Young and restless Nick Adams, the only son of a domineering mother and a weak but noble doctor father, leaves his rural Michigan home to embark on an eventful cross-country journey. He is touched and affected by his encounters with a punch-drunk ex-boxer, a sympathetic telegrapher, and an alcoholic advanceman for a burlesque show. After failing to get a job as reporter in New York, he enlists in the Italian army during World War I as an ambulance driver. His camaraderie with fellow soldiers and a romance with a nurse he meets after being wounded propel him to manhood. Written by
Gabe Taverney (email@example.com)
Sad, down-keyed coming of age story, enhanced by Waxman score
This was one of my favorite films when I was an adolescent and I hadn't seen it in forty years until I recently purchased it on DVD. It is a very sad, very bittersweet exploration into Hemingway's semi-autobiographical Nick Adams stories with many guest star cameos. I know now I identified with Nick- wanting to escape a dull life, wanting to be a writer, having an ineffectual father and an over-bearing mother. I can see also why it failed to find an audience and is all but forgotten.
It is very laid back, very loosely woven together, with very few points of high excitement. Had a director like Richard Brooks been at the helm, this might have turned out quite differently.
It is Richard Beymer's finest performance and he carries the film well. Superlative cameos are delivered from: Paul Newman as the "Battler" - a punch drunk has-been fighter whose brain has turned to mush - Newman is almost unrecognizable behind the make-up and gives a stellar character turn; Dan Dailey as Billy, a perpetually drunk alcoholic who berates 'the wages of gin' and serves as the front man for a burlesque troupe; Eli Wallach and Ricardo Montalban as Nick's Italian compatriots; and most memorably, Arthur Kennedy as Nick's put-upon father, Henry Adams.
The women fare less well. Jessica Tandy as Nick's mother is one-note harsh and cold, Susan Strassberg as Rosanna is just plain dull, and Corinne Calvert and Diane Baker have one unmemorable scene each. Then again, Hemingway did not understand women and did not write indelible female characters. Even his most memorable, Catherine in A FAREWELL TO ARMS, is a man's version of femininity.
The real star here is Franz Waxman's gorgeous but brief musical score - quite similar to his Copland-esque score for PEYTON PLACE, it is full of lush strings, harp glissandos, and plaintive oboe/flute themes. I listen to it and I cry - it is so full of feeling, of desire, of loss. Next to PEYTON PLACE, it is my favorite of all of Waxman's work.
This is recommended, not highly, but it is something that quietly impresses and that, obviously, stays with one if seen at an impressionable early age.
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