Saturday, July 25, 2015

Tonight's Movie: The Proud Rebel (1958) at the TCM Classic Film Festival

NOTE: This post is one of an occasional series looking back individually at some of the 16 films seen at the 2015 TCM Classic Film Festival. Links to my complete day-by-day coverage of the festival may be found here.

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.

The senior Ladd plays John Chandler, a widowed Confederate veteran who is traveling with his little boy David (David Ladd) in search of a cure for the boy's inability to speak. David has been mute since witnessing the murder of his mother and the burning of their home.

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!

John and Linnett end up enmeshed in each other's problems; he tries to help save her farm from a mean landowner (Dean Jagger), and she agrees to take David to a specialist for treatment.

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.

I would have like to see a bit more screen time devoted to the tentatively developing relationship of John and Linnett, but what did make it on screen is very good. de Havilland, incidentally, liked Alan Ladd very much, and the insecure actor was said to be moved when de Havilland told him she thought he would have been wonderful as Ashley in GONE WITH THE WIND (1939).

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 is also seen occasionally on Turner Classic Movies.

Highly recommended.


Blogger Jerry E said...

So glad you really enjoyed this film, Laura. My mother took me to see it on General Release in 1958 and I liked it from the start. Viewed now, it is perhaps not totally without fault but the warmth of the relationships always shines through. I think it is an under-rated film (though not, glad to say, by you).

11:36 PM  
Blogger Elisabeth Grace Foley said...

I'd seen this a few years ago and liked it, but I re-watched it recently and appreciated it even more (and I really fell in love with the Moross score, too).

As a sidenote, I was surprised to realize recently that Ted McCord was the cinematographer for two of my favorite movies, The Sound of Music and The Treasure of the Sierra Madre! The public-domain print of The Proud Rebel that I watched seemed a little faded, for Technicolor; I'll bet it was lovely seeing it restored at the festival.

6:45 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Hi Jerry,

How wonderful you have memories of sharing this film with your mother! Glad to know you appreciate it also.

Elisabeth, it's interesting, although the film was restored it was shot in a very muted palette which probably contributed to the faded look you noticed. It almost has a Cinecolor feel, with lots of oranges and browns. I hadn't mentally made the connection that McCord filmed SOUND OF MUSIC!

Best wishes,

10:34 AM  
Blogger Kristina said...

This was one of my faves of the fest too, and now my fave Ladd film. I always prefer movie romances between adult characters, and that was such a highlight in this one, to see Olivia soften and see all of them find what they've been missing. *sigh* Very touching.

5:56 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

That is high praise indeed, Kristina, that it's now your favorite Ladd film. I agree, very touching -- one of those movies where, even though I like short films, I wanted even more of it.

Best wishes,

12:12 AM  
Blogger Maricatrin said...

I saw this one very recently as well, and I also loved it. Like Kristina, I enjoy the chance to see a romance between more mature characters... and the three leads performed so beautifully. The part with the dog *was* heart-wrenching, and had me worried for a while, but it all built to a most satisfying climax.

6:35 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Maricatrin, thanks very much for sharing another thumbs up on THE PROUD REBEL. I hope the combined positive feedback here will encourage others to watch this moving film.

Best wishes,

9:24 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Outstanding performances by David Ladd, Olivia, and Alan. King also deserves credit, a natural. Thanks to my dad, an avid movie buff, he brought me to watch a lot of movies, Alan Ladd's among them. Although not as action packed as most Westerns, the story, and the performances are top notch. The music score is classic, and the name, Johnny, could not have sounded better. Highly recommended!

5:01 PM  

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