Thursday, June 12, 2014

cinema obscura: George Seaton's "The Proud and the Profane" (1956)

George Seaton's "The Proud and the Profane" (1956), an inexplicably lost movie, is ripe for rediscovery. This unusually angry war-time film has the same scrappy, logical and often blunt ways of its star, William Holden, who deglamorized his leading-man good looks here with a slash of a moustache and closely-cropped crew.

As a Marine commander stationed with his battalion in New Caledonia in 1943, Holden plays his role with a temperamental flair that suits the material, using acting tones that are more impassioned than morose. Holden's character, aptly named Black, is opinionated and judgmental and his latest disapproval is the presence of Red Cross women who minister the soldiers there in assorted ways. One is Lee Ashley - played with her usual brand of ladylike steeliness by Deborah Kerr - a war widow both annoyed with and attracted to Black.

Naturally, she falls in love with him.

While "The Proud and the Profane" has the underpining of a soap opera, it is decidely a harsh soap opera, stubbornly unappeased in its ways. This quality is particularly evident in the supporting work of the invaluable Thelma Ritter as Kerr's Red Cross superior; William Redfield as a battle-shocked Chaplain; Dewey Martin as a young soldier important to Kerr's past, and Peter Hanson as a naval officer who is both the polar opposite of Holden and a potential romantic threat.

"The Proud and the Profane" - based on the fictionized memoir, "The Magnificent Bastards," by Lucy Herndon Crockett - came three years after Fred Zinnemann's Oscar-winner for Columbia, "From Here to Eternity," and it's clear Paramount had thoughts of repeating Columbia's success, hoping perhaps that Kerr, star of both, would be the lucky charm.


David Dunham said...

I love this film! Especially that it ends in a state of ambivalence. Something has been gained, and something has been lost. A work that remains true to itself. Yes, let's hope it is rediscovered.

Arthur S. said...

I'm dating myself, but I remember "The Proud and the Profane" being seriously underrated, as are most George Seaton's films now that I think about it.

Marvin said...

incredibly well-written bit on THE PROUD AND THE PROFANE

Kent said...

Oh man, I'd love to see this. Holden is my favorite actor, and he certainly worked well with Seaton on THE COUNTERFEIT TRAITOR and other films. Fingers crossed that it turns up somewhere soon.

Larry Bird said...

What a great movie I found this at this website.