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Sunday, October 7, 2012

SHENANDOAH (1965)

Hitching up the anti-Civil War sentiments of FRIENDLY PERSUASION/’56 to the nuclear family drama of HOW GREEN WAS MY VALLEY/’41 should work like a charm, but this is an Andrew McLaglen pic, a director who can make bricks & mortar look fake . . . to say nothing of story, acting & dialogue. James Stewart, in alarmingly hammy mode (he might be doing a Dean Martin Celebrity Roast), is the exceedingly avuncular paterfamilias of the Anderson clan, a never-ending line-up of enormous menfolk, a girl or two and Phillip Alford (‘Jem’ of TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD/’62) as the runt of the litter. Somehow or other, they’ve kept their vast Virginia farm totally out of the war, but just as ‘the cause’ seems lost, they’re drawn in. And you know what you’re in for right from the start between the cute going-to-church routine (out of FP) and the family dining scenes (via HGWMV, but with colorful outfits from SEVEN BRIDES FOR SEVEN BROTHERS/’54). Later, after multiple tragedies, we’re back at the dining-room table, now with a few empty chairs & subdued fabric colors. But damned if they aren’t still all color-coordinated, now in drab pastels. To its credit, the second half is less cornpone, even Jimmy tones it down to smoldering anger & regret. But the sentimentality factor goes thru the roof as little Phil is saved on the battlefield by his old slavey pal (now in the Union Army) and then shows up at the curtain like some Confederate Tiny Tim.

SCREWY THOUGHT OF THE DAY: Some of the acting defies belief. Patrick Wayne (son of you-know-who) gets a final close-up that’s one-for-the-books, and the film’s new ‘discovery,’ Rosemary Forsyth, quickly headed to tv land. On the credit side, this is Phillip Alford’s only feature pic other than MOCKINGBIRD. Anyone who feels they were sitting with Greg Peck on that porch and eavesdropping on Jem telling his sister stories about their late mom will melt at the sight. Heck, he doesn’t get a mom in this one either. And who can keep from grinning whenever Doug McClure pops up on screen. Talk about Friendly Persuasion.

CONTEST: An integrated Army Unit seen in one scene is certainly unlikely for the period, but there’s something just as questionable in the film’s wedding scene. Name it to win a MAKSQUIBS Write-Up of any NetFlix DVD.

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