I was fortunate to watch 16 films at this year's 2015 TCM Classic Film Festival. I liked all but one of the films; MARRIAGE ITALIAN STYLE (1964) was worth it to see Sophia Loren in person, but not really my thing. Of all the films seen, four in particular were especially enjoyable or meaningful for me.
THE PROUD REBEL (1958), which I saw on the first full day of the festival, was one of those films I found extra-special. Somehow I'd never seen it before, despite the fact it stars two actors I especially like, Alan Ladd and Olivia de Havilland. We were very fortunate to see it in a lovely restored print.
The audience was also fortunate that costar David Ladd was on hand with Eddie Muller to introduce the film, and it was also lovely to hear that de Havilland's daughter Gisele was in the audience. David gives an outstanding performance in the film as his father's son. He spoke of his father with love and affection, saying that his father helped him keep his performance "real" and honest.
Through no fault of his own Chandler ends up in a brawl in a Western town. A farm woman, Linnett, takes pity on the Chandlers, as she doesn't want to see David separated from his father if John is jailed. She pays John's fine, in exchange for which he's paroled to work on her farm; more accurately, she tells the judge she'll come up with the money for the fine eventually, and persuades him to do things her way through sheer force of will!
At its heart this is a relationship film about the slow, subtle development of a new family unit, with excellent performances by de Havilland and the Ladds. This is quite a different role for de Havilland; she was 42 when it was filmed, and she looks every inch a careworn, unglamorous farmer who has spent countless hours in the sun tending her land. It's a lonely life, and we quickly see how she is becoming attached to the little boy and his father, and in turn young David blossoms having the care of a mother figure in his life.
David Ladd is excellent as the mute boy; he received a special Golden Globe for his performance. Casting David to act with his father was an inspired choice which worked out very well indeed. As a dog lover, I did have some difficulty with a section of the film where the little boy is separated from his beloved dog, but that part of the film is relatively brief, and the movie is so well done that it's worth sticking with it, as there's a very rewarding ending in sight.
THE PROUD REBEL reunited de Havilland with director Michael Curtiz, who had worked with her on numerous films, including the classic THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD (1938) two decades previously.
The movie was filmed in Technicolor by Ted McCord and scored by Jerome Moross, the very same year he composed one of the greatest film scores of all time, THE BIG COUNTRY (1958). The screenplay was based on a story by James Edward Grant, the writer behind ANGEL AND THE BADMAN (1947), HONDO (1953) and other good Westerns. It runs 103 minutes.
The supporting cast includes Cecil Kellaway, Harry Dean Stanton, Tom Pittman, Henry Hull, James Westerfield, and Mary Wickes.
THE PROUD REBEL has been released on DVD in multiple editions, and it can be streamed on Amazon Instant Video.
THE PROUD REBEL will be shown on Turner Classic Movies on Sunday, August 2nd, 2015.