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The Iceman Cometh (1973)

PG | | Drama | 10 November 1973 (USA)
A salesman with a sudden passion for reform has an idea to sell to his barfly buddies: throw away your pipe dreams. The drunkards, living in a flophouse above a saloon, resent the idea.

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3 wins & 1 nomination. See more awards »
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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
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Hildy Brooks ...
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Pearl (as Nancy Juno Dawson)
Evans Evans ...
Martyn Green ...
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John McLiam ...
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Storyline

It's 1912 and the patrons of 'The Last Chance Saloon' have gathered for their evening of whiskey to contemplate their lost faith and dreams, when Hickey (Lee Marvin) arrives. Hickey is out to convince everyone that he can help them all find peace of mind by ridding them of the foolish dreams and by bringing them back to reality. Hickey is working especially hard on Larry Slade (Robert Ryan) a former anarchist who has lost his will for life and is awaiting the eventuality of death. Larry is not affected by the cajolings of Hickey but his young companion Parritt (Jeff Bridges) is strangely affected and this leads to revelations about his own mother and feelings of betrayal and loss. As the night wears on the mood changes as everyone has the their faith and dreams slowly destroyed by Hickey. As the anger builds everyone turns on Hickey about his wife and the iceman. This leads to more revelations and with Hickey having the faint questioning of his own new found convictions. Written by Dr pepper <j0468@aol.com>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

They drank and they dreamed...tomorrow they would conquer the world...then along came Hickey.

Genres:

Drama

Certificate:

PG | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

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Details

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Release Date:

10 November 1973 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Buzcu Geliyor  »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Runtime:

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Color:

(Eastmancolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Robert Ryan, knowing he was going to die of cancer soon, agreed to play the part of Larry Slade, a character who knows he's going to die soon (Ryan died before the film was released). See more »

Quotes

Willie Oban: Would that Hickey or death would come!
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Connections

Referenced in Will & Grace: Me and Mr. Jones (2003) See more »

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User Reviews

 
astonishing performances, absorbing play, direction that keeps things moving
5 July 2008 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

It was a wise decision on the part of producer Ely Landau- one of the only wise ones, as seems to be the history of the flawed ambition of the American Theater Company's movie adaptation productions- to hire John Frankenheimer as director. He was known at the time in the movie industry for churning out high-charged action and adventure pictures (i.e. The Train, Grand Prix), and the occasional dark classic (The Manchurian Candidate), but he started as a television director, and with a play that ran like The Iceman Cometh there would be needed someone who could track the stinging, meaning-of-life-and-death dialog of O'Neill's play with the camera and not make it feel too 'stagey'. This might be difficult to surmise that he made it fully cinematic in the sense of using more than one set or exteriors, as he didn't. Everything is confined to that set of Harry's bar. But within this precise, necessary limitation, Frankenheimer delivered one of his best projects.

Then again, how could he not with the source material? It's about some of the richest theater ever produced, least in the 20th century, and is considered by many to be O'Neill's epic masterpiece. It's a tale of a community, a quasi-family of bums and stragglers who're stuck more or less in a dive down in a seedy section of New York city in the early part of the century, awaiting the return of Hickey (Lee Marvin), a big force of a man who works in advertising. This time things are a little different, however, and a new revelation leads the men (and a couple of the women) to wonder if he's flipped his lid. Around this premise of a dark secret or a certain feeling of "death" that Hickey has brought with him, O'Neill creates an ensemble that's unforgettable in its mix of light and dark, principled and sleazy, afraid and just downright kooky. There's a whole mix; there's Larry the ex-anarchist who's slowly dying inside (Robert Ryan); there's the depressed-cum-demanding kid (Jeff Bridges); Harry (March); the bartender/pimp; a black gambler; the "Limey"; the "Tarts"; and a crazy, rambling European screaming about socialism from time to time.

And despite what some may have said comparing it to the 1960's made-for-TV version directed by Lumet (which I would love to see but is at the moment unavailable), I'd be hard-pressed to see a cast better than this. Just a reminder: Lee Marvin can act, amazingly, and here he puts his chops to such a test that he rolls on to his climactic, half hour quasi-confession like it's the performance of his life. Ditto for Ryan and March, and for them it was more-so (Ryan knew he was dying, adding a poignancy to what was probably his best, most subtle work, and March is captivating as the stubborn old drunk owner). And Bridges, in a role which he said made him want to continue seriously being an actor, is hard to take one's eyes away from, even as his character wavers from being sympathetic to unlikeable in a single scene. And the bulk of the supporting cast are all wonderfully played and transposed, injecting life into a play that requires it to keep it going full throttle.

It's not an easy thing to endure; it's four hours long, and for the first hour here and there one has to go through some minor early morning drunkenness from the characters, which isn't the least effective portion of the play as well as the film. From there on out, if one is tuned into O'Neill's precisely harrowing story of the bums and drunkards and outcasts and all very flawed human beings, it will work wonders even in its sparsest moments. The ending, I might add, is about as perfectly bittersweet as I've seen this side of Woody Allen's Manhattan. Frankenheimer's work is a nearly forgotten gem.


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