Having been reminded of this film by yesterday’s movie with an accidentally similar title, I did rent Otto Preminger’s 1967 melodrama “Hurry Sundown” on Amazon today.
There is something about these older big expansive films in historical settings (the biggest of all is “Giant” in 1954 by George Stevens, which I saw in Dallas in the 1980s at the Inwood) that I miss today.
The film was released in February 1967 when I as starting my third semester of graduate school at the University of Kansas. I sometimes made it to the Varsity or Granada in downtown Lawrence (Mike Nichols’s and Edward Albee’s “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolf” in black and white) but I don’t remember seeing this one.
The specific issue that got my attention is that a lead character, Henry Warren (Michael Caine, looking out of his usual character) is described as a draft dodger, as he tries to swing a land deal in post World War II Georgia (the film is said to have been shot near Baton Rouge, LA). His rival is a cousin Rad McDowell (John Phillip Law) who has returned unharmed from WWII combat in Europe. The script (the movie runs 2-1/2 hours) doesn’t tell us exactly how he got out of the draft (like CO, or a fake medical excuse). There is an early conversation in a car where Rad says that how one experiences European capital cities (like Paris) depends on one’s point of view. Later Rad tells his own kids that cousin Henry has no conscience.
Henry has a story marriage with Julie (Jane Fonda), who is more protective of her autistic son. Henry blames the mother’s side of the family for his “defective” kid. But it was common in earlier generations to look at autism or mental disabilities through a moral lens.
Rad has his sons (who figure in the climax) and wife played by Faye Dunaway. Burgess Meredith plays the bigoted judge, and George Kennedy the corrupt sheriff.
People in this generation indeed had different moral postulates, especially about race. Rad wants to partner with a black sharecropper family (Reve and Rose Scott, played by Robert Hooks and Beah Richards) to develop his land and refuses to sell. Rad would have learned better racial attitudes being in the Army. True, Truman would integrate the military in 1948 (as in the HBO film), but there had been proposals when the war began, in 1941. All of this is prelude to the debate over “don’t ask don’t tell” to erupt a half century later. Times do change, and so do moral postulates.
The film foreshadows its tragic conclusion by showing blasting on the land to clear irrigation ditches.
|Director, writer:||Otto Preminger|
|When and how viewed:||Amazon Instant 3.99|
(Posted: Friday, May 19, 2017 at 8:45 PM EDT)