expiration of Netflix's contract with Starz, I squeezed it into my schedule. I'm glad I made the time, as I enjoyed it very much.
FOXFIRE is based on a novel by Anya Seton (DRAGONWYCK). It has a number of cool things going for it: 1) Jane Russell, sassy as ever; 2) Jeff Chandler, one of the notable hunks of the '50s (what can I say?); 3) Dan Duryea, who always adds an interesting dimension to a troubled character; 4) a title song by Henry Mancini and Jeff Chandler, sung by Chandler; and 5) terrific Technicolor location filming at the Apple Valley Inn in Apple Valley, California. There's more info on the beautiful, windswept inn in my post on HIGHWAY DRAGNET (1954).
Jane plays Amanda Lawrence, an Eastern socialite who accompanies her mother (Frieda Inescort) to an Arizona resort. Amanda meets half-Apache mining engineer Jonathan "Dart" Dartland (Chandler) and they fall in love -- or maybe lust -- at first sight, followed by a whirlwind wedding ceremony.
Amanda is crazy about Jonathan and eager to adapt to life in the little mining town where he lives, but she struggles with her moody, insecure husband's dark moods. She doesn't understand the emotional walls Jonathan frequently seems to put up between them until she visits an Apache reservation and meets his mother (Celia Lovsky).
This is a very enjoyable film with the great Universal Technicolor look of the '50s. It has a unique story and setting, as well as a sympathetic heroine who is coping with a new lifestyle and racially prejudiced locals along with trying to figure out her new husband. The viewer roots for the tenacious Amanda and hopes she and Jonathan will make a success of their marriage.
Russell and Chandler were both perfectly cast and have excellent chemistry. As a side note, I do wish Russell's hair wasn't quite so short; I've never understood the '50s trend for actresses to wear "helmet hair," which appears matronly to the modern viewer.
Dan Duryea plays the alcoholic town doctor who quickly starts to carry an unrequited torch for Amanda. The doctor is charming when he's sober, but it's a bit hard to understand what his nurse Maria (Mara Corday) sees in him -- or why he ignores the beautiful Maria, especially when it's clear that Amanda is only interested in her own husband.
The early part of this 87-minute film feels truncated. One minute Amanda's mother is booking a flight trying to separate her daughter from her new love, and the next minute Amanda is racing to Jonathan's home and they discuss a problem with a telephone. It felt like there was a scene or two left on the cutting-room floor that should have been left in. For that matter, although I tend to be a fan of shorter films, I would have welcomed a somewhat longer film which delved even more deeply into the characters and their story.
The supporting cast includes Barton MacLane, Arthur Space, Robert F. Simon, Charlotte Wynters, Eddy Waller, and Beulah Archuletta (THE SEARCHERS).
FOXFIRE was directed by Joseph Pevney. Pevney directed several films I've enjoyed, including Jeff Chandler's next film, FEMALE ON THE BEACH (1955). He also directed AIR CADET (1951), TAMMY AND THE BACHELOR (1957), and THE CROWDED SKY (1960).
This film isn't available on DVD or VHS, and in a matter of hours it will no longer be available from Netflix streaming. It seems as though this film would be a good candidate to be released in the Universal Vault DVD-R series sold through Amazon.
Cable subscribers who have the Encore Westerns Channel are in luck, as FOXFIRE will air on that channel on March 9, 2012.