Stars in Brown's Crown: Kings Go Forth
Three very fine and very different movies – Stars in My Crown (1950), Paper Moon (1973) and Kings Go Forth (1958) – share the same literary lineage: all are based on works by Alabama-born novelist and journalist Joe David Brown, and each is drawn from parts of his colorful, well-traveled life. Stars in My Crown was inspired by memories of his minister grandfather’s hardscrabble but devout life as a small-town preacher and Paper Moon’s memorable father/daughter con-artist duo, though set on the pages of his book Addie Pray in the Depression-era Deep South where Brown grew up, were equally at home in the Midwest where the film reset their capers. Kings Go Forth was derived from Brown’s World War II Army experiences in Southern France; he served with distinction and was awarded the Purple Heart and Croix de Guerre with Palm. The distinction of his story, about a romantic triangle involving two soldier buddies (Frank Sinatra serious, Tony Curtis devil-may-care) in love with the same Frenchwoman (Natalie Wood), was that the lady was an American-born mulatto of mixed-race parentage, an issue that Hollywood dealt with rarely and tamely. Reportedly Dorothy Dandridge (Carmen Jones) was initially intended for Wood’s role but the producers shied away and went with Wood. (Ironically, Dandridge had just played a mixed-race role in 1957’s Island in the Sun.) However, the star power of the three leads and the combat sequences that were interspersed among the romantic interludes ensured the picture’s success. Sinatra and Curtis would go on to burnish their acting cred even further in 1958 with their acclaimed respective follow-ups Some Came Running and The Defiant Ones, while Wood, already starting her ascension to top leading-lady status with the recently opened Marjorie Morningstar, would go on to full flower as the 1960s dawned. The intersection of their well-delineated characters in Kings Go Forth, guided by versatile multi-genre director Delmer Daves, drove home the impact of the personal disarray that the chaos of war and the sad legacy of prejudice create. Part of Twilight Time’s salute to the Frank Sinatra Centenary, Kings Go Forth goes into hi-def Blu-ray action December 8; pre-orders open November 20.