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Wednesday, August 3, 2016

HOME OF THE BRAVE (1949)

One of a batch of ‘social problem’ films that started flowing out of post-WWII Hollywood, it’s taken from Arthur Laurents’ play, but with Anti-Semitism swapped out for Black/White racial tensions in Carl Foreman’s script. The trade-off is a bit of stretch, especially toward the end, when the episodic flashback structure leaves all the big reveal solutions in the hands of Jeff Corey’s nice Russian/Jewish psychiatrist. He helpfully explains away the psychosomatic paralysis of the film’s sole Black character (very well played by James Edwards), tricking him toward recovery after his dangerous mission on a Japanese occupied island left him unable to walk. There’s really no way to get past the slightly patronizing attitude embedded in the material. Perhaps onstage, where the paralyzed soldier was also Jewish, it played differently. (Few things date faster than socially progressive attitudes in the movies.) So why the ethnicity swap from play to film? Go back a couple of years to Edward Dmytryk’s CROSSFIRE/’47 (a far better film, BTW). Based on a Richard Brooks novel that dealt with homophobia, an unthinkable topic under the strict Hollywood Production Code, that film swapped out Gay Victim for Jewish Victim. That left BRAVE needing a new, and au courant, daring element. Hence, Black Guy in/Jewish Guy out . . . Voila, social relevance! Mark Robson directs stiffly on stiff sets, and producer Stanley Kramer reaps kudos (if little Box-Office) for tackling ‘important’ subject matter. Special credit to Frank Lovejoy as a decent soldier, able to work with bigots & blacks alike while nursing his own private dramas. He’s the best thing in the pic. Something that can’t be said for Dimitri Tiomkin’s over-indulgent score.

DOUBLE-BILL: As mentioned above, CROSSFIRE.  OR: Try to hunt down John Huston’s documentary on post-WWII psychological trauma treatment LET THERE BE LIGHT/’46.

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