A Movie A Day: Quint sees THE YOUNG PHILADELPHIANS (1959)
Do what any sensible Irishman would do: Go get drunk!
Ahoy, squirts! Quint here with today’s installment of A Movie A Day.
[For those now joining us, A Movie A Day is my attempt at filling in gaps in my film knowledge. My DVD collection is thousands strong, many of them films I haven’t seen yet, but picked up as I scoured used DVD stores. Each day I’ll pull a previously unseen film from my collection and discuss it here. Each movie will have some sort of connection to the one before it, be it cast or crew member.]
Today’s movie is THE YOUNG PHILADELPHIANS, an epic story of a man’s many moral dilemmas as he rises to prominence. Yesterday’s bitchy landlady from THE LITTLE GIRL WHO LIVES DOWN THE LANE, Ms. Alexis Smith, bridges us to this film, made some 17 years prior.
I’m really falling in love with rich black and white photography. I began my love affair with this photography with CASABLANCA as a teenager, which is still one of my favorite movies, and since then I haven’t ever been turned off by black and white films at all, but in doing this column I’ve really been hit with Cupid’s arrow. Hitting all the noirs and movies like THE YOUNG PHILADELPHIANS just feels almost otherworldly, just as eye-popping Technicolor feels not of this Earth. While I’ve loved black and white movies I’m just now getting to the point where when one comes up on this list that I feel a warm, comfortable feeling, like I’m sinking into my favorite soft corner of the couch.
Harry Stradling Sr.’s cinematography is wonderful, but so is everything else about this movie, every bit as epic as The Godfather, if not as iconic.
Instead of following a family of Gangsters you’re wallowing in the social elite of Philadelphia. The film opens on a sad man watching a newlywed couple exit a church, showered in rice and wellwishers. This is Mike Flanagan (played by Brian Keith) who is the first victim we meet. His love, Kate (played by Diane Brewster) is marrying a rich and powerful young man in her desire to climb the social ladder.
The second victim is William Lawrence III, Kate’s new husband who was forced into the marriage by his manipulating mother. Adam West is awesome here, playing this tortured man who tries so hard on his honeymoon to love his new wife, but just can’t. Can’t tell you how weird it is to hear Adam West’s voice coming out of such a young visage. His voice hasn’t changed in 50 years!
He runs off and Kate, in a moment of human weakness, rushes to the arms of her true love.
Returning home, Kate is informed that William Lawrence was killed in a car wreck as he raced away from the situation. She has a kid, the son of the poor Irishman, but cuts the father out of their life and turns down a huge sum of money from the rich mother-in-law to relinquish the last name. Kate wants her son to have the opportunity that comes with the name, worth more than the money offered.
The boy will be Anthony Judson Lawrence and he will be the first of the family to be wealthy and respected, a prominent figure in the social elite of Philadelphia.
In many ways Kate is a villain of this story. She manipulates the boy as much as her horrible mother-in-law manipulated her son. But Kate’s also selfless. She forgoes her own happiness, cutting her real love out because it could tarnish her son’s name that she’s already sacrificed a lot to give him.
And this is really a shining role for Newman, still very early in his career, before his huge hits like HUD and THE HUSTLER, but after his critical acclaim in SOMEBODY UP THERE LIKES ME (coming soon in the column) and THE LONG, HOT SUMMER.
I talk about how hungry Paul Newman was in the very first AMAD column, Harper, but I’m quickly learning that I mistook confidence for hunger. He’s a ball of energy in Harper, but here he’s quiet, planning, a completely fleshed out person and he still brings that confidence, just in a completely different way.
When we first meet Tony, he’s working in construction for Mike Flanagan. His father has been watching out for the kid who has no idea that he’s his father. Tony’s likable, charming and most of all optimistic… innocent, you could say.
He dabbles in the social scene, but he hates it. Politics, elbow-rubbing and game-playing isn’t his scene, but his mother insists. Making the most of things, Tony surrounds himself with like-minds, other upper crust kids who can’t stand the scene, most notably Chet (played by Robert Vaughn). Vaughn is outstanding in the movie, really delivering a jaw-dropping performance, but we’ll get to him in a minute.
In the first act, Tony has his humanity. He falls in love with the brunette beauty Joan, played by Barbara Rush, and she with him, despite her folks pressuring her to be with a guy she likes, but doesn’t love, because he’s worth $20 million.
Now I know, this is almost sounding like a Merchant Ivory costume drama… nothing more exciting than rich people in arranged relationships, right?
Trust me, this is only the set-up of the movie, a way to strip our likable lead character of his humanity one piece at a time as the machine eats him up. Piece by piece he loses his shine and becomes cold, plotting.
The movie’s about this corruption. What would you do to get what you want? What is that moment, that one decision that starts you down that path?
In this case, it’s a carrot dangled in front of Newman by Rush’s father, a prominent lawyer who offers to sponsor him through lawschool if he would just wait on eloping with his daughter and get married next year.
It’s such a non-threatening promise, all upside, to Newman, but what he doesn’t take into account is emotion and how this decision hurts his bride to be, shattering her image of the man she fell in love with, which starts a series of events that ends up stripping them both of passion, love and decency.
The whole second act is Newman’s maneuvering and seeing that it ultimately got him a shitty little office in a legal firm that has no intention of advancing him. The third act is his redemption in the form of a trial.
His buddy Chet was wounded in Korea (we take a 4 minute detour to the Korean war, by the way), losing an arm, and he dishonors his family, ultimately getting mixed up in a murder. The only one he trusts is Tony, but Tony is a tax lawyer, not a trial lawyer, however he ends up taking the case and resting his own soul on its outcome, going against what is proper and finally regaining his humanity.
I really loved this movie. Newman is incredible in it and Vaughn gives a career great performance. I was introduced to Vaughn in his expliotation work like BATTLE BEYOND THE STARS, CHUD II and THE TOWERING INFERNO… I didn’t really grow up with THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E., but I’ve always liked him as a screen presence. I had no idea he was capable of a performance as tortured and intricate as Chet.
It’s no surprise to me that he was nominated for Best Supporting Actor at the 1960 Academy Awards for his performance here. That was a deserved nomination and he would have deserved the statue if Hugh Griffith hadn’t won for BEN-HUR.
The movie is filled with good performances, everybody bringing it. Vincent Sherman directed the picture about as well as could be expected, bringing out fantastic performances from everyone and keeping the movie involving, which allows it to get away with its 2 ½ hour runtime without wearing out its welcome.
James Gunn (not the SLITHER James Gunn, but the guy who wrote the novel that previous AMAD noir BORN TO KILL) scripted a very complex character tale from a novel by Richard Powell, feeling at once straightforward and multi-layered.
Final Thoughts: This is an outstanding drama that I can’t believe isn’t more well known. Maybe it is and I just managed to avoid hearing about it in my 27 years, but the first time I knew it existed was when I picked up the Paul Newman Box Set. If you’re a fan of Paul Newman’s at all, this is a must see. If you’re a fan of cinema this is a must see. If you're a fan of great opening credits design, Saul Bass provides some amazing work here. Seek this one out.
The schedule for the next 7 days is:
Sunday, August 24th: THE RACK (1956)
Monday, August 25th: UNTIL THEY SAIL (1957)
Tuesday, August 26th: SOMEBODY UP THERE LIKES ME (1956)
Wednesday, August 27th: THE SET-UP (1949)
Thursday, August 28th: THE DEVIL & DANIEL WEBSTER (1941)
Friday, August 29th: CAT PEOPLE (1942)
Saturday, August 30th: CURSE OF THE CAT PEOPLE (1944)
Tomorrow we jump even further back into Newman’s filmography and hit THE RACK, a tale of a Korean War POW who returns home and is put on trial for breaking to the Chinese while a POW. See you folks then!
June 2nd: Harper
June 3rd: The Drowning Pool
June 4th: Papillon
June 5th: Gun Crazy
June 6th: Never So Few
June 7th: A Hole In The Head
June 8th: Some Came Running
June 9th: Rio Bravo
June 10th: Point Blank
June 11th: Pocket Money
June 12th: Cool Hand Luke
June 13th: The Asphalt Jungle
June 14th: Clash By Night
June 15th: Scarlet Street
June 16th: Killer Bait (aka Too Late For Tears)
June 17th: Robinson Crusoe On Mars
June 18th: City For Conquest
June 19th: San Quentin
June 20th: 42nd Street
June 21st: Dames
June 22nd: Gold Diggers of 1935
June 23rd: Murder, My Sweet
June 24th: Born To Kill
June 25th: The Sound of Music
June 26th: Torn Curtain
June 27th: The Left Handed Gun
June 28th: Caligula
June 29th: The Elephant Man
June 30th: The Good Father
July 1st: Shock Treatment
July 2nd: Flashback
July 3rd: Klute
July 4th: On Golden Pond
July 5th: The Cowboys
July 6th: The Alamo
July 7th: Sands of Iwo Jima
July 8th: Wake of the Red Witch
July 9th: D.O.A.
July 10th: Shadow of A Doubt
July 11th: The Matchmaker
July 12th: The Black Hole
July 13th: Vengeance Is Mine
July 14th: Strange Invaders
July 15th: Sleuth
July 16th: Frenzy
July 17th: Kingdom of Heaven: The Director’s Cut
July 18th: Cadillac Man
July 19th: The Sure Thing
July 20th: Moving Violations
July 21st: Meatballs
July 22nd: Cast a Giant Shadow
July 23rd: Out of the Past
July 24th: The Big Steal
July 25th: Where Danger Lives
July 26th: Crossfire
July 27th: Ricco, The Mean Machine
July 28th: In Harm’s Way
July 29th: Firecreek
July 30th: The Cheyenne Social Club
July 31st: The Man Who Knew Too Much
August 1st: The Spirit of St. Louis
August 2nd: Von Ryan’s Express
August 3rd: Can-Can
August 4th: Desperate Characters
August 5th: The Possession of Joel Delaney
August 6th: Quackser Fortune Has A Cousin In The Bronx
August 7th: Start the Revolution Without Me
August 8th: Hell Is A City
August 9th: The Pied Piper
August 10th: Partners
August 11th: Barry Lyndon
August 12th: The Skull
August 13th: The Hellfire Club
August 14th: Blood of the Vampire
August 15th: Terror of the Tongs
August 16th: Pirates of Blood River
August 17th: The Devil-Ship Pirates
August 18th: Jess Franco’s Count Dracula
August 19th: Dracula A.D. 1972
August 20th: The Stranglers of Bombay
August 21st: Man, Woman & Child
August 22nd: The Little Girl Who Lives Down The Lane
Readers Talkbackcomments powered by Disqus
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Aug. 23, 2008, 1:39 p.m. CST
REVIEW GREMLINS 2.
Aug. 23, 2008, 1:51 p.m. CST
by Raymond Shaw
As Sam Fuller said in some movie: "Life is in color but black and white is more realistic"
Aug. 23, 2008, 3:54 p.m. CST
I'm buying that boxset.
Aug. 23, 2008, 6:31 p.m. CST
Aug. 23, 2008, 8:06 p.m. CST
by Grammaton Cleric Binks
Is it a docmentary on Scriptgirl?
Aug. 23, 2008, 10:55 p.m. CST
Yeah, this is a good one to take in when youre in the mood for a classic without the cheese. Not to be confused with the Philadelphia Story. I give it another decade before the remake.
Aug. 24, 2008, 5:24 a.m. CST
he's always been a reliable screen presence, with a screen career of what - 50 years? Sure, he's been typecast to a certain extent as the suave, cynical one (MAGNIFICENT SEVEN through to BBC TV's con comedy-drama HUSTLE) but he never fails to deliver, plus he's one of those faces (Peter Falk springs to mind) whose mere presence guarantees a level of professionalism and enjoyment. Long may he and his schtick continue. And while I'm at it, a tip of the hat to his UNCLE compadre David McCallum. He's just awesome on NCIS, a show which I first dismissed as a CSI ripoff (tho it is most assuredly that) and which has taken on a cheeky life of its own, largely due to the confident playing of the leads from Mark Harmon down. Harmon, a kinaa TV version of Kevin Costner, got a bum deal by being cast against Sean Connery and Meg Ryan back in the late 80s in Peter Hyam's THE PRESIDIO, has come into his own in that show. Maybe there's a movie career out there for him yet...
Aug. 24, 2008, 5:31 a.m. CST
a guy called Nicholas Musuraca. As Quint delves into these movies, just think about the shot composition, the lighting, the camera movement. There's team effort here. CAT PEOPLE, CURSE OF..., I WALKED WITH A ZOMBIE - these and other movies evidence a geek love of visual storytelling, cinema, and of flat-out coolness that we've just seen in the minor Hammer movies Quint covered last week, and that we just don't see these days.
Aug. 24, 2008, 7:29 a.m. CST
by Grammaton Cleric Binks
but the truth is the show that I loved had jumped the shark before that season which was the last, and the worst. I only saw one or two episodes of The Man form UNCLE, but Vaughn was great in that and as mentioned The Magnificent Seven. I wonder if he'll have a guest spot on NCIS.
Aug. 25, 2008, 3:52 p.m. CST
Who can forget Superman III? Seriously, I really want to forget that film entirely.