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Jason Robards is a Psychiatrist that is devoted to his work. Jennifer Jones becomes one of his patients and he helps her make a full recovery. She falls in love with him but he is reluctant to respond to her affections. She convinces him that since she's well and capable of a healthy love. She is an heiress and they have a comfortable lifestyle. He experiences various changes in his career and we see how he responds to them and how it affects his marriage and family. His sister in law is Joan Fontaine. Jill St John also has a starring role. The acting is good and the settings for the movie are in Zurich and Rome, giving us beautiful scenery. Written by
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Despite David O. Selznick's omnipresence whenever his wife was involved in a film even if it wasn't his own, director Henry King managed to make a fine film adaption of F. Scott Fitzgerald's celebrated autobiographical novel, Tender Is The Night. Jennifer Jones and Jason Robards, Jr. are nothing short of wonderful in the leads.
A lot of the personal lives of both the leads went into roles of Nicole and Dick Diver. Jennifer Jones saw enough tragedy in her life for about five people and saw the inside of mental institutions a few times while on the mortal coil. And Jason Robards love of the grape was also well known.
Robards purportedly is Fitzgerald himself who fell in love with a high flying millionairess Zelda Sayre and the easy living he became accustomed to sapped his creative energy. In this work Robards is a psychiatrist who forgot professional ethics and fell in love with his patient. Zelda Fitzgerald also saw the inside of an asylum, but no one ever affected a lasting cure for her.
The two live in real luxury as American expatriates in Europe and 20th Century Fox spent no small expense turning the locations in Europe like the Riviera, Paris, and Zurich into what they looked like in the Twenties. Bernard Herrmann wrote a musical score that interwove more melodies from that era than I could count.
Robards falls in love with the beautiful Jones as he helps bring her out of her mental illness. The Code was as omnipresent as David O. Selznick and the barest hint of the cause of her illness was made because talk of incest was still a big taboo. It would take Chinatown more than ten years later to bring that sin into the open on screen. One thing that wasn't included from the novel was a theme of miscegenation as well in deference to our Southern audiences still not the beneficiaries of the Civil Rights revolution. Fascinating as to what was considered worse by Hollywood box office standards in 1962.
Joan Fontaine plays Jennifer's older sister and custodian of the family legacy. The father was one of those robber baron tycoons who committed suicide and of course it was that and the incest that drove Jones to her illness. Fontaine totally misreads Robards as a fortune hunter, but since he's pried the family's dirty secret from Jennifer's mind, better to have him in the family. Because of Jennifer's illness Fontaine controls the family purse strings.
Loving Jones and at the same time resentful of being tied financially to her, Robards loses professional detachment. This was something he should have learned from his mentor Paul Lukas who has a small part. Tender Is The Night is an object lesson about not getting involved with a patient personally.
Tom Ewell as a Broadway composer who has lost his muse in alcohol has a good role as a kind of hanger on to the Robards/Jones party world. He's a good ornament to have at a party. I believe his role might be based on Vincent Youmans who gave up his career to both tuberculosis and to a drinking problem. The theme song by Sammy Fain and Paul Francis Webster also serves as a symbol of a lot of unfinished lives. Ewell keeps playing the melody and he can't complete it. When someone else does he takes it all wrong and tragedy ensues.
The title song Tender Is The Night is one of my favorite movie melodies. I have a recording of it by Tony Martin and it received the only Academy Award nomination the film had. The song lost to the title song of another fine film, The Days Of Wine And Roses. Personally I like Tender Is The Night much better.
Tender Is The Night was the farewell directing assignment for Henry King who in his long career directed some of the best films 20th Century Fox ever made. For some reason he's not considered at the very top of his profession and I think it's because he was contracted to one studio and stayed there. I think the reasoning is that if you're the very best you can go from studio to studio and you must be the best if everyone wants you. A contract director like King just gets assignments. But King always did his films with a certain amount elegance to them and so what if he toiled only at one dream factory. Guys like King and Woody Van Dyke and Clarence Brown at MGM always get a short shrift when discussing directors.
Fitzgerald purists will not be crazy about Tender Is The Night, but I think it holds up very well almost fifty years after its first release. Really top flight entertainment.
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