The Men (1950)
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The emotions in this drama are all really strong -- rage, frustration, anguish. The ending is a hopeful one, but the characters and the viewer have to undergo some torment to get there.
Brando must have been a revelation in 1950. He's explosive. Only his crippled legs keep him confined to his chair. Jack Webb -- Sgt. Joe Friday -- is far, far better than one would expect. (Actually, he did quite a good job with his small part in "Sunset Boulevard" too, before he was forever typecast.) Everett Sloane -- memorable in "Citizen Kane", "Lady From Shanghai", "The Enforcer" -- is their doctor who has to be cruel to be kind. The cast is filled out by "the men of the Birmingham VA hospital".
Stanley Kramer liked to produce "message" dramas. He tended to overdo it late in his career, but this is still early on. Fred Zinnemann directed a script by Carl Foreman, and these two would team up again on "High Noon". Foreman was then blacklisted by HUAC, getting no screen credit for his screenplay for "The Bridge on the River Kwai".
Not for the faint-hearted, but a fine film which deserves to be better known.
It marked the introduction of Marlon Brando to the movie goers fresh from his Broadway success as Stanley Kolowski in STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE, which he also brought to film. And what a debut this dynamic actor made in the world of film and acting. It was the time of James Dean, Montgomery Clift and Brando.
Brando plays a war veteran, paralyzed in combat, facing the torturous ordeal of rehabilitation as a paraplegic. He is thorough and totally convincing in the role. Playing his fiance and eventually his wife is the lovely Theresa Wright, in another heartwarming performance that is expected of her. She works well with Brando, which, I'm sure, was no easy task.
In supporting roles, outstanding were Jack Webb and Richard Erdman as fellow veterans. Webb was excellent and far from his DRAGNET persona. I also liked Everett Sloan as the doctor who had to deal with watching "the men" face the reality of the world as it was. Arthur Jurado plays a young veteran that works hard to bring himself back to normalacy, whatever that is. There were 45 Men of Birmingham Veteran's Hospital playing themselves.
An excellent picture of it's time. And Brando's film legend beginning. A time when he was in top form with such films as STREETCAR, VIVA ZAPATA and THE WILD ONE that soon followed.
The Men did not have the strong support of a major studio, but it had Marlon Brando who was winning raves at this time for his portrayal of Stanley Kowalski in Streetcar Named Desire. Many a time Broadway stars before and since did not recreate their career roles on film because Hollywood wanted box office insurance.
Stanley Kramer's independently produced film, risked no money for a major studio and proved Marlon Brando could both be a screen presence and a box office draw. So Brando and the entire Broadway cast with the exception of Jessica Tandy got to preserve A Streetcar Named Desire as it was first seen on stage on the strength of his good notices for The Men.
Brando dominates the film with combination of charm and bitterness not too many other actors could achieve. He's condemned to a wheelchair, not sure what if any of the functions of his lower body he will be able to use and control. His bitterness nearly drives away Teresa Wright who loves him in spite of all.
Look for good performances by Howard St. John and Dorothy Tree as Wright's parents, Everett Sloane as the doctor treating spinal cord injuries like Brando's and Richard Erdman as Brando's horse playing veteran friend. You might remember Erdman from Stalag 17 as barracks chief Hoffman. He's just as good here in The Men.
The wars change, but the injuries to life and limb to our armed services remain the same as do the problems therein. In that sense The Men is a timeless classic and the debut of a legend.
Brando and Wright are excellent as the couple who find they are meant neither to be saints nor martyrs nor villains, merely human beings. The rehab scenes are grittily performed and sincerely executed. I probably suffer from post-traumatic syndrome even more than other New Yorkers, and watching the veterans cope with their mental, emotional, AND PHYSICAL post-traumatic distress made me realize just how fortunate I am to be among the survivors.
This is a thoughtful flick with interesting storyline by Carl Foreman relies on wonderful interpretations and slick realization . Subtle performance from Marlon Brando in his screen debut as depressed paralysed young who pass through an initial period of bitterness and sorrow to spontaneous blazed anger and splendid Teresa Wright as his faithful fiancée . Everett Sloane steals the show as intelligent and realist doctor . Marvelous relationship among the main players , both of whom must attempt to build their new life full of difficulties and problems . Furthermore , special mention to ¨ Forty five of the men veterans of Birmingham Administration Hospital ¨. Though the characters and events depicted in this Photoplay are fictitious and similarity to persons , living or dead is purely coincidental. Atmospheric cinematography in black and white by Robert De Grasse A.S.C . Sensible musical score composed and conducted by the classic musician Dimitri Tiomkin. Atmospheric production design by Edward Boyle though is mostly set at a Hospìtal .
The motion picture well produced by Stanley Kramer - National Film Release- and is stunningly directed by Fred Zinnemann who had a lot of experience from his formers classic films as ¨Act of violence , Seventh cross , Eyes in the night , The search ¨, among them. Rating : Above average . Well worth watching.
including how little he got paid for it, the method acting that went
into it, and the time Brando spent living like a patient in a veteran's
paraplegic hospital. One story I heard was that one night when Brando
was at a public place with the other (real) patients, a Bible thumper
started ranting about the power of faith. Brando gestured the man over
and asked him, "Let me ask you something, mister. If my faith is
strong enough, will I be able to walk again?" The religious ranter
paused and then said, "Yes, son. If it is God's will, you will even
be able to walk again." So Brando responded with mock sincerity,
"Well, by God, I am going to try right now." With that, he made a
few straining, unsuccessful attempts to raise out of his wheelchair.
But then he gave it his all, stood up completely, and went tap dancing
out of the establishment, much to the shock of the Bible thumper, and
much to the boisterous laughter of the other men in wheelchairs.
I choose to believe this story is true and that it, in effect,
created the scene when drunk Ray Teal comes over and starts patronizing
the characters played by Brando and Richard Erdman. Brando asks Ray
Teal, "Let me ask you something, mister. Could I marry your daughter?"
A sarcastic banter ensues and eventually Brando punches out Teal who
seemed to be discovering his type casting mold as an obnoxious
character who gets punched out ("Best Years of Our Lives") and a
bartender in Brando films ("The Wild One" and "One Eyed Jacks")
I'd like to ad a personal note to authenticate the serious message
of "The Men." Over ten years ago I taught a Japanese secondary
student whose English ability was extremely low. But her desire, her
drive, and her determination to learn were extremely high. After about
a year of struggle with words and sentences, she wrote her first
authentic essay for me. I had assigned an essay about someone she
admired. She wrote about her father who had lost his legs in an
industrial accident, but whose desire, drive, and determination to
become independent were extremely high. She concluded with, "My
father has learned to do many things. But the most difficult thing he
has learned is how to accept help for those things he really can't do."
Well, you do have to see a movie like this partly to see Marlon Brando before his stellar rise to fame (ultra-fame) in "On the Waterfront" (1954) and "Streetcar Named Desire" (the next year, 1951). This is his first role, and he's already the famous, complex, simultaneously macho and tender Brando. He plays Ken, and he is bedridden because he can't walk.
Around him are a host of actors, amateur and professional, who are all unable to walk, probably permanently, from war injuries. This is a story of adjusting to being in a wheelchair, getting others to accept you like this, and ultimately getting to accept it yourself. It's an emotional more than a physical battle, and a powerful one.
The doctor in charge is in some ways the main character, or the most present, throughout, and he's strong if somewhat uncomplicated in his portrayal of a devoted, tireless medical worker. He's played by Everett Sloan, who has just come off a bizarre but terrific role as a rich lawyer with difficulty walking in "Lady from Shanghai" (a Welles movie--and Welles gave Sloan his entrance into Hollywood in "Citizen Kane").
The woman who is both lovingly sympathetic and also scared in her uncertainty as Ken's girlfriend and wife. She's kind of perfect, turning into that somewhat disconnected 1950s housewife before our eyes (influenced surely by her officious if kindly parents, a kind of 1930s Republican do good but also look out for yourself first attitude). It's a perfect fit, set up by the screenwriter and worked by with surprising believability by the young director, Fred Zinnemann ("From Here to Eternity") with Stanley Kramer producing. These two men were among the most socially conscious in a post-war Hollywood that had many directors trying to make a difference in their films (Kazan and Lumet would be two others). And "The Men" is certainly about showing a problem with realism and optimism at the same time. It's a kind of parallel to the film noir films which made dramatic fictions out of many returning servicemen. This was closer to the reality for many.
Is it a great film? For some small reasons, no, as much as Brando is convincing in his role. For one thing, it's just too clear what the motivation of the director and producer is, so the movie movies forward without clear dramatic tension (even though you don't quite know the outcome). For another, the acting is generally very good without being wrenching (and the subject is frankly wrenching). It feels a little like we're being given a lesson, a good lesson, but still a bit like schoolwork made vivid on the screen. This will be apparently right from the first scene where a room full of wives and girlfriends ask questions (frank and important questions) of the doctor, who wisely and frankly answers them.
Good stuff, great stuff, and as a film experience, incomplete stuff.
Brando and Wright are good, of course. However, the film belongs to the supporting cast, primarily Jack Webb and Richard Erdman as Brando's paralyzed buddies at the veterans' center, and to Everett Sloane, who towers over everyone as a wise and brutally honest physician. It's not a feel-good movie, but one that gives valuable insight into the challenges faced by many men returning from war. It's also pretty daring for 1950, with its frank treatment of some pretty heavy subject matter.
Marlon Brando is the star of this film and his performance was realistic and simple. This was his first film and when the film debuted, none of the actors involved (except for Theresa Wright) were big-name stars. In addition, he was supported by several good but relatively small-time actors and included Jack Webb before his career took off with DRAGNET. I really thought these were excellent casting decisions, as "big name" actors would have made the film seem more polished and "Hollywood-ized". Sure, we all are familiar with Brando now, but at the time he was a newcomer--and a good representation of an average guy.
Because the film involves paralyzed veterans and takes place mostly at a VA hospital (with actual paralyzed vets playing the non-starring roles), the film is very realistic and will most likely elicit a few tears. Bring a hankie and be prepared to see some excellent writing, acting and drama.
After seeing this film again recently, I have always the same good film. This film let see how great Brando is / still is!
Wright is a as sensitive as tender and as warm as ever ,but she is overshadowed by Brando's brilliant debut,fresh from the actor's studio. But all the cast is to be praised particularly Everett Sloane as doctor Brock who tries to help paralyzed war vets to adjust to the world without their limbs.
The moment when the doctor explains to the wives/fiancés/mothers how heavy their task is.
The scene when Brando has an argument with a civilian,a sequence which will remind you of a similar scene featuring Dana Andrews in "best years of our lives" .
French title is "C'étaient des Hommes" ="They were men! .This is a stupid one.They ARE men!
The drama is in the fact that people had to DEAL with them within the context of the times. To me, one of the values of "The Men" is that it addresses an issue that most people at the time just wanted to sweep under the carpet. I think it probably helped a lot of vets at the time validate their experiences. Sadly, it also foreshadowed the horrific inundation of parapleigics and quadrapleigics we were to experience during the Vietnam era.
So, it's a fifties movie and we should expect it some overacting and moralizing. Still, it was a valuable contribution at the time and Brando's performance is still worth watching, perhaps moreso if you have any experience with these patients. Renee needs to get a life.
It is a melodramatic film, and probably too melodramatic to be really effective. The style of acting by the supporting cast - which for lack of a better word can be described as "unsubtle" - really doesn't suit the film. The music score does not help much either, nor does the lighting design, in which darkness often surrounds one or two aspects of the frame which are shot to stand out with bright white light. Zinnemann does not do a fantastic job directing, but that said, the opening sequence to the film is excellent - the camera pans across to see Brando who then signals and rises out of frame, behind him other men approach that before could not be seen... right up to the point when Brando is shot in a surprise attack. Zinnemann's style is evidently noir based, with a lot of shadows and the beginning narration by Brando is exactly the type one expects in noir. And there are good camera angles too. It is an adequately directed film, but not masterful in that regard. Overall it is certainly a worthwhile film. While the script might be wooden at times, it does address a lot of issues well, particularly the struggle to keep one's manhood, plus Brando's excellent performance is certainly worth seeing.
It's nice to see that she never lost her talent, even if she was appearing in fewer films. The supporting cast is good too, I enjoyed seeing Sloane in this (I had only seen him in Citizen Kane). It's not one of those sugary-sweet movies, it has a realistic plot, so be prepared if you're lucky enough to catch this one on TV.
'The Men' would have us believe that it is a realistic work because it deals, in a straightforward, downbeat fashion, with a difficult theme simply denied by the artifice of mainstream Hollywood. We are told, firmly and early on, that there will be no miracle cure for these men; we will therefore be denied any sugary uplift at the end, any reconciliation being provisional and fraught. The cast is low-key, and character-actor-driven (this was Marlon Brando's first movie role, and he is frequently subordinated in screen time to the group dynamic of the veterans in the hospital). There will be as much tough talking, strong language and violence as the censors will allow.
So, 'The Men' has its heart in the right place. The road to cinematic hell is paved with good intentions. 'The Men' is a prime example of the cinema of Stanley Kramer, where narrative and entertainment is sacrificed in favour of didactic preaching. The film begins with a nightmare war sequence, borrowed/influenced/pilfered by/from King Vidor's harrowing 'The Big Parade', as a platoon of soldiers slowly populate an eerily empty desertscape. There is no natural sound, just ominous martial music and stylised movements. After this moderate inventiveness, and the shooting that prompts the narrative proper, we go into voiceover, as Ken Wilozek (Brando) gives vent to his self-pityingly bleak feelings about his paraplegia. If this suggests a demoting of the visual in favour of the verbal, at least we're getting the experience from the victim's own viewpoint.
But no. The filmmakers don't trust us enough to empathise and understand, and so we're given a cinematically inert lecture and question-and-answer session from Dr. Brock explaining the tenets and consequences of paraplegia. The audience is not being asked to share a traumatic experience, but is being given a stern lecture about a pertinent issue of the day. You could argue that this scene functions like the end of 'Psycho', where the inane psychobabble is satirised, but there is no such distance here - the doctor is clearly a good man behind his gruff exterior, trying to do his best for these men, without giving them any false hopes. As the film continues, so does the lesson, with facts, examples, statistics, experiments dutifully expounded.
One of the men says he feels like a freak. And this is the way the film presents the men. Their plight is presented from the outside to the outside, an explanation of something unusual to a 'normal' audience. The few attempts at expressionism only serve to make men seem ridiculous, such as the intrusive Rachmaninoff pastiche during Ken and Ellen's reunion, or the preposterous Wagnerian blast that greets Ken's first effort to move.
Brando does his best, but his eruptions of violence here should be compared to his seminal performance in the next year's 'Streetcar named desire'. In that film, violence was an inevitable product of a fully worked out character; here it is forced by violent music and horror-film style into something grotesque, Boris Karloff-like, the horror genre's obsession with the body taken out of context, turning realism into kitsch ('The Men' is, in any case, impossible to take seriously if you've seen Brando's wonderful parody of his performance here in 'Bedtime Story').
Zinnemann's camera rarely moves - movement arises from montage, from editing different camera angles between two over-composed shots. This has none of the dynamics of Eisenstein, resulting in a static aesthetic perfect for the film's intellectual reach.