Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Tonight's Movie: Three Brave Men (1956)

THREE BRAVE MEN is a fine drama about a civilian Navy clerk unfairly dismissed, after over two decades of service, when he is incorrectly branded a Communist. The film is loosely based on Pulitzer Prize winning articles written by Anthony Lewis.

Bernie Goldsmith (Ernest Borgnine) receives a bolt from the blue when he is dismissed from his job as a security risk. Bernie and his wife Helen (Virginia Christine) are labeled Communists and ostracized by some in their community, but they receive support from friends including the police chief (James Westerfield), the mayor (Edward Andrews), and a minister (Andrew Duggan, then a TV veteran, in his first film). Bernie hires attorney Joe DiMarco (Ray Milland) to represent him, and together they must fight multiple battles on the road to clearing Bernie's name.

The entire cast is excellent. As the warm and dedicated attorney, Ray Milland shows once more why he's one of my very favorite actors. His most touching moment may be his last scene, when he turns his back to the camera, obviously overcome with emotion.

Besides all the actors named above, other notable actors appearing in the film include Dean Jagger as the Secretary of the Navy, Frank Lovejoy and Nina Foch as members of a Naval Hearing Board, Richard Anderson as a member of the Secretary's staff, and Frank Faylen in a colorful role as an ornery mailman. The actors playing the Goldsmiths' children include the excellent young actress Sandy Descher, who also appeared in THE MAN IN THE GRAY FLANNEL SUIT in 1956.

Virginia Christine is really lovely as Bernie's almost saintly wife. 1956 was a good year for the actress, as she also had a strong supporting role in THE KILLER IS LOOSE (1956). Those of us of a certain age will forever think of Christine as Mrs. Olson from over 20 years of Folger's Coffee commercials, and it's good to be reminded that beneath that friendly exterior pushing "the richest kind" of "mountain grown" coffee was an excellent actress.

One side note: After watching the film I'm not certain who the "three brave men" were -- there were a number of people in the movie who stuck their necks out in order to do the right thing and make sure justice was served.

This film was written and directed by Philip Dunne, whose credits included the script for HOW GREEN WAS MY VALLEY (1941). It was filmed in black and white by Charles G. Clarke. The running time is 88 minutes.

This movie isn't available on DVD or video, but it's shown from time to time on Fox Movie Channel. Unfortunately FMC shows this CinemaScope film in a pan and scan format, although the incorrect screen ratio isn't as noticeable with this movie as it is for many other CinemaScope films.

THREE BRAVE MEN is recommended as an absorbing drama which also presents a thought-provoking slice of Cold War history.


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