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Figlio di attori del
music-hall, George Stevens calcò le scene a cinque anni; a sedici giunse a Hollywood, impiegato
prima come operatore, poi come gag-man e infine come sceneggiatore.
Nel 1929 diresse alcune comiche,
che gli servirono come referenza per passare alla regia di lungometraggi leggeri
come Bachelor Bait (1934), in cui un romantico apre un'agenzia
matrimoniale in modo da poter mettere insieme coppiette.
L'esperienza del music-hall e il
tirocinio delle comiche lo mettono nella condizione di affrontare senza problemi la commedia sofisticata,
"sofisticata" nel suo caso da una palpabile vena intimistica e romantica, enunciata per la
prima volta in Alice Adams (1935), adapted from
Booth Tarkington's novel.
Alice (Katherine Hepburn) is the lively and good-natured daughter of parents
of modest means (her father is chronically ill).
But she has great hopes for the future.
She wants to go to a society ball against all odds (she has to pick flowers
from a public garden because she can't afford to buy a bouquet). Her mother
convinces her brother Walter to escort her because none of the richer boys
would. It is raining but she is too ashamed of Walter's humble car so she walks
into the mansion pretending the car broke down. She keeps smiling but she
is too poorly dressed to attract the best boys. She has to watch the boys
compete to dance with other girls but ignoring her... until suddenly the
charming Arthur unexpectedly asks her for a dance. It would be the dream of
her life if she weren't so poor. Back home she cries and her father hears her.
Her mother tells her that he has invented a glue (together with his employer)
but never tried to make money
out of it. On the way to work she meets Arthur again, who recognizes her and
seems to like her. She pretends she was just looking for a secretary for her
father and boasts about her family's (inexistent) wealth. He walks her home.
She is embarrassed that he sees where she lives and tells more lies to explain
why such a wealthy family would live in such a humble house. Arthur promises
to come and see her one evening.
Walter tells Alice that Arthur is de facto already committed to another girl,
the daughter of a tycoon, Mildred.
Alice waits the whole night for Arthur to come by. Days go by without any
sign of Arthur. When she least expects it, he finally shows up. They go out
several times. Her mother begs her husband to quit his humble job and open his
own glue factory so that Alice doesn't have to be embarrassed of her family.
When he sees her cry, he finally does it. He feels bad towards his old employer,
who has paid his salary while he was sick and who is co-owner of the formula.
Alice and Arthur go out several times and he kisses her. Her mother convinces
her to invite him for dinner so they can finally meet him. Just before that
dinner Arthur hears the rumours that her father's old employer is spinning
around: that he stole the formula for the glue. People are calling them
"thieves". The family is mobilized to prepare for the dinner, clearly the
most important event in Alice's life. The dinner is a disaster, and Alice
senses that something is bothering Arthur. She senses that Arthur just wants
to go away and bids him farewell with a smile.
In the meantime her brother Walter has charged into the house demanding to
see her father: he has stolen money from the company owned by her father's
old employer. Her father is ready to mortgage his factory to raise the money,
but his factory is now worthless: the old employer, determined to ruin him,
has decided to open a larger glue factory across the street. Her father
insults the old employer, but Alice talks to the mean man and takes all the
blame. Alice manages to turn the man around and restore peace.
She thinks she has lost her dream, but instead Arthur is waiting outside.
Annie Oakley (1935) is a mediocre biopic.
Toby, who works for Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show, is considered the
greatest sharpshooter in the whole world.
Annie (Barbara Stanwyck) is a fan of his. She is famous in her little town
for never missing a shot.
A middleman arranges for a shooting contest between Toby and the hunter he
has never met, thinking it must be a man. To his surprise (and everybody else's
surprise) it turns out it is Annie, a girl, who, in turn, did not know she was
going to compete with her idol. Her mom and her little brother have traveled
with her to see her win. She further surprises everybody by hitting every
single target. She is about to beat Toby but she misses the last target
on purpose, to avoid that Toby loses his job.
Toby celebrates and Annie's mom cries, but the show's manager Jeff
understands what she did and offers her a job in the show.
The only woman in the show, Annie rapidly becomes a major attraction.
In the meantime Toby's eyesight is declining after a brawl with some idiots,
even if he keeps it secret. One day he misses and injures Annie. He is fired.
Annie is hurt because she has always idolized him (and loved him).
Jeff, who in turn has always loved Annie, makes sure that Tony does not even
have a chance to explain himself. Annie gets more and more famous, while Toby
is quickly forgotten. Despite Jeff's attentions, Annie is still in love with
Toby. One day the Sitting Bull (who is part of Buffalo Bill's show) finds
Toby, who is now working in an amusement park, and Annie runs to him.
alternò musical con Fred Astaire, ovvero
Swing Time (1936), forse l'apice di Astaire per le danze (anche la prima
volta che usa special effects) ma pessimo per la storia,
Lucky (Fred Astaire) is a professional dancer who has to leave the theater
in a hurry to go to his own wedding. The bride Margaret
and the priest are waiting.
Lucky is delayed by his friends, who want to disrupt the wedding.
They succeed. The wedding is called off.
Her father tells him that the only way to prove his love is to come back
with a huge sum. Lucky, who is also a formidable gambler, decides to try his luck in New York, and his friend Pop
follows him. They stumble into the cute Penny (Ginger Rogers), but initially
they have an argument with her. They follow her to her workplace, a
dance school where she is a paid instructor. He pretends to be a new student
to have a chance to apologize to her. Instead her gets her fired because he
pretends to be such a lousy student. He then proves
to her boss how good a teacher she is by dancing with her and displaying
his best moves. Lucky is now in love with Penny, and soon his goal becomes
to dance with her in a nightclub.
Lucky gambles and wins... an orchestra, whose conductor Ricardo is also in
love with Penny.
The owner of the nightclub offers him a lot of money to perform with Penny.
Pop advises him to demand less because otherwise he would have the money
to go back and marry Margaret. His act is successful beyond his dreams
and Penny falls in love with him.
However, Margaret comes to New York and Lucky has to tell Penny the truth.
Penny accepts Ricardo's marriage proposal.
Lucky decides to leave Margaret but he doesn't have to tell her because she
tells him that she fell in love with someone else. He's jubilant.
Meanwhile, Ricardo is getting ready for the wedding with Penny. The same friends
who disrupted Lucky's wedding now use the exact same trick to disrupt
Ricardo's and allow Lucky to regain Penny's love.
Quality Street (1937) is a remake of Sidney Franklin's 1927 movie that
was an adaptation of James Barrie's 1901 play.
A Damsell In Distress (1937) is an adaptation of Wodehouse's novel
set to music by George and Ira Gershwin.
Vivacious Lady (1938),
a musical for Ginger Rogers,
is a comedy that tells of the love at first sight and sudden marriage between a night-club singer and a university professor and of their attempts at winning over his aristocratic family).
The historical, war, adventure and comic film
Gunga Din (1939), inspired
but not based on the poem by Rudyard Kipling:
runs the gamut from war scenes to sheer adventure/action scenes to
historical epic to, last but not least, comedy. At times
Archibald and Mac form a comic couple worthy of Laurel and Hardy.
Rebels in British India ambush a group of soldiers
and then overrun an entire village. The British commander selects three
indisciplined soldiers, Archibald (Cary Grant), Mac and Tommy to head the
rescue mission. Archibald is the younger but also the most troublemaker.
They reach the village and are almost exterminated by the bandits when these
attack en masse (a lengthy battle sequence). Back to the fort, they report
to the commander, who realizes that the rebellion is staged by the same
brutal rebels who already wreaked havoc fifty years earlier.
Tommy announces that he is
leaving the service because he's getting married. The other two want him
to stay and engage in a sequence of farcical acts until eventually they
"poison" Tommy's replacement and Tommy is forced to return to service.
The regiment leaves for the war campaign
The gullable Archibald believes a legend related to him by the humble
waterbearer Gunga Din about a golden temple. That infuriates his friend Mac
because it has already caused them enough trouble, and Mac manages to
have Archibald locked into the jail. At night, however, Gunga Din uses
an elephant to rescue Archibald (almost killing him in the process) and
the two ride out to the hills together while Mac gives the alarm.
After a farcical crossing of a bridge, they find the golden temple.
Alas, the temple is also the gathering place of the deadly rebels.
Thousands of them pour on the site chanting and holding candles.
They hide and witness how the bandits are incited to kill by a half-naked
guru in the name of the goddess of the temple.
Archibald wants to send Gunga Din for help. In order to distract the crowd
and give Gunga Din a chance to leave the temple, Archibald walks openly
in the middle of the temple singing a traditional British song.
Mac wants Tommy to remain at the fort, taking care of his wife, but Tommy
insists to join the rescue mission. Mac tells him that he has to re-enlist
in order to be able to go, and Tommy accepts to sign the paper, but then
refuses to hand it over to Mac so he can destroy it at the end of the mission.
Gunga Din leads them to the temple but they are all captured immediately.
When they are thrown in the same cell with Archibald, he tells them that the
rebels are preparing to exterminate the whole regiment. And they are now
powerless to help. As the guru orders his men to torture the three British
soldiers, the humble Gunga Din proclaims himself to be a British soldier too.
Mac tells the guru that the exact location of the troops is detailed in
the document that Tommy is hiding. When the guru takes the document from
Tommy, in one move Mac grabs the document (which condemns his friend to
many more years of service) and the guru himself as hostage in the cell with
them. After lengthy discussions, during which the guru shows them the
British regiment approaching and how the rebel's army is going to destroy
it, the guru commits suicide. The rebels, now led by his son, overwhelm the
three prisoners, and mortally wound Gunga Din. In the meantime the British
regiment is marching towards the trap that the rebels have prepared.
Gunga Din manages to steal a bugle and climb to the top of the golden temple.
He then gives the alarm by playing the bugle as loud as he can, thus crowning
his dream of becoming a British soldier. The British win the battle, conquer
the temple and free the three soldiers (after another lengthy sequence).
At the funeral the commander honors Gunga Din.
Vigil In The Night (1940), based on a novel by A.J. Cronin, is
a mediocre melodrama.
On a dark rainy night the camera shifts from the turbulent sea to a field to
a hospital to the lit room where a nurse is still at work, tending to a child.
Her shift is over and her sister Lucy is slightly late. Anne is quiet and
responsible. Lucy is lively and less precise. Anne leaves the child to Lucy,
but Lucy first wants some breakfast. When Lucy finally looks at the child,
the child has died. Examining the dead child, the doctor of the hospital
realizes what has happened, but Anne takes the blame pretending it was her
who neglected the child.
Alone with her sister, Lucy confesses that she hates the profession because
it doesn't allow them to live a normal life.
Anne took the blame because she already has the certificate, and can move
to another hospital, whereas Lucy still has to get hers, and this mistake
would have cost her dearly.
As she leaves the hospital, a young man proposes to her but instead she
moves to another hospital in another town, reporting to a stiff and strict
matron of nurses. The chief doctor is a kind understanding man.
The day Lucy obtains her certificate, Anne has a bad surprise: a petulant
nurse of the old hospital, who knows her story, is hired at her new hospital.
Anne, the petulant nurse and the matron all take the same bus. The unstoppable
petulant keeps chatting until she is about to tell the matron what happened
in the old hospital when the bus driver suddenly loses control. The bus
crashes and catches fire. Anne is splendid in helping the victims, and the chief
doctor is impressed by her devotion. He invites her to his house and tells her
of his struggle to improve the hospital. His political enemy is the chairman
of the board.
Meanwhile Lucy announces that she got married with the same young man who wanted
to marry Anne, and will not be using her certificate after all. Anne is
both disappointed and happy. The reason Lucy got the certificate is that Anne
wanted her to, but obviously Lucy never dreamed of being a nurse, and is
now moving to the big city with her husband.
THe matron has a rough way to give good news to people: she coldly announces
that Anne is being promoted. Whily Lucy goes on to live in the real world,
Anne becomes more and more like a nun secluded in a convent.
The chairman, am unattractive and shallow middle-aged man, discusses the chief
doctor's plans but is hardly helpful in making them happen. On the other hand
the chairman is attracted to Anne and hints at the possibility of starting
a business with her. His wife overhears him and gets furious with both.
She demands that Anne be fired. She bids the doctor goodbye and moves to
the big city with her sister Lucy. Anne finds Lucy's husband alone, drunk
and broke. He tells Anne that Lucy has left him and is working as a nurse again.
The newspapers announce that an actress has committed suicide but there are
doubts about the nurse: Lucy. The chief doctor reads the same news and attends
the trial to help Anne's sister. He proves that Lucy merely obeyed the orders
of an unscrupulous doctor. Lucy feels guilty nonetheless because she knew
that something fishy was going on at that clinic, but she needed the money.
The matron is looking in vain for volunteers to take care of
an epidemic of smallpox.
The chief doctor, clearly in love with her, realizes that nursing is
Anne's entire life, and that Lucy wants a chance to redeem herself, so he
mentions it to them. Lucy and Anne both volunteer for the dangerous job that
no other nurse wants.
Anne realizes that without more money a lot of people will die. The evil and
stupid chairman still opposes investments. Anne steals the money. The chairman
is ready to send her to jail, but just then he learns that his own son has
fallen sick. Lucy is assigned to the child and this time (in a scene
reminiscent of the first one) saves his life when he's about to die.
In doing se she gets sick herself and later dies.
Lucy's husband is angry at Anne: he accuses Anne of having caused Lucy's death
by convincing Lucy to be the nurse that Lucy never wanted to be.
Anne sacrificed the life of her own sister to her ideals.
Instead of feeling guilty, Anne finds consolation in Lucy's death and
inspiration to continue her mission.
Now the chairman has been converted to the cause of creating a better hospital,
and Anne and the chief doctor
Penny Serenade (1941) is a conventional romantic melodrama, but it is
unusually structured as a series of very long flashbacks.
Julie has decided to leave her husband Roger. As she is packing her things,
she starts playing records, and each record reminds her of their story
(each record is a very long flashback).
She remembers how she met the charming Roger (Cary Grant), how they fell in
love, how one day he, a young promising newsman who just got a
two-year contract to work in Japan, asked her to marry him.
They move to Japan and he seems to do well, but then an earthquake strikes
and Julie loses the child she was carrying and learns that she cannot have
children anymore. Back in America, Roger decides to open his own nespaper.
He has great hopes, but the newspaper is a bad business venture.
Julie's uncle Jack comes to visit and, realizing how sad Julie's life is,
recommends adopting a child. Roger has to lie about his income in order to
qualify for the adoption, but soon that lie comes haunting him, as a judge
almost "reposseses" the child. They win that battle, and keep raising the child
though an endless series of sacrifices, but cannot do anything
against an illness that takes the life of the child.
The parents mourn and Roger, who feels guilty, becomes a zombie.
Back to the present, Julie has decided to leave the house.
But Roger walks back into the house and the social worker calls them offering
another child for adoption.
La commedia sofisticata più tradizionale
Woman of the Year (1942),
schermaglie matrimoniali fra due giornalisti rivali (Tracy ed Hepburn) lui marito all'antica lei moglie
femminista assolutamente incapace di interpretare la casalinga.
It's a screwball comedy with social overtones.
In a sense, it is a reversal of the traditional roles of male and female (it is
the male, usually, who is highly educated and independent, while the female
is usually practical and family-oriented).
Tess (Katherine Hepburn) is a celebrity, involved in many political and
cultural activities. One day on the radio she says that baseball (a very
popular sport in the USA) should be abolished.
One of the many people who are offended is
sports reporter Sam (Spencer Tracy). It turns out they both work for the same
newspaper. She is the international reporter, an independent erudite woman,
while he is the ordinary middle-class man. He falls in love.
He takes her to a baseball game, sitting among humble folks, while she takes
him to a high-society party among intellectuals of all nations (and she speaks
all of their languages), not to mention a meeting of feminists.
She is busy every single day, but they find the time to get married (she makes
sure it will take as little time as possible).
Once married, Sam realizes the full extent of how untraditional their marriage
is: she is always busy with countless events. One day she announces to him that
he's going to be a father. He is about to exult, when she reveals that she has
adopted a refugee child, Chris. He doesn't have time to argue about it that
she is notified of the award of "woman of the year".
Sam doesn't even congratulate her, resigned that this will mean even less
time together. He simply takes the child back to the refugee agency.
When she is invited to a friend's wedding, he refuses to join her.
Their marriage is collapsing.
At the wedding Tess is reminded of what she pledged at her own wedding.
She goes back home determined to become a good housewife. Sam doubts her
and he is right: she just cannot be the typical housewife. But then she
doesn't want her to be either: he just wants her to have more time for him.
When they come to pick her up for yet another event, he simply throws them out.
The Talk of the Town (1942) is a mix of thriller, comedy and romance, with a love-triangle subplot.
is a political activist with anarchist views, who has been
falsely accused of burning down a factory and causing the foreman's death
by corrupt local officials.
While on trial, he manages to break out of jail and finds shelter in the
house of schoolteacher Nora, who is an old flame and decides to help him.
Luckily, her new tenant is an erudite and ambitious legal professor whom they
try to use for the purpose of clearing Leopold's name. While Nora keeps
Leopold's identity secret pretending he is her gardener, Leopold and the
professor engage in heated discussions about the unfairness of the law.
In the meantime, the professor, who is falling in love with Nora, offers her
a job as his secretary.
The same day the professor sees Leopold's face in the newspaper and understands
he has been fooled by them. Faithful to his principles, the professor feels
bound to call the police. Leopold has to use violence against him, but the
police are already there because someone else has recognized the wanted man.
Leopold manages to escape again and Nora manages to convince the professor
to forgive her and to help reopen his case.
To get to the bottom of the mystery, the professor shaves his ugly beard and
takes the dead man's silly widow to a ball,
where he tries in vain to behave like a youth a` la mode.
The woman is a little drunk and shows him a letter sent to her by... her
husband. Now the professor has evidence that Leopold is not guilty of murder
and that the whole story has been fabricated.
In the meantime, Nora has found Leopold and brought him back to the house.
When the professor returns, he accepts to help him, even if it is illegal.
The professor is determined to kidnap the foreman who has framed Leopold.
Leopold and Nora travel with him. They wait patiently for him at the post
office and, when he shows up to pick up his mail, they drag him into the
car. They bring him back to the house, finally sensing victory.
But they both change their minds about each other: Leopold does not want the
professor to jeopardize his career even if it means remaining a wanted
criminal for life; the professor does not care about his career anymore and
wants instead justice for Leopold. While they argue, the crook
grabs a log, hits them in the head and escapes.
This time the police can finally arrest Leopold.
He is kept in jail while the good citizens of the town march in front of it
ready to lynch him.
While Leopold's trial is underway and the crowd is forcing its way into
the court room, the professor arms himself, takes justice into his hands,
arrests the foreman who is hiding by his wife's, drags him into the courtroom
and narrowly avoids the lynching.
The professor moves on with his career. Both Nora and Leopold travel to
Washington to see him and to the very last minute she is not sure whom to
choose, but in the end Leopold is the lucky one.
Queste commedie, a cui va aggiunta la mediocre ma realista
The More the Merrier (1943), sono tutte infarcite di gag e
dominate dal finale convenzionale.
The film is set during the world war, when there was a scarcity of housing
in Washington. Benjamin, an elderly business man (who seems to know important politicians),
arrives in town two days earlier than scheduled and cannot find a hotel room.
He sees an advert for a room to rent. He sends away the
people who are in line, pretending to be the landlord. Then he waits for the
real occupant, a young and pretty woman, Connie, and convinces her to
rent him a room. They are an odd couple. He is inquisitive (particularly
curious of why she is not married yet) and she is super-organized.
When she is at work, a young man, Joe, who is in the army, comes by looking for
the room to rent. He is just the type he wishes on Connie as a husband.
The business man, now turned matchmaker, rents him half of his own room to him.
When she comes home, the old man has to scramble in order to hide the truth
from her, creating some farcical situations. When she runs into the new
housemate, she gets furious and asks both Benjamin and Joe to leave.
They demand that she returns the rent that Benjamin already paid, but she
already spent it.
Connie is attracted to Joe, but she is engaged to a politician, Charles,
which will give her the security that an organized girl like her needs.
It turns out that Benjamin is a retired millionaire who has been summoned
to Washington to advise a committee led by a senator, and the committee
is precisely working on the housing crisis. Benjamin meets with them over
lunch, and gives them an idea, but one young man opposes him. He happens
to be Connie's fiance Charles. Benjamin becomes even more determined that
Joe is a better match for her.
At the beach the three chat and argue. Connie is upset when Benjamin makes
fun of her Charles and leaves them alone. Benjamin gives Joe some advice,
even reading him pages from Connie's diary.
When she catches them in the act, she demands they both leave the next day.
Benjamin moves out but also takes responsibility so that Connie can forgive
Joe and let him stay two more days, until his ship leaves for Africa.
When Connie goes out on a date with Charles, Benjamin invites Joe to the same
club. Charles proposes to Connie, but Benjamin, who pretends he has never met
Connie before, distracts him with political
stuff and Joe can spend the night dancing with Connie.
At the end of the night they are in love.
Unfortunately, an annoying teenager who lives downstairs and asks Connie for
advices, gets convinced that Joe is a Japanese spy and reports him to the
police. The police knocks at the door in the middle of the night and takes
both Joe and Connie to the police station, where they are thoroughly
interrogated. Their version of the facts does not make sense, so the police
call Benjamin as a witness. Benjamin takes along Charles, who spent the night
working with him on a housing rescue plan. Charles is shocked to find out
that Joe and Connie not only knew each other already but are even living
together. Benjamin does absolutely nothing to alleviate the story, even
denying that he ever shared the apartment with the two.
In the overcrowded taxi (another side effect of the war) Charles is
worried about the scandal and Connie gets fed up that he only cares for his
career. The taxi drops off one of the passengers in front of a newspaper
office and they realize that they have been discussing the embarrassing
situation in front of a reporter. Benjamin, still playing matchmaker, advises
them to get married before the newspaper hits the streets, and even tells them
where. This will save Connie's reputation when the story comes out (the man
she was living with is actually her husband). Benjamin has already arranged
for a detailed schedule, just like Connie used to do in the house for them.
I Remember Mama (1948) is an overlong Dickens-ian melodrama about immigrants, adapted from a popular 1944 play by John Van Druten, that was in turn based on
a memoir by Kathryn Forbes, "Mama's Bank Account".
A fairy-tale town in the mist, viewed from the window of the protagonist, who is typing
the last words of her book. Katrina starts proof-reading it. It's a memoir of
how her poor family arrived ot the USA from Norway at the beginning of the 20th
century. The film is a series of flashbacks that depict life in that time.
Marta and her husband Lars have to save every penny to take care of her four
children. They want to send their son Nels to school, but that entails making
Marta's middle-aged sister Trina comes to tell Marta that she wants to marry the elderly man
from the funeral parlor, Peter. Marta is disappointed and Trina is afraid
because she knows that their sisters Sigrid and Jenny will laugh at her,
and she knows that her timid husband would not be capable of confronting
their frightening uncle Chris. Marta offers to mediate.
Later their kind old tenant reads Dickens to them, and Katrin is moved.
One day the feared uncle Chris comes to visit, driving his car through the
busy streets of the city. (The camera shows the streets of the city in a
dreamy manner reminiscent of fairy tales). He arrives when a doctor is
prescribing the immediate hospitalization of Katrina's sister Dagmar.
Despite being drunk, uncle Chris insists on driving her to the hospital.
Marta's sisters Sigrid and Jenny
arrive and are shocked to see that he has parked not only
the car but also his mistress Jessie outside the house.
Trina also joins them with her suitor Peter. At the hospital, while they
are waiting to hear about the operation, Peter asks Chris for Trina's hand
but Chris refuses to pay the dowry. Later Chris spends time entertaining
a child, Arne, a cousin of Katrina who is also at the hospital.
The doctor tells Marta that the operation went well, but then Marta is
forbidden to visit her daughter. All the same she sneaks into the hospital
disguised as a janitor.
Dagmar returns home a healthy child. One day the nice tenant decides to move
out, and leaves his entire library to the family. Unfortunately, his cheque
for rent bounces: the books are all he had.
One day the news arrive that Chris is dying. He only wants Marta and Katrina
around him. He confesses that he is broke and
that he married Jessie (who is finally introduced to Marta, not
just parked outside). He has one last drink with his wife and his favorite
niece (Marta) and enters a coma with a smile. The agony lasts several days.
Finally, one day Marta announces to her sisters that uncle Chris is dead.
She reads from his diary how he gave money to charity for children. That's
why there is no will.
Trina's elderly fiance tells her how much he loves her, and they get married.
Katrina, after a first harsh review, manages to get her first story published
and it's a story about her mother.
Nel dopoguerra la produzione di Stevens subì un netto cambiamento,
spostandosi verso temi più impegnati e malinconici.
A Place In The Sun (1951), adapted from Theodore Dreiser's novel "An American Tragedy",
Shane (1953), western mitologico epico e cortese,
The Giant (1956), melodramma sudista,
il patetico The Diary of Anne Frank (1959) e la
commedia esistenziale The Only Game in Town (1970), nostalgico ritorno al clima sofisticato
commosso degli esordi trasferito però in uno squallido casino di Las Vegas con una coppia
formata da una ballerina e da un pianista attanagliati dalla solitudine e dalla nevrosi, sono perle senili del
Shane (1953), based on Jack Schaefer's novel, was the second
installment in his "American trilogy," after A Place in the Sun (1951)
and Giant (1956), is a mythological western
(the kind that identifies the gunslinger with the medieval knight)
whose main innovation is
to tell the story from the viewpoint of a child.
Shane has no past, because his past is the mythological past of the Frontier:
he embodies countless legends of invincible gunslingers.
In a sense he is not the winner, he is the ultimate loser: the world is
changing, and he is an endangered species, and an embarrassing one (the
people he defends are reluctant to accept and acknowledge his help).
His days are numbered, and not because a better gunslinger has come around
but because gunslingers are becoming an embarrassment to civilization.
A lonely gunslinger reaches an isolated farm and is taken by the child to
meet his father, a good hard-working man, Joe, and his mother, two honest
people who are merely trying to develop their land.
Shane witnesses a visit to the farm by gray-haired land baron Rufus, who is
obviously trying to convince the farmers to move out of what he considers
"his" land. Shane's attitude intimidates Rufus, and Joe invites him to stay
with them. Shane accepts and starts working around the farm.
When they go to town together to purchase supplies, Shane is provoked by
one of Rufus' cowboys, but refrains from responding.
Later, Shane meets the other farmers, all of them exasperated by Rufus'
arrogance. Shane is provoked again at the saloon, and this time he can't
avoid being dragged into a huge fist fight. Surrounded by Rufus' men, Shane
is saved by Joe.
Joe is mildly jealous of the fact that his son worships the stranger and
his wife is clearly impressed by his manners (and Shane is clearly a man
with no family), but his sense of justice
and the need to defend his property and family prevail.
while the farmers are having an idyllic picnic, Rufus hires a rival gunslinger.
Rufus tries one more time to change Joe's mind peacefully, then unleashes
the murderous gunslinger against the farmers.
After the first death, the farmers are ready to leave, but Joe and Shane
convince them to stay and fight.
Joe decides that the logical way to end the trouble is for him to challenge
Rufus, and the meeting is precisely what Rufus wants (to have his men kill
Joe). Someone alerts Shane that Joe is falling into a trap. Nothing can
dissuade Joe, though, and Shane has to knock him unconscious.
As Shane parts way with Joe's wife, she asks him if he's doing this for her,
and he replies that he's doing it for all of them.
Shane rides to town and faces the mob, led by the experience hired gun.
Shane coldly kills all of them, and then, after saying farewell to the child
who has chronicled his adventures, rides out of town.
That child is the civilization that is closing in on him, and, while fascinated
by his courage, will eventually dispose of him.
Shane is wounded, and probably goes to die on the same hill he came from.
Stevens smitizza la razza superiore dei pistoleros nel momento stesso in cui ne
esalta l'epica; sono uomini fragili, falliti, prigionieri della propria abilità di tiratori, destinati a
una vecchiaia raccapricciante. La comunità degli agricoltori, circondata dalle montagne, innevate
è esposta alle prepotenze degli allevatori; questi ultimi sono i veri pionieri del west: giunsero per
primi e combatterono gli indiani, lo scontro degli opposti diritti sta per sfociare in un massacro, ma alla
fine si risolve in un duello, fra il killer assoldato dagli allevatori e Shane, il giustiziere degli agricoltori.
L'allevatore ha accettato a malincuore la scelta del killer, gli ripugna il gioco sporco; ma gli eventi
travolgono anche lui: dopo che un contadino lo ha sfidato, bisogna ucciderlo per dare un esempio; e poi
incendiare una fattoria per dare il colpo di grazia. Ma, dopo il mesto funerale a boot hill, l'agricoltore
arringa i colleghi a non cedere, appellandosi ai valori della terra e della famiglia. Su entrambi i fronti si
antepone il nucleo comunitario a tutto. L'unico a non avere una comunità da difendere è
Shane; anche se salverà i contadini uccidendo killer, scagnozzi e padroni, non potrà mai
essere un contadino.
The Giant è invece James Dean, un bracciante al servizio
di una famiglia di allevatori texani che scopre il petrolio sul fazzoletto di terra di sua proprietà;
mentre il padrone è restio a infangare di petrolio i pascoli dei suoi avi, il giovane spregiudicato si
lancia nel business dell'oro nero; l'ascesa del neo-petroliere fa da contrappunto alle crisi familiari dei suoi
ex-padroni: il fervido amore fra i genitori, che appartengono a una generazione fiera delle proprie
tradizioni, è intaccato dalle delusioni provocate loro dai figli, dal maggiore soprattutto che, dedito
agli studi, è indegno della stirpe e che sposa una negra; ma anche dalla ragazza che s'innamora
del nemico, da affascinante miliardario, senza capire che il suo vero scopo è umiliare i suoi vecchi
padroni; l'ostilità fra il vecchio aristocratico e il nuovo ricco, barbaro e incolto, ha origine anche
dal vano amore di questi per la moglie dell'altro; finisce che il vecchio è costretto a cedere e
aprendo le porte ai petrolieri , entra nel clan del suo ex-bracciante; deve partecipare alla serata in suo
onore, alla quale il festeggiato si presenta ubriaco e più cafone del solito, particolarmente deciso a
offendere il rivale; accetta di battersi a pugni nel magazzino, ma il vecchio non se la sente di picchiare un
uomo barcollante. che poco dopo, dal podio, mette in imbarazzo tutti con un delirio ridicolo e infine,
quando il pubblico se n'è ormai andato, crolla addormentato, mentre la ragazza che ha circuito
assiste vergognosa alla scena; al ritorno la famiglia è di nuovo unita, e il vecchio patriarca lo
sancisce difendendo coi pugni il diritto di due negri che un barista non vuole servire. Un film fiume che
traccia un quadro complesso del sud, del suo passaggio dall'erba delle praterie ai pozzi di petrolio,
dell'avvento della generazione dei multimilionari fattisi dal nulla e della contemporanea scomparsa dei
vecchi proprietari terrieri, discendenti dei pionieri; agli ideali cavallereschi di quei cavalieri delle praterie
si sostituisce l'aridità di questi maniaci del dollaro.
Hudson sposa una ragazza dell'Est, che vive nel Texas con un'educazione
più liberale. La sorella cowboy di Hudson si ammazza cercando di cavalcare il cavallo di
Il villaggio dei messicani: Taylor manda il dottore.
Compleanno del primogenito: piange quando il padre gli fa vedere il pony.
Difficile vita coniugale.
Dean scopre il petrolio e diventa miliardario.
Hudson si ostina a vivere all'antica.
Il primogenito vuole studiare da dottore, la ragazza e il fidanzato non volgiono
l'eredità: Hudson si domanda per chi ha faticato tanto.
Il primogenito sposa una messicana.
Hudson e gli altri fattori diventano dei petrolieri sotto la bandiera di Dean.
Il ragazzo messicano torna dalla guerra, morto.
La figlia minore si invaghisce di Dean.
La convenzione dei petrolieri, nell'hotel di lusso, Dean è la star:
Dean corteggia la ragazza, totalmente fanatica di lui.
La moglie messicana del primogenito è discriminata nell'hotel pieno di
jet-society per ordine di Dean.
Dean ubriaco pondera sotto la pioggia.
Il vecchio zio spinge gli invitati verso la ballroom come una mandria.
Dean entra (fanfara, tutti applaudono e cantano) barcollando ubriaco.
Il primogenito, per vendicare l'umiliazione subita dalla moglie, lo affronta, ma
le guardie del corpo lo immobilizzano e Dean lo colpisce a freddo.
Hudson accorre e lo sfida. Escono nel retro, un magazzino, dove si possono
scazzottare, mentre nella ballroom un senatore legge il messaggio di benvenuto. Ma Hudson, vedendo
Dean barcollare, non lo colpisce, gli dice:"you're all through" e lo lascia.
Hudson, Taylor e i figli, lo zio abbandonano il banchetto.
Dean è rientrato, accolto da fragorosi applausi e dovrebbe parlare, ma
è completamente ubriaco.
Il primogenito rinfaccia a Hudson che in realtà anche Hudson la pensa
come gli altri sulla sua moglie messicana, e lo ha difeso solo per orgoglio familiare.
La figlia minore invece si vergogna della propria famiglia, crede ancora in
Dean, lo zio decide di farle vedere la verità e la porta nella ballroom, dove Dean è rimasto
solo e farnetica ubriaco, piagnucola, professa il suo amore per la Taylor e la sua invidia per il ricco
Hudson. Crolla, travolge il palco e si addormenta sul pavimento.
Sulla via del ritorno la famiglia si ferma in un ristorante dove i messicani non
sono ammessi; il padrone quando vede la messicana li tratta male, ma li serve lo stesso. Entrano tre poveri
messicani e si siedono a un tavolo. Il padrone fa per buttarli fuori senza complimenti. Hudson interviene e
comincia la rissa. Questa volta però il vecchio Hudson le prende.
La grande casa deserta senza i ragazzi, i due coniugi fieri l'uno dell'altra.
Conflitti generazionali fra il padre e i figli, conflitti razziali (il villaggio
messicano, il matrimonio misto, la rissa nel bar), la guerra, la trasformazione sociale: allevatori -
petrolieri, il mito del successo (Dean) indotto dall'ingiustizia sociale (Hudson figlio del padrone ha avuto
tutto ciò che Dean non ha potuto avere).
L'amore segreto e impossibile di Dean per la Taylor, riflesso poi nella figlia
Solitudine esistenziale (sia di Hudson sia di Dean).
Epopea di 4 ore.
The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965) is a tedious biblical epic.
Stevens died in 1975.