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Thursday, April 30, 2015

1960 Look-Back at a Last War


All The Young Men (1960) Under Fire In Korea

Alan Ladd was barely there as a career wound down to support work (The Carpetbaggers), or no work. Young Men was about just that, Ladd the old timer in margins for much of a dreary siege, his unit holed up in a Korean temple beset by Chinese troops. Sidney Poitier is the in-fact lead; was this contemplated from a start? The remaining cast is a potpourri that was customized to reach a widest public, James Darren singing in uniform as he would for The Guns Of Navarone a couple years later, champ boxer Ingemar Johansson as a sensitive Swede who extols democracy, and most bizarre, Mort Sahl, stopping action dead to do what amounts to a club routine about army life. The enemy swarms on cue every fifteen or so minutes to relieve utter tedium; by a fifth or so raid, you wish they'd finish off this tepid troop. A positive aspect was shooting in Glacier Park snow, but what misery for cast/crew. The location at times looks like an old German mountain film from the 20's. All The Young Men might have clicked ten years sooner, but race conflict in ranks had been wrung dry by '60, and the pic had nothing new to dramatize on the topic. Reviews lauded good intent rather than result, a not uncommon critic stance where social issues were H'wood-aired.

3 Comments:

Blogger John McElwee said...

Noted author and film historian James Curtis shares some fascinating info about the production of "All The Young Men":


Dear John,

I've had occasion to look at --and into--ALL THE YOUNG MEN because my current project is a biography of Mort Sahl. The film was apparently developed by Hall Bartlett with Sidney Poitier in mind. He set it up at Columbia with the understanding that he'd deliver a major name to appear with Poitier, and Alan Ladd was eventually brought on as executive producer, with his production company as a full partner in the venture. I thought it an awful film, poorly written and directed. Mort was much better integrated into the earlier IN LOVE AND WAR, which also suffered from a complete lack of humor apart from Mort's character.

From the book in progress:
Mort wrote his own lines, air-expressing Dictaphone belts to Bartlett in Los Angeles. He also distinguished himself as the only member of the cast who was willing to grow a beard. Ladd, who he remembers as “a sweet guy, a good guy,” had little of significance to do in the story, despite his first-position billing over the title. “It’s got a lot of subtlety in it,” Mort says of the picture. “For instance, when one of the guys is wounded by Koreans the only one who has his blood type is Sidney Poitier. So it goes back and forth: da-dum... da-dum... da-dum... I think they’re trying to tell us something... And Hall directed it, you know. You’d hear ‘Rolling! Speed!’ and he’d say, ‘Alright, tense up team!’” Even Mort’s obligatory solo turn failed to come off, tarted up as it was with reaction shots of the men laughing mechanically. “It played,” he says, “like someone came into the room while I was rehearsing. Awful.”

I found it interesting to see how Poitier managed to rise above the material and make the film tolerable. Mort cheerfully admits he lacked acting chops, but I still think he comes off well in some of the things he did. ALL THE YOUNG MEN wasn't one of them.

Cheers,
Jim

12:08 PM  
Blogger Dave K said...

Fascinating stuff about Sahl in ALL THE YOUNG MEN!

One thing I do wonder about... many sources make a point of Poitier committing to ATYM with a cut of the profits. Were there earlier major American films with such deals for African American actors?

11:19 PM  
Blogger Stinky Fitzwizzle said...

So if Red Buttons ever said, "Louis B. Mayer never got a dinner!", he would have been wrong.

4:09 PM  

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