The Ethical Romantic Goes Forth
Delmer Daves’s considerable moviemaking reputation is most visible in the writing and/or direction of marvelously well characterized Westerns of the 1950s (Broken Arrow, Jubal, 3:10 to Yuma, The Hanging Tree and the Twilight Time library title Cowboy from 1958) and emotionally provocative romantic dramas (Love Affair/An Affair to Remember, A Summer Place, Parrish, Susan Slade and Rome Adventure), with occasional forays into the minds and hearts of men at war (Destination Tokyo, Pride of the Marines and Task Force). One of his champions is the marvelous French filmmaker – and eloquent analyst and spokesperson for the cinematic art – Bertrand Tavernier, whose zest for the magic of celluloid infuses his three-hour documentary My Journey Through French Cinema, which has just opened in theaters and will play around the U.S. this summer. See where/when here: http://cohenmediagroup.tumblr.com/post/161858060114/my-journey-through-french-cinema?_ga=2.35508193.1548870931.1498437075-67744360.1498437075. Tavernier enjoyed a latter-years friendship with Daves and in an admiring 2003 Film Comment piece entitled The Ethical Romantic (in its entirety here: https://www.filmcomment.com/article/delmer-daves-bertrand-tavernier/), he notes: “The true Davesian hero is one who seeks, who educates himself through the study of various races and cultures, and who fights prejudice and the racist or puritanical blindness perfectly embodied by Jack Elam in Bird of Paradise (1951) or Constance Ford in A Summer Place (1959). ‘To understand is to love,’ Daves said to me, a creed that stands apart in a cinema that has often advocated isolationism, withdrawal and nationalist self-sufficiency.” That appraisal brings to mind a thoughtful, less appreciated yet powerfully realized movie that opened 59 years ago today, one that draws together the threads of Daves’s work – personal responsibility, the trials of romance, the specter of prejudice, the keen sense of environment, and the impact of war: Kings Go Forth (1958), adapted by Merle Miller from the best-selling World War II novel by Joe David Brown. Starring Frank Sinatra and Tony Curtis as Seventh Army soldiers stationed in the south of France in 1944, battling the remaining German occupation forces, and Natalie Wood as the lovely young woman attracted to both, but whose mixed-race parentage provokes differing reactions between them, it is sharply observant of the timeframe of both its story and the late-1950s period in which it’s presented, with equal gravity given to its intertwined scenes of burgeoning romance, edgy GI camaraderie and brutal combat. It failed to draw the attention captured by its stars’ other 1958 projects (Sinatra’s Some Came Running, Curtis’ The Defiant Ones and Wood’s Marjorie Morningstar), but later viewers/Daves completists have come to appreciate its performances, insights and craft, such as Movie Classics blogger Judy Geater (read here: https://movieclassics.wordpress.com/2014/01/17/kings-go-forth-delmer-daves-1958/) or The Retro Set essayist Nathanael Hood (read here: http://theretroset.com/b-roll-kings-go-forth/). It also benefits from top-notch musicianship from legendary players gathered for a terrific nightclub sequence – vibraphonist Red Norvo, saxophonist Richie Kamuka, drummer Mel Lewis and doubling for the on-screen Curtis, trumpeter Pete Candoli – to the soulful score by the peerless Elmer Bernstein. Kings Go Forth on Twilight Time hi-def Blu-ray deserves to be a better-known title in the Daves canon.