WEIRDLAND: John Garfield in "The Breaking Point", "The Sea Wolf", "The Postman Always Rings Twice"...

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

John Garfield in "The Breaking Point", "The Sea Wolf", "The Postman Always Rings Twice"...

John Garfield and Patricia Lane as Harry Morgan and Leona in "The Breaking Point" (1950) directed by Michael Curtiz

Warner Brothers, which already has taken one feeble swing and a cut at Ernest Hemingway's memorable story of a tough guy, "To Have and Have Not," finally has got hold of that fable and socked it for a four-base hit in a film called "The Breaking Point," which came to the Strand theatre. All of the character, color and cynicism of Mr. Hemingway's lean and hungry tale are wrapped up in this realistic picture, and John Garfield is tops in the principal role.

Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall as Harry and Marie Slim in "To have and have not" (1944) directed by Howard Hawks

Marie asks Harry: 'Who's the best you ever did it with?'
Harry: 'You.'
Marie: 'You lie. . . .'
Harry: 'No. You're the best.'
Marie: 'I'm old.'
Harry: 'You'll never be old.'

If you saw that first swing the Warners took at this yarn six years ago, with no less than Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall in the leading roles, you did not see the Hemingway story —not by a couple of thousand words and the opaque obstruction that a changed plot involving Vichy politics would intrude.

Marie Slim was described in Hemingway's novel as: "a heavy-set, big, blue-eyed woman, with bleached-blonde hair showing under her old man's felt hat, hurrying accross the road . . . a big ox . . . Like a battleship. Terrific".

In the novel, while Harry sleeps, Marie thinks: "I've been a lucky woman. There ain't no other men like that. . . . I've had plenty of them. I've been lucky to have him. . . . I could do that all night if a man was built that way. I'd like to do it and never sleep. Never, never, no, never. I can think about you any time and get excited".

Mr. MacDougall and the Warners –for convenience sake, no doubt– have changed the locale of the story from the Florida Keys to the California coast and they have written a part for a female who wasn't even suggested in the tale.

What we surprisingly have here is a good, taut adventure story with some sense of the ironies of life–a story of a hard-luck fellow who is trying to support a wife and kids and who finds himself in the situation of having "nothing to peddle but guts." Somehow, the faces of people and the real pinch of living are revealed.

Not only Mr. Garfield is a big help in this respect–although his playing of Harry Morgan is the shrewdest, hardest acting in the show. Phillys Thaxter is remarkably effective as his worn, but still stimulating wife, and Patricia Neal is surprisingly credible as a wised-up good-time girl. Wallace Ford exudes oiliness and evil as a water-front go-between and Juano Hernandez is quietly magnificent as Harry Morgan's helper and friend. Source: movies.nytimes.com

Walter Brennan & Dolores Moran on the set of "To Have and Have Not" (1944) by Howard Hawks. Dolores Moran played the temptress Helene who tries to seduce Bogart's character Harry Morgan in the film.

There was unconscious irony in the choice of Michael Curtiz, who had directed "Casablanca" (1942), to direct the remake of "To Have and Have Not": "The Breaking Point" (1950).

As the crowd at the dock clears, Leona sighs heavily and says: "I hate mornings, it's the worst part of the day", and walks away.

Patricia Neal as seductress Leona Charles in "The Breaking Point"

Patricia Neal won the role of Leona, who was much earthier in this version than in the 1944 "To Have and Have Not". Patricia jokingly told the press: "I play a girl with no inhibitions worth mentioning. I have plenty of inhibitions myself, but while the picture is shooting, I can lose them -and I get paid for doing it". But comments by others about her character weren't always so gentle.

In an episode that Patricia recalled as "tacky", John Garfield approached her at a party before shooting commenced and took her aside, telling her: "You know you are a whore. You know what I'm saying? In the picture, I mean, you know? You're all whore".

Patricia Neal recalled she didn't know how to take him. "He was a funny man, but I didn't quite understand him".

Phyllis Thaxter played Lucy Morgan, Harry's wife.
Thaxter got along better with Garfield, saying: "I did a brief screen testing custome, and that's when I met Garfield. He was a wonderful man, and I'm positive that he and Curtiz had a big hand in my getting the part. He was very kind to me, and we had a most pleasant and enjoyable relationship. I found him to be a verious serious person with an inner turmoil that I couldn't quite understand".

John Garfield and Ida Lupino as George and Ruth in "The Sea Wolf" (1941) directed by Michael Curtiz

Ida Lupino became friends with John Garfield when they costarred with Edward G. Robinson in The Sea Wolf (1941). She liked him immensely, but didn’t like director Michael Curtiz. At the wrap party, Ida and John took revenge on Curtiz by pushing him in the water tank that they had toiled in for the entire shoot.

John Garfield and Nancy Coleman between scenes of "Dangerously They Live" (1941) directed by Robert Florey

Dr. Michael Lewis (John Garfield) is an intern at a hospital where a woman named Jane (Nancy Coleman) is admitted. She claims that she is actually an espionage agent with top-secret information that could help the Allied war effort. Michael, who is supposed to keep an eye on Jane, thinks she must be delusional, and when psychiatrist Dr. Ingersol (Raymond Massey) arrives with Jane’s father, Mr. Goodwin (Moroni Olsen), he signs Jane out in their custody. "Dangerously They Live" was scripted by Marion Parsonnet from her novel, "Remember Tomorrow".

Nancy Coleman, like several of John Garfield's co-stars, said she never really got to know who John Garfield was. She rarely saw him on the lot unless they were shooting a scene from the film. And then, near the end of the filming, he called her up and asked her for a date, the sort of date that lasts all weekend and doesn't lead to anything more when it's over. "Of course I turned him down", Coleman said, "He had such a reputation".

Joan Crawford and John Garfield as Helen and Paul in "Humoresque" (1946) directed by Jean Negulesco

Garfield and Crawford liked each other. Bob Thomas, in his biography of Joan Crawford, states that when John Garfield first met Joan he playfully pinched her nipple. She was not amused, but she decided to use this antagonism to help build a relationship between her character and Garfield's. Both of them were sexaholics, but Vincent Sherman, who later had an affair with Crawford, is fairly certain that the two stars did not engage in a physical relationship, perhaps because Garfield's wife Robbe was paying more visits than was her norm to the studio, maybe because Crawford liked to be in control of such affairs.

Lana Turner and John Garfield in "The Postman Always Rings Twice" (1946) directed by Tay Garnett

"Their second awkwardly-executed attempt to kill Nick was successful, but ultimately led to their mutual destruction in unexpected ways. As the star-crossed lovers drove along the highway and neared their home after mutual recriminations, Frank asked for a long-awaited kiss as Cora said: 'When we get home, Frank, then there'll be kisses, kisses with dreams in them. Kisses that come from life, not death'.

Distracted during the 'kiss that comes from life' while he was driving, Frank ran off the road, killing Cora ('with a kiss that comes from death') in a fatal auto accident.

Subsequently, Frank was tried and falsely convicted of her murder, and in his last words to the priest, accepted his fate: "Father, would you send up a prayer for me and Cora, and if you could find it in your heart, make it that we're together, wherever it is?"

Additional Sources:
"He Ran All the Way: The Life of John Garfield" by Robert Nott (2004)
"Patricia Neal: An Unquiet Life" by Stephen Michael Shearer (2006)

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