Friday, November 19, 2010

Kings Go Forth (1958)

In the middle of watching Kings Go Forth on NetFlix Instant, I also caught another amazing Tony Curtis performance when The Boston Strangler (1968) aired on TV. I love being on Thanksgiving Break because I feel I can watch a couple movies at once and not feel lazy. Needless to say, he played wonderfully in both, though when I returned to Kings Go Forth, I felt more underwhelmed, and kept asking questions of Curtis' character like, "Wait, why are you doing this? Are you really just ... clueless? Okay." So that's one downside to watching two movies with the same actor at once. One performance or film may overshadow the other.

Not that I didn't enjoy Kings Go Forth. On the contrary, I became putty in its hands. It contains a lot of "typicals" I look for when choosing sappy movies: the "war plotline" where two soldiers become attracted to the same woman, the Natalie Wood character who crumbles in a moment, the idealized, really annoying maternal figure, and cinematography. Here, it exhibits lots of shots of the French countryside, seaside, and neon-lit dive bars that could not exist past the '50s. Frank Sinatra and Curtis play Sam Loggins and Britt Harris, two American soldiers stationed in Southern France during the end of World War II. Sam plays a tough authority figure to Britt, who, by both his actions and background story, seems flighty, and just ... well, dumb. Sam meets Monique (Natalie Wood), and falls in love, although she refuses his advances. They continue their friendship (under the eye of Monique's mother, played by Leora Dana) until Britt meets Monique in a jazz club. Britt woos her, talks her into marrying him, and then backs out. The film ends with Sam and Britt at odds over Monique, yet forced on a mission together behind enemy lines.

I refrained from including all the plot points here because I did not want to spoil anything. Some aspects, such as Britt's "reasons" for breaking up with Monique, rub me the wrong way, and I realize I need  historical empathy. However, that has more to do with me and not the film. Overall, the plot, while unoriginal, engaged me, as well as the performances. Sinatra gives the best, in my opinion, both on his own, and in his screen time with Curtis. I could not imagine Curtis and Sinatra on screen together, but they achieve chemistry in the odd relationship their characters maintain. The last sequence shows them fighting over Monique, yet still collaborating, which created the most suspense for me. Natalie Wood, on the other hand, plays the fragile character she plays in pretty much all her films. I forgive it because I adore her, but the more films I see, the more I dread seeing her typecast.

The film also has weaknesses. I thought the ending felt rushed, and the "happy" ending forced. I cannot stand it when it happens because it makes the whole film seem awkward. If I had been one of the writers, I would have developed a different ending, but that is just my opinion. I would still recommend this to anyone who likes classic movies.

Oh, and here Frank promotes it!



Shybiker said...

Fun info, buddy. I haven't seen either and will now take a look.

Were you literally "in the middle" of watching KGF when you posted? Wow...

I guess I should have known about your multi-tasking ability when you said, "I can watch a couple [of] movies at once." As much as I love film, I can watch only one at a time. :)

Artman2112 said...

i saw this one many years ago and enjoyed it. not a GREAT film but a good one and worth seeing. if i recall it ws directed by Delmer Daves whose work is always worth a look. yesh natalie did play the same type quite often but she was really good at it and also she was juuuuuuust a tad bit pretty as well so i've never had a problem with it ;)