilde is largely ignored now, he was one of the brightest young stars in Hollywood once, and this is a great vehicle for him.
Find this one if you can!
John Frankenheimer was not a director of domestic dramas. Working on
the James Leo Herlihy novel, adapted by William Inge, Mr. Frankenheimer
shows his versatility in "All Fall Down". The director working with
some of the best actors of the era, created a film that, although
forgotten, had a lot going for it.
We are introduced to Berry-Berry Willart, a young man from Cleveland. He is in jail, as the movie opens. It appears Berry-Berry has a problem with beating women. Berry-Berry's problems seems to stem from a deeply rooted complex with his home life. He would have been a candidate for analysis because he probably would have been able to get a rein on his problem. Since he is seen as young stud, he attracts the kind of women that are either insecure, or have not a great sex life. His younger brother, Clinton, has come to what appears to be Key West, to bail him out.
Berry-Berry decides to stick around Florida, a fertile ground for what he is looking for. We watch him as he is hired by an older woman, Mrs. Mandel, for a trip to the Bahamas in her husband's yacht. Later, Berry-Berry catches a ride north with the lonely schoolteacher going home for a Christmas vacation. The trip ends as the young man beats the mousy schoolteacher and lands in jail.
In the meantime, we are taken to the Willart home. Annabell is a nagging wife that appears to be unfulfilled with the life she and Ralpht, her alcoholic husband, lead in Cleveland. Clinton, the younger son, is plainly aware of the unhappiness around him. He seems to live in his own world, tuning out the bickering between his parents.
Enter Echo O'Brian, the young and pretty friend of the family. Echo is a happy go lucky "old maid", by her own account, in her early thirties. It's obvious her interest in men is limited. When Berry-Berry, the prodigal son returns for a visit, Echo feels sexually aroused by the young stud. Suddenly, it appears that Berry-Berry is changed until he realizes Echo was hiding something from him. This discovery ends in tragedy.
Warren Beatty was probably made to look like a Jimmy Dean by the studio in order to capitalize on his good looks. Mr. Beatty was a strange actor; on dramatic roles, he is not as effective as when he played rogues, or comedies. Evidently Mr. Frankenheimer was after something that doesn't come across quite clearly, but Mr. Beatty's Berry-Berry, is a light weight playing against more accomplished actors.
Eva Maria Saint is perfect as Echo. She is a woman who hasn't experienced much in her life. When she meets Berry-Berry, she suddenly is able to experience all what she probably has denied herself. Angela Lansbury has one of the best moments of her brilliant career as Annabell. Ms. Lansbury, who went to work with Mr. Frankenheimer in "The Manchurian Candidate", is one of the best reasons for watching the movie. In fact, Mr. Herlihy's book seems to have been adapted by Mr. Inge as though he was presenting one of his frustrated midwest women that were his specialty.
Karl Malden also fares well under Mr. Frankenheimer's direction. Being a more experienced actor of stage and screen, Mr. Malden gives a realistic portrayal of Ralph, a man lost in alcohol, in order to escape the dreary married life with Annabell. Brandon de Wilde, as Clinton also does a good job as Clinton, the young Willart that knows all the secrets in his family. The minor roles are played well by Constance Ford, who only has a scene, but she makes the best of her Mrs. Mandel. Also, Barbara Baxley, another stage actress that knew the lonely and insecure schoolteacher she is seen playing.
The film also has a good music score by Alex North and a crisp black and white cinematography by Lionel Lindon. In fact, the print we recently viewed appears to have been kept in mint condition.
John Frankenheimer has to be congratulated for his achievement in this film.
I saw this one when it was first released, responding to some justly
deserved positive reviews. Recently Turner Classic Movies showed it and
my memories were confirmed: terrific cast beautifully responding to
John Frankenheimer's astute direction; impeccable black-and-white
cinematography by Lionel Lindon, especially that opening on-location
sequence in Key West, Florida; one of Alex North's most apposite
scores, not at all too florid (Was any Hollywood composer better at
enhancing a story filled with neuroses in full bloom?); and a story
whose downward spiral seems inevitable, despite some slight excesses on
the part of the scriptwriter.
Minor reservations: Karl Malden's being required to vociferously refer to his son, Berry-Berry, as "The Big Rhinoceros" and as other assorted wildlife creatures (Why? Never really explained and seemingly inappropriate, given Warren Beatty's rather sleek appearance); the given names of the characters played by both Warren Beatty (Berry-Berry) and Eva Marie Saint (Echo O'Brien) - pure flights of fancy on the part of the writer(s), when compared to the more down-to-earth names given the other Midwesterners in the story; the frustration of seeing the doomed character, Echo, often expressing her affection for the younger brother, Clinton, while pathetically succumbing to the brutish abuse of his older brother, Berry-Berry.
But the interplay of all the cast (including some excellent supporting players) makes this somewhat forgotten gem a real must-see. It's one time when Angela Lansbury, running on all cylinders, is easily and compatibly matched by her fellow actors. This one's a keeper!
One forgets what a sensational actress Angela Lansbury was, is and always will be. Her success as Jessica Fletcher in TV's "Murder She Wrote" have distracted audience's attention from the real Lansbury. To see "All Fall Down" in 2009 is quite an experience. All the clues about Warren Beatty's complex character are discovered in Angela Lansbury's extraordinary cinematic face. We discover everything visually without any exposition. I don't want to spoil it for you so I'm not going to pinpoint the moments I mean because part of the pleasure is to discover them by ourselves. Brandon De Wilde is another shattering presence on the screen. He died at 30 years of age and I can't help wondering what he could have become. He was the young kid from "Shane" remember? But, let's got back to Lansbury, she plays Warren Beatty's mother, although in real life they are only a few years apart, she is fearless and enthralling as she was in another collaboration with John Frankenheimer: "The Manchurian Candidate" I keep thinking that Tilda Swinton won an Oscar for her performance in °Michael Clayton" and Angela Lansbury was not even nominated for this. I confess to you that I saw "All Fall Down" twice in a row. I was overwhelmed by Lansbury's performance and her strange and compelling chemistry with Karl Malden, her husband, Warren Beatty, her eldest son and Brandon De Wilde, her youngest son. I highly recommend it.
Many of the earlier posts on this film mirror my overall impressions as well. I caught this on TCM a few weeks ago and I was compelled to keep watching despite some flaws and very awkward scenes. This film has that distinctive early 60's feel to it and also is lacking certain elements of specificity in its storytelling and character development. The Willart family is dysfunctional but we are not able to put our finger on the dynamics of exactly why. We know the father, Karl Malden, is an alcoholic, yet a noticeably genial and upbeat one. We know the mother, Angela Lansbury, seems perpetually stressed and perhaps emotionally isolated, but the dialogue between the two never gets to the heart of their unhappiness. The late Brandon de Wilde (who died in 1972 in an auto accident) is the younger of two brothers through whose perspective the story is told. He is an aspiring writer who spies and eavesdrops on his parents' conversations and records what he hears in a journal. I thought his overall performance was very effective and believable. A young Warren Beatty in one of his first major roles plays the older son, the wayward Berry-Berry. (His name is puzzling and one wonders why nobody thinks to call him Berry for short.) Eva Marie Saint plays a somewhat mysterious woman, Echo, who provides the basis of the storyline through her involvement with both brothers. I found it to be a flaw of the film, though a minor one, that we never know much about Echo....what her background is, how she came to be close friends with Mrs. Willart, what she does for a living, and why she is driving such an unusual car. An absorbing story once you get drawn into it, with several awkward scenes balanced out by several touching and poignant moments.
All Fall Down...did not live up to its promise... some dramatic scenes are , at times , laughable.. But you keep watching, and waiting. nothing much happens but a good study of a dysfunctional family in early 60's... The cast is probably the reason why we cant stop watching this beautifully photogaphed black &white film.. Angela Lansbury just about steals every scene .. not her best work but always good ! Karl Malden is also very good a Ralph the father... both were much younger than the roles they were playing.. Eva Marie Saint maybe miscast but she played the part very well.. young hunk Warren Beatty plays his confusing role well, and never looked better..what an early 60's masculine masterpiece was he...Barbara Baxley almost steals the show as the schoolteacher lusting after and later beaten and beratted by Beatty (Berry-Berry)..I would meet Ms. Baxley at an NYC bar years later (mid 1980s) and told her how much I admired her work...she replied in a euphoric stupor, & a puff of her cigarette..."I'm glaad someone remembers me darling "... true story.... But most of all .. Brandon De Wilde...growing up in the 1950's he was my teen idol I wanted to be Brandon de Wilde... blonde, beautiful talented making movies with A.Ladd etc.. what a screen talent.. what a loss.. long live Brandon de Wilde !!!
Guess what? Aside from All Quiet on the Western Front, this darn movie sticks in my mind more than most downer movies... you simply can't believe how completely uncomfortable you become, moment by moment, as the unfolding family disaster gets simply worse and worse---and worse, till finally the increasingly disjointed, insular world of everyone in the movie comes completely unravelled. Eve Marie Saint escapes---perhaps to North by Northwest---where her career hits a brick wall, but everyone else goes on to newer, better things moviewise, careerwise. Sadly overlooked, like "Mike's Murder" years later, this film burns a hole in the memory and one but wonders whatever happened to the early sixties era in which it was produced. Definitely not what I remember of the sixties---in and of itself, a dead era. This is in fact not a sixties movie, though produced in 1962---it is the definite deathknell of fifties entertainment and attitudes, combined with a great monstermother (Angela Lansbury) of a movie besides! Watch in particular Brandon de Wilde and Berry Berry (Warren Beatty) mix it up---well worth the price of admission!
"All Fall Down" combines the best elements of "Come Back Little Sheba"
and "Splendor in the Grass"; which should not be a total surprise given
that all three come at least in part from the mind of William Inge. It
is interesting that while "All Fall Town" is the most ambitious of the
three, it is also the least known. Probably because Director John
Frankenheimer made something that is more art film than box office
blockbuster (or academy darling).
The storytelling technique is much like "Days of Heaven", both told from the point of view of the youngest member of their casts-in this case Clint (Brandon de Wilde-"come back Shane"). The film even goes so far as to cut in shots of Clint watching the other characters through windows and doorways, and then writing down what he has observed in a journal. This is very effective because the story has coming of age elements involving Clint and the viewer is meant to strongly identify with his character. Unfortunately Frankenheimer pulls his punch at the end and limits things to the traditional process of disillusionment found in this film genre. A much more satisfying ending was possible.
I've never shared the view that "All Fall Down" lacks sympathetic characters. Clint is certainly likable as is family friend Echo (Eva Marie Saint), and even father Ralph (Karl Malden) to a certain degree. Mother Annabell (Angela Lansbury) is not but her purpose is to provide some explanation for this dysfunctional family.
Older brother Berry-Berry (Warren Beatty) is not likable but is certainly interesting. Smothered by his mother he has a phobia about ending up like his parents. Which has sent him on the road where he lives by his wits and good looks. Beatty really doesn't seem to know how to play Berry-Berry and his performance is mostly a repeat of his "Splendor in the Grass" character. But the uncertainty in his performance ultimately works to his advantage, as Berry-Berry is a conflicted mess of mixed motivation. His behavior is compulsive and contradictory, a sociopath with a conscience. And he is concerned with the welfare of his little brother, who idolizes him (as do his parents).
Starting out in Key West, where Clint meets his brother's ex-girlfriend (played by Frankenheimer's real life wife Evans Evans) in a strip club. In a great scene she tries to get the underage Clint to buy her a drink-but her debilitated coughing spoils any superficial sex appeal.
The action soon shifts to an older middle class neighborhood in Cleveland. Beatty appears briefly in the beginning and is mostly unseen until after the midpoint of the film. De Wille has far more screen time and introduces us to the remaining three characters.
Saint's character is a spinsterish free spirit of 31 (another contradiction) who Clint falls in love with until his older brother claims her. Saint was always difficult to cast. Not earthy enough for the Julie Harris-Elizabeth Hartman type of roles and not sexy enough for the standard starlet stuff she was limited to icy librarians or dowdy girlfriend stuff until Hitchcock drew her out in "North by Northwest". She is physically perfect for the Echo O'Brien role, someone confident and playful, yet very fragile; pretty enough to make Berry-Berry's attraction credible.
This is a slick little film but only if you like productions that could easily transfer to the stage.
Then again, what do I know? I'm only a child.
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