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"Islands in the Stream" takes place on an island in the Caribbean just
before World War II. George C. Scott plays a sculptor, Thomas Hudson,
who married twice, has three sons, and chooses to work in isolated
island exile. Claire Bloom plays his estranged wife. The film has an
episodic structure, probably because the screenwriter, Denne Bart
Petitclerc based his script on a series of short stories by Ernest
Hemingway that appeared in a women's magazine under the title "Island
(singular) in the Stream." Had Hemingway lived, he would have combined
this and additional material to publish the collection as a novel.
Petitclerc does a good job of translating the work to the screen.
The episodes could stand alone, yet each is sufficiently connected both in character and time consecutively to create a coherent, full-length film. The first, "The Boys," has the greatest strength. We see the arrival of Hudson's sons and how each brings out a different quality in the relation of parent and child. Scott handles this, and the whole film, with a natural, understated, and thoughtful strength. His admirers should make an effort to see this wonderful performance in this lesser-known production. In the middle episode, Claire Bloom as the second wife complements Scott beautifully in a dialog minuet which unfolds the decline of their marriage.
The film also features excellent performances by David Hemmings and Michael-James Wixted as the sensitive middle son. A check of the IMDb reveals that he never made another movie, and that's a loss.
While the action takes place on a British possession in the West Indies, the producers chose to do the actual filming in Hawaii. The score by Jerry Goldsmith and cinematography by Fred Koenekamp work well. Koenekamp received an Oscar nomination for his work here; he'd previously won it for his work on Patton, also with director Franklin Schaffner and Scott. I recommend seeing this film in widescreen format for Koenekamp's compositions.
This is one of the most memorable and moving films I saw in the 70s. Perfectly photographed and gently presented, this drama of a family dissecting how they feel about their artist father and his island atoll existence transports the viewer to genuinely feel as though we have been there as well. I revisited this film several times in 1978 taking friends and family and it became a completely immersing experience, and each visit made me admire the production, writing and themes more. It is presented as a trilogy, a family photo album in three parts, each with quiet profound realizations (without the screaming today would need) and presents the often sad or misplaced loyalty / admiration this 'great man' (Scott) commands but does not perhaps deserve. It is just a great great film instead. The scene in the second sequence where estranged wife Claire Bloom visits and takes him for a walk along the beach contains some of the most powerful acting I have ever enjoyed.. especially when Scott realizes why she has visited. Any time you see this film available, buy it or see it or take a good friend or family pal. Make it part of your life. I wish I could get a DVD and keep it so I can see it anytime. The music score is unforgettable. ISLANDS IN THE STREAM is one of the great 70s movies. Sad that it is so unknown. But you can change that. Spectacular young actor Hart Bochner possibly 19 at the time is the eldest of the three brothers, the younger two matching him as excellent actors. David Hemmings, just on the verge of losing his BLOW UP looks plays a drunken pal, and the glorious Claire Bloom as mentioned above is sublime. Add that to the Goldsmith score and the tropical locale, it is a solidly realized family drama that deserves wide appreciation.
I found this film in the bargain DVD bin, so I went ahead and got it.
The movie moves slow, but in a peaceful way, capturing the charm of
real-life in the Caribbean. It's mostly an atmosphere-movie -- the
charm of the movie is not so much in it's plot (Hemingway writes much
better than his movies translate) but in the feel of the characters,
and the beauty of its locale.
Set in the 1940's, it barely touches on WWII, and when it does, it seems to do so 'down a long hallway, darkly' -- that is to say, it feels distant.
George C Scott does a pretty darned good job with the lead character. Great actors never fail to elevate a movie. There's another fine performance put in by David Hemmings (Who I'd never seen before, and I learn from the IMDb database died in 2003) as the 'rummy' named Eddy.
The musical score is weird -- it really seems to stay with you after the movie is done. The previous commenter is correct -- the movie has a dreamy feel to it. There's very little by way of violence (at least by today's standards). What little there is, at the end, is accompanied by garishly bright and unrealistic blood.
Nonetheless, check this film out. It's truly an interesting and fun film.
George C. Scott is at his best in this adaptation of a Hemingway story (which, if I'm not mistaken was left unfinished) about a man who, late in life, is experiencing regrets over the loss of time with his sons. The main character, like Hemingway, was married multiple times and always seemed to run out on them shortly after the children were born. As a result, his relationships with his three sons is strained, to say the least. It's obvious Hemingway was being autobiographical here, but unlike the lead in the movie who tries to make good (albiet late), Hemingway chose suicide over mending fences. At least the lead character TRIES to make a run from his tropical island home to the mainland to be with his kids full-time. To me, these parallel stories (true and fictional) makes this movie incredibly sad and wistful, while at the same time great acting and exceptional writing provide great impact as well.
From the opening score and scenes of the water, I was drawn to watch this
movie. It was filmed somewhere in the Caribbean and the location was
breathtaking. George C. Scott was perfect in the role of Tom Hudson, an
Ernest Hemingway-ish character who was a complicated, lonely artist and
expatriate who sculpted, drank, and fished his life away. It wasn't until
the tragic end that he came to know what he'd been missing.
The music score was haunting and beautiful. I was so impressed with it that I ordered the soundrack.
With Islands In The Stream, George C. Scott took his place as an
existential Hemingway hero along side such Hollywood luminaries as Gary
Cooper, Humphrey Bogart, Gregory Peck, Spencer Tracy, Tyrone Power and
Rock Hudson. With that beard he grew for the film he even looks the
part of Hemingway.
In this partially autobiographical novel it's first set in the Bahamas where Scott, a painter has gone to get away from the rest of the world. He fishes, he consorts with loose women, and when he's got time and a need for cash, he paints and sells the product to keep going. It sounds like an ideal existence.
Unfortunately World War II intervenes and his three sons by different women all visit him. The oldest, Hart Bochner, has made his mind up to enlist in the Royal Air Force. The two youngest go back to Europe.
One of Scott's good friend is charter boat captain Gilbert Roland who has a side living smuggling refugees, mostly Jews, from Europe to any place in the western hemisphere he can drop them off. A lot times that's Cuba, but the Cuban government is taking a dim view of his activities.
Scott also has as two good friends, native Bahamian Julius Harris, and David Hemmings a young man with a drinking problem. Hemmings's character is ripped off from Hemingway's previous story, To Have and Have Not although Walter Brennan was a good deal older. He even used the same name.
Claire Bloom is also around as the first wife who visits after their son leaves for service. Scott still loves her in his own way, but she's well aware of his fidelity problem. To remind them both is working girl Susan Tyrell.
Ernest Hemingway wrote the story in the early Fifties and discarded it and his widow published it in the early seventies. Probably Papa Hemingway didn't think all that much of it. It certainly doesn't rate with some of his better known work. But second rate Hemingway is better than first rate from most writers.
The cast all give uniformly good performances and the cinematography is just great. Reason enough to see it.
Scott plays a sculptor living on an island visited by his three sons. This is is an adaptation of a story by Hemingway that works most of the time. The child actors are exceptional in their roles as is the rest of the cast. Probably one of Scotts premiere performances. The story takes many turns, with the finest moments in the first half of the movie. I recommend viewing Islands in the Stream.
Islands in the Stream (1977); Directed by: Franklin J. Schaffner;
Starring: George C. Scott, David Hemmings, Hart Bochner, Clair Bloom et
This film didn't attract too much attention to itself, even though it marks the reunion of Franklin J. Schaffner and George C. Scott, who first collaborated on the magnificent "Patton", and it's an adaptation of a Hemmingway novel. It's almost forgotten by now, but luckily Paramount released a DVD of it, so that today's audience can discover this wonderful 'forgotten' film. I bought this film for the pairing of Schaffner and Scott and the score by Jerry Goldsmith. To say the least: I wasn't disappointed.
This is a contemplative film, with many low-key scenes and a slow pace. It's about Thomas Hudson, who has retreated to an island in the Bahamas and is working there quietly as an artist. His best friend Eddy is there too and he's looked after by Hudson, because he is a rummy and gets in a fight a bit too often. Joseph helps Hudson out in his daily business and the two are close friends. The film is made up of three chapters. The first chapter is called "The Boys" and is about Hudson's three sons visiting him for the summer. His eldest son, Tommy, is from his first marriage and the younger two, David and Andrew, are from his second marriage. While the oldest and the youngest sons can get along with Hudson really well, it's David who holds a grudge against him for leaving him and his mother. Only after a fishing trip, where he struggles with a marlin for over three hours, does he forgive his father and does he embrace him. During their stay on the island, the Second World War draws closer and they can see burning ships on the horizon. After the boys have left, they receive a letter from their father, stating that he misses them very much and that their time together made him happy again. This chapter serves to pinpoint that although Hudson loves his retreat on the island, he also misses his boys really much and that they might be more important than himself. The second chapter is called "The Woman" and is about Hudson's first wife, Audrey, visiting the island. They talk a lot about their love for each other and the reasons for their failure together. When they're at Hudson's house and she starts drinking more and more he realizes that she's here to bring him very bad news. "The Journey" is the final chapter and tells the story of how Hudson finally realizes that he has to be with his boys on the mainland, instead of remaining forever on his island. In a way he decides to finally live again. He goes on a journey to the mainland, but the war gets between him and his goal. On the ocean he has to take a group of Jewish refugees onboard, because their ship was raided by the Cuban coastguard and they barely escaped. He decides that he should take them to shore, but when he does so, he has to escape the coastguard himself. The journey ends on a river somewhere nearby the Cuban coast, where Hudson pays a high price for his decision to start living again.
The film is beautifully filmed by Franklin Schaffner and the cinematography by Fred Koenekamp is gorgeous. Continuing their great working relation, Franklin hired Jerry Goldsmith to score the film. He delivers one of his most touching and most beautiful scores. It fits the film perfectly, capturing the emotional state Hudson is in with an almost melancholy theme, which is as restrained as Hudson and the film itself. There's a more whimsical theme for the boys and there is a majestic cue over the marlin fishing scene. Goldsmith also captures the rhythm of the ocean with his music. He's able to perfectly merge the emotions on screen with his music and he adapts his themes beautifully and in keeping with the heart of the film. The score thus becomes the film's heart and perhaps the best part about it. This is one of the best scores ever composed for a motion picture.
The performances are magnificent too. George C. Scott delivers a very subtle and beautifully executed performance, capturing the essence of Hudson's feelings and making his struggle feel entirely realistic. His performance is restrained, yet it gives a great view into the heart of the troubled main character. David Hemmings also delivers a great performance, making the audience feel sorry for Eddy, but also love him, He also makes Eddy's and Hudson's friendship a joy to watch. Clair Bloom as the first wife and Julius Harris as Joseph are great too, as are the actors playing the boys. Especially Michael-James Wixted as David is great, but Hart Bochner (as Tommy) and Brad Savage (as Andrew) deliver good performances too.
The film is very restrained and quiet and feels very real. The audience gets time to relate to Hudson as the film slowly tells more about him. The emotions are therefore never forced, nor do they feel faked. They feel real and the emotional journey becomes entirely believable and understandable. This approach is sadly quite seldom in Hollywood films. There's one problem though: the final chapter feels a bit off in relation to the other two chapters. The film moves into a chase and Hudson suddenly sympathizes a lot with the refugees, where he was much more restrained at first. Therefore the final chapter is not completely in line with Hudson's character. In the book he chases a German U-boat crew, instead of getting sympathetic with Jewish refugees, which sounds more right for the character. The last scenes are really powerful though, as is the final impact of this film. It made me quiet afterwards, contemplating the journey I had just taken with Hudson, but it also left a warm feeling behind.
Carved out of the abandoned wreckage of his 'Land, Sea and Air' trilogy
by literary salvage experts, 'Islands in the Stream' is Hemingway's
wish-fulfilment seascape. In life, he made a nuisance of himself during
World War Two: he cruised the Caribbean on an armed boat purporting to
hunt German submarines, before getting in the way during the liberation
of Paris. In the novel-- published long after Hemingway shot himself--
his alter ego, Tom Hudson, actually contacts the enemy and bests him,
while learning lessons about selfishness and sacrifice.
Hudson is not a writer but a sculptor, and needless to say a macho one: he fashions cast-iron abstracts with a blowtorch like a real workman. It is 1940 and he has run away from Europe and its war, but he is sound at heart, treating Julius Harris as an equal. And he knows how to party, carousing in his adopted West Indian hideout on Queen Mary's birthday: a pointer to Hemingway's latter-day Anglophilia, like Hudson's friendship with David Hemmings's cockney "rummy".
Like Papa, Tom is free with advice on how to live. He has problems relating to his three sons and the divorced wife for whom he still carries a torch, but he makes his peace with them en route to a rendezvous with heroic self-sacrifice. Claire Bloom, popping in as the ex-wife, is quietly competent, no more.
It's episodic and quite conventional stuff, slipping down easily. Jerry Goldsmith's lush score is too obtrusive at times, nudging the spectator in the direction Franklin Schaffner wants. Scott's gruff, grizzled Hudson is like most of this great bear's characterisations, simpatico below his rebarbative surface. The adventurous redemption towards the end comes after a whole lot of talk and brooding, sugar-coated by gorgeous Caribbean scenery. The youngest son's struggle to land a big fish is almost all the action you get until an hour has passed.
This film was a letdown at the box office and for the main participants. Schaffner was on the creative descent which took him from 'Patton' to 'Yes, Giorgio' in 13 years. Co-star Hemmings, never the most distinctive of personalities, had begun to lose his Swinging Sixties prettiness, turning into a portly actor-director. For Scott, his Patton, 'Islands in the Stream' was intended as a comeback vehicle... but he was no longer stretching his talent .
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I remember seeing this film when it came out in 1977. The story of the
publication of ISLANDS IN THE STREAM was a major literary story of the
late 1970s, as Hemingway's widow found the unpublished novel, and got
it published with much fanfare. Of course any time a major artist's
work is rediscovered or found for the first time it is a news story. As
one of the five premier stylists in American literature, Hemingway's
prose is always a matter of interest. But the critics soon pointed out
that it was second-rate Hemingway, derivative of other novels (TO HAVE
AND TO HOLD for example). Still it was worth reading - as said in
another review here, second-rate Hemingway is better than most people's
first rate material.
George C. Scott is Thomas Hudson, an artist living in semi-retirement in the Bahamas during World War II. He has left the world and it's problems behind him, including his failures as a husband and seemingly as a father of three sons. But that outside world has a habit of catching up to Hudson. One of the most telling moments in the film is when he witnesses from a distance a U-boat attacking some freighter or ship, and subsequently sees wreckage and dead bodies. Even in his corner of the world one wonders if he's escaped to paradise or a fool's paradise.
The meaning of the title is those "islands" of contact that we have between ourselves in the "stream" we call life. For Hudson discovers that he can't isolate himself from those islands - they all find him whether they are the forces of an evil German regime or his own family. He is visited by his three sons (Hart Bochner, Brad Savage, Michael - James Wixted) in an attempt to come to grips with the boys that he failed as a parent. There is considering bonding while they are together, culminating in one of the best sequences in the film when the youngest boy (while they are deep sea fishing) lands a marlin and refuses to release the fishing pole despite the fact that he can't hold onto it forever and his hands are badly cut and bleeding. In the end he loses the marlin, but Bochner (the oldest son) tells Scott that the youngest one is the best of them all for his grit in the face of that losing situation.
Bochner too springs a surprise - he wants to have Scott's blessing in his decision to join the RAF. Scott is concerned and agrees. Subsequently his concern is justified when his wife (Clair Bloom) shows up to tell him that Bochner was killed in action.
The critics of the film usually pounce on the latter half, wherein the similarities to TO HAVE AND TO HOLD show up. Hudson gets drawn into rescuing Jewish refugees trying to reach Cuba. In the ensuing events his close friend Eddie (David Hemmings) gets killed. Eddie is a "rummy" type, like Walter Brennan's similarly named Eddie in TO HAVE AND TO HOLD. That is an unfortunate similarity. So is the death shortly after (also from a gun battle in the course of helping the refugees) of Hudson - which is closer to the actual novel TO HAVE AND TO HOLD than the Bogart film was. But there is one final bit at the end which I thought was a nice cinematic touch. As he is dying, Scott visualizes all the friends and relatives he has gotten close to (including his surviving sons and his wife and his housekeeper/assistant). He sees them all saying goodbye to him. He does not see Bochner or Hemmings, for he is alive and the last thoughts of one passing out of that stream we call life should be of the living. There may be plenty of time for reunions with the dead afterward, but that would be the subject of a different type of novel.
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