Jane Fonda

Period of Adjustment (1962)

Period of Adjustment PosterWhen Korean war veteran George Haverstick (Jim Hutton) spends some time in the hospital, he’s lucky enough to end up with Isabel (Jane Fonda) as his night nurse.  During his stay, the two of them fall in love and when George is discharged, one of the first places they visit is the Justice of the Peace. They’re married just before Christmas and head off for a honeymoon in Miami.  But before the ink has time to dry on the marriage certificate, Isabel and George begin to realize how little they really know about each other. For one thing, George has suddenly quit his job without consulting Isabel.  And it turns out that the car George had been talking about is, well, a hearse. And to top it all off, they end up spending their wedding night in a dingy, run-down roadside motel; hardly what Isabel had envisioned.

Along the way, George decides to stop and visit his war buddy Ralph (Anthony Franciosa). Ralph has been married to Dorthea (Lois Nettleton) for a few years, but his marriage’s future is just as shaky as George and Isabel’s. Ralph married Dorthea for her money and because he would stand to inherit her father’s business when he died. Dorthea’s father was in poor health at the time but survived. Although Ralph grew to genuinely love Dorthea, he could never stand her parents and abruptly quits his job at her father’s company after an argument. Worried that he might leave her just as suddenly, Dorthea decides to leave Ralph.

George and Isabel arrive at Ralph’s house on Christmas Eve, barely speaking to each other by the time they get there. As the night progresses, Ralph does his best to help solve his newlywed friend’s problems while coping with his own. At one point, Dorthea’s parents come over to collect their daughter’s things and the situation gets so far out of hand, all of them wind up down at the police station. But when things start to settle, both couples begin to have renewed confidence in their futures together.

Period of Adjustment is based on the play by Tennessee Williams and marked  departure from the typical Tennessee Williams fare. When the play was released, Williams dubbed it “a serious comedy,” which is a pretty accurate description. There’s drama, but it’s got some more lighthearted moments as well. I wouldn’t say it was one of my favorite movies, but I’m glad I saw it. The cast, particularly young Jane Fonda, was great. And although I prefer the movies based on more typical Tennessee Williams plays, this was a welcome change of pace. Period of Adjustment is also noteworthy for being the directorial debut of George Roy Hill, who went on to direct hits like The StingButch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, and Thoroughly Modern Millie.

The Chase (1966)

It’s never a small event when there’s a prison break.  But for the town of Tarl, Texas, it proves to be a life altering event for many of its residents when Bubber Reeves (Robert Redford) and another inmate make a break for it.  While they’re running, the other convict kills a passing motorist, steals his clothes and his car and leaves Bubber on his own.  However, Bubber has just enough time to accidentally leave his fingerprints at the scene of the crime.  He starts running for it, but finds himself headed in the direction of his hometown, Tarl.  Sheriff Calder (Marlon Brando) doesn’t expect him to come home, but the rest of the town isn’t so sure.  In such a small town, news of Bubber’s escape spreads like wildfire and it’s all anyone can talk about.  Everyone is speculating about where he’ll go next.  However, a few people in town have good reasons to be worried that Bubber might be coming after them.  There’s his best friend Jake Rogers (James Fox), who has been having an affair with Bubber’s wife Anna (Jane Fonda).  Then there’s Edwin Stewart (Robert Duvall), who once got Bubber sent to reform school for something he didn’t do.  Years later, Edwin’s wife Emily (Janice Rule) told Bubber the truth about what happened and he wasn’t happy.  Virtually the only person who has stood by Bubber is Mrs. Reeves (Miriam Hopkins), his mother.

When Bubber finds his old friend Lester while hiding in a junk yard, he sends Lester to find Anna and have her bring him some money and clothes.  While trying to find Anna, Lester is arrested.  Sheriff Calder finds Anna and Jake and brings them to see Lester in jail.  After their visit, Calder knows that Lester had just told Anna where to find Bubber, so they make a deal where she gets an hour to find Bubber and convince him to come to the station and surrender.  With all the town worked up and ready to hunt Bubber down, it’s the only way he could be brought back to prison safely.  Now, Sheriff Calder has a vested interest in seeing that this situation to be handled peacefully.  The whole town seems to think Calder is working for wealthy businessman Val Rogers only and Val is paying him to kill Bubber to protect Jake since Jake is having an affair with Anna.  But word travels fast in Tarl and a when word gets out that Bubber is in the junkyard, they gather around to drive him out.  Of course, the situation quickly spins out of control and literally becomes explosive.

The Chase is one of those movies where you look at the cast and think there’s no way that movie could go wrong.  But then you start watching it and you quickly realize that it has, indeed, somehow managed to go wrong.  When I was trying to decide which movie I wanted to watch and review for today, I was looking up some of the movies on IMDB and when I saw this one had a cast of Marlon Brando, Jane Fonda, Robert Redford, Robert Duvall, Angie Dickinson, and Miriam Hopkins, plus direction from Arthur Penn and was based on a Lillian Hellman play, I was definitely sold by the sheer amount of star power involved.  It’s too bad that once I actually started watching it, I found it really dull.  It moved slowly and there were a lot of times where I found myself looking at the clock and getting frustrated that it had only been ten minutes since I last looked at the clock.  For all the fantastic stars in this, the only performance that stood out to me was from Miriam Hopkins.  This simply isn’t a quintessential Marlon Brando, Jane Fonda, or Robert Redford movie.

As far as I can tell, the main problem most likely came from producer Sam Spiegel meddling in ways he really shouldn’t have.  He got Lillian Hellman to write a script for the movie version, but then had it rewritten (although Lillian still got credited as the screenwriter) and wouldn’t even let her see the final cut before it was released.  Then he wouldn’t let Arthur Penn do the editing himself, so this movie doesn’t fully reflect Arthur Penn’s vision.  Maybe if Lillian Hellman and Arthur Penn had been given more control, it might have been improved.  But ultimately, if you missed this one on TCM yesterday, you really didn’t miss much.

What’s on TCM: December 2010

December can only mean one thing: Christmas movies galore!  Up this month are plenty of traditional Christmas classics along with a few off-beat ones that will certainly please fans of Mystery Science Theater 3000.  In addition to that, every Thursday in December, TCM will be saluting living legend Mickey Rooney by playing 24 hours of his movies, including every Andy Hardy movie and all his pairings with Judy Garland.  Speaking of living legends, a new episode of Private Screenings will be premiering this month featuring Liza Minnelli.  To celebrate, TCM will be taking two nights to showcase some of the best movies by Liza, Judy, and Vincente.  This month’s guest programmer is Eli Wallach, who has made some very stellar choices.  Fans of John Wayne will be glad to hear that on December 22, there will be 24 hours of nothing but John Wayne.  When New Year’s Eve rolls around, why not bid 2010 adieu with Cary Grant movies all day and Marx Brothers movies all night?  And to top it all off, the final two installments of the Moguls and Movie Stars series air this month on the first two Mondays and Wednesdays.