A Movie A Day: Quint on UNTIL THEY SAIL (1957)
Okay, I’ll do what you say. I won’t walk with Americans until I’m 17.
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 we follow Paul Newman again to another early drama, this one called UNTIL THEY SAIL directed by the great Robert Wise.
Actually, Newman is more of a supporting character here. He opens up the movie as a witness in yet another trial (third Paul Newman-in-court movie in a row), but we don’t know for what specifically, just that his role in the army is to investigate foreign brides of soldiers who get married while on leave during the war.
Then we get a flashback (which is almost the entire story, catching up to the courtroom where we began at the end) where we’re introduced to our main characters: four Kiwi Sisters. Three of them have either boyfriends or husbands who leave town for the war, leaving Christchurch almost devoid of men.
The main theme of this film is loneliness, which makes it the perfect double feature with THE RACK… not only do you have the Paul Newman-in-court connector, but THE RACK’s main message was about how a man’s loneliness was the key his tormentors needed to break him.
Here the sisters all deal with loneliness of some sort. Jean Simmons (DARK SHADOWS, GUYS & DOLLS) has a husband she hardly knows off at war, Joan Fontaine (REBECCA, THE WOMEN) is the proper old maid, the strict older sister, Piper Laurie (unrecognizable here to us genre geeks that know her from CARRIE) didn’t have a man to wave good-bye to, so she ends up shacking up with a miserable loser who abstained and finally an innocent 15 year old Sandra Dee who had a boyfriend sign up and leave.
Now I might ignorant of New Zealand history, but I found it funny that of the entire cast the only two to even attempt a Kiwi accent were young Sandra Dee and Wally Cassell (who plays the loser who stayed behind and married Piper Laurie), everyone else speaking in proper British accents.
I know New Zealand was a British Colony, but in the many months I’ve spent there I didn’t find any trace of an English accent.
After the Japanese declare war and start working their way down close to NZ the Americans come in and suddenly there are thousands of men flood the streets of New Zealand’s towns, big and small.
The movie is about how these sisters deal with the loneliness and how the weaker of them, Laurie, splinters the family unit when she ditches them all and heads up to Wellington to try to forget her mistake of marriage in the arms of American soldiers.
As the film plays out, more than one of the sisters becomes a widow, but maybe finds true love in the aftermath. Newman’s story with Jean Simmons is the heart of the film, a true love set against the backdrop of some of the most beautiful country any man has ever seen.
The film is very sweet, but also plays with some really rough territory, including cold blooded murder. I’m a softie, though, and I’m in love with New Zealand (I actually got a little homesick when the extablishing shots of 1940s Wellington came up) so I was predisposed to enjoy this movie. I was just compelled to see a female-driven film after so many male-driven films of this period. It’s a bit of a refreshing change of viewpoint.
All the women shine in this film, especially Piper Laurie, probably because of the three she’s the most tortured character, so she has a wide range that she plays.
Joan Fontaine has a big character arc herself, but it’s not as dark. She goes from being extremely Anti-American and viewing those who fall in with the American soldiers as being… well, slutty… to falling in love with one herself.
Sandra Dee is the epitome of innocent here, in her film debut. Adorable and childlike (as she should be, since she was only 15 when the movie filmed), the purest of the sisters.
Jean Simmons is just quietly proper, a middle-ground between her older sister and younger sister. She’s extremely beautiful in this movie, but Robert Anderson’s screenplay of James Michener’s book gives her a lot to work with and she plays it very subtle, especially her cautious romance with Newman.
I talked about how raw Newman was in THE RACK, how he seemed like he was testing the boundaries of acting and in doing so overacts a bit. By the time he did this one, he found those lines and the quiet, composed confident actor that we all know is the one here.
Robert Wise’s shot selection and camerawork is very professional, as usual. He does his best to tell the story visually in his composition, so it’s never hard to keep up with what’s going on, who’s seeing whom and just what the overall tone is at any given moment.
Final Thoughts: I greatly enjoyed this movie. It’s not surprising this has been lost to time as it’s not a very showy movie, but it deserves to be seen. Piper Laurie is fantastic in it, all the sisters are, in fact, and the men are well drawn out, from all walks of life, all set against the backdrop of beautiful New Zealand. If you’re a romantic you’ll dig this movie. If you’re not, I can’t say, but I bet you’d at least appreciate how well it’s put together as well as the level of talent on display.
The schedule for the next 7 days is:
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)
Sunday, August 31st: THE 7TH VICTIM (1943)
Monday, September 1st: THE GHOST SHIP (1943)
I’m headed off to Vegas tomorrow… gonna play some cards and catch Penn & Teller’s show on Wednesday… Can’t wait for that. But I’m packing the next few movies with me, so you better believe I’ll keep the column going strong.
Tomorrow we follow Newman once more to another Robert Wise flick, SOMEBODY UP THERE LIKES ME. 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
August 23rd: The Young Philadelphians
August 24th: The Rack
Readers Talkbackcomments powered by Disqus
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Aug. 26, 2008, 12:29 a.m. CST
Aug. 26, 2008, 12:30 a.m. CST
Jean Simmons was quite a dish.
Aug. 26, 2008, 12:32 a.m. CST
I really liked "The Ghost Ship". I stayed up til like 3 in the morning watching it because I really wasn't sure what was going to happen. Not too shabby for a lick from '43.
Aug. 26, 2008, 12:47 a.m. CST
The 1993 comedy masterpiece FREAKED starring Alex Winter. One of the heights of American filmmaking.
Aug. 26, 2008, 1:44 a.m. CST
That is true dedication, sir.<p>I admit to being ignorant of early Paul Newman so The Rack and Until They Sail are on my queue. So excited for your Cat People review!
Aug. 26, 2008, 1:50 a.m. CST
so much for that. Looking forward to seeing them at some point in my life though.
Aug. 26, 2008, 2:41 a.m. CST
You've got a great stretch coming up, including four by Val Lewton (although, warning, one is pretty much a stinker). The high light to me, however, is Robert Wise's "The Set-Up". The film - pun intended - packs quite a punch.
Aug. 26, 2008, 4:33 a.m. CST
by Mr Sidney James
Can I be so bold as to suggest a little British (well Scottish really) flick: Restless Natives. Featuring a relatively unknown cast (apart from Ned Beatty) I think it would make a nice addition to your list (so long as you've never seen it before)
Aug. 26, 2008, 5:13 a.m. CST
One of the better yet sadly ignored boxing flicks - and the way thoughts about suicide were depicted in the Hayes Code era is equally fascinating. Loved some of the shots of the people in the crowd - the fat guy plowing through popcorn - the housewife who was thirsting for blood - I wouldn't be surprised if Kubrick found inspiration in this for his early noir-ish flix.
Aug. 26, 2008, 7:03 a.m. CST
by Grammaton Cleric Binks
Nothing coming up in the next week past the fifties? No CGI? Waaaa waaaa. This sounds like a good flick. I'm not sure how many Newman movies I've watched in my life. Sure, I've heard of the big ones, and seen a lot of them. But to learn more about his more obscure earlier works is great.
Aug. 26, 2008, 9:02 a.m. CST
Wish the distributors would start reading this column.
Aug. 26, 2008, 9:22 a.m. CST
are gonna make it twice as hard for ya when Ol' Butch kicks the bucket in a couple of weeks ... or, even days. (Not that I want it to happen. Just being realistic. I love Paul Newman.)
Aug. 26, 2008, 9:35 a.m. CST
Great Paul Newman film I caught a few weeks ago. Highly recommended. Does anyone know if he ever did any supernatural/horror film(s). I know he did that Robert Altman sci-fi movie Quintet (haven't seen that one yet). Just askin'
Aug. 26, 2008, 11:30 a.m. CST
by the beef
some of my favorite all-time films are in that Warners Val Lewton set. 7th VICTIM has my favorite all-time ending.
Aug. 26, 2008, 11:35 a.m. CST
by the beef
Agreed about Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. I don't believe he's done anything in the supernatural or horror genres. He might've done some sci-fi television early in the 50s or something though.
Aug. 27, 2008, 7:17 a.m. CST
Aug. 28, 2008, 12:12 p.m. CST
Don't forget. Piper played the broken love interest of Neuman in "The Hustler."
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