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SILVER RIVER, on TCM Today at 11:45am (EST)


TomJH
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The last of seven collaborations between star Errol Flynn and director Raoul Walsh, SILVER RIVER is a western that travels down different western trails than one might normally expect. Despite the fact that the film does begin with a well staged Civil War action scene, presented in the usual vigorous Walsh style, the emphasis of this production is upon characterization, rather than action.

 

And there is also a twist. Flynn plays an anti-hero in this film. In fact, he's quite a louse, at times, as a Union officer unfairly cashiered from the army who turns bitter and, first starting as a gambler, gradually builds a business empire for himself in the west, trampling over various people on the way.

 

Flynn's character, Mike McComb, has, in my opinion, one of the actor's more complex characterizations, and remains strong evidence as to what a fine actor he could be with the right script and director. While McComb is in many ways ruthless and spectacularly self absorbed, he also demonstrates some of the admirable characteristics that Flynn brought to his more heroic roles, those of courage and, when the chips are finally down for him, pride and a refusal to whimper.

 

McComb's ambitions extend to more than just business, however. When he sees a woman that he desires (Ann Sheridan, with whom Flynn has extraordinary rapport) the fact that she is married doesn't stop him in his determination to have her for himself anyway.

 

This, in turn, sets the film up for one of its strongest scenes, set in a saloon, played between Flynn and Thomas Mitchell, as a philosophizing drunken lawyer. Mitchell lectures McComb, after he realizes just how ruthless he is to win the woman at any cost, including her husband's life, and draws a direct parallel to the Biblical tale of David and Bathsheba.

 

I'll say no more about the specifics of this scene, except that the two actors play off each other exceptionally well as ,indeed, they do during the entire film. Mitchell is disheveled in appearance and flamboyant in gesture, while Flynn, elegantly attired, plays the scene within a tight control but, as the scene evolves, he starts to show an edge.

 

But enough said. For those who may be interested, Silver River, Flynn's only western not available on DVD, is on TCM today at 11:45am (EST). Give this film a chance. While it is flawed by its screenplay and the last fifteen minutes is, in my opinion, rushed and unconvincing, until that point it's a quite fascinating study of power and business buccaneer ruthlessness, made all the more interesting because it is convincingly portrayed in one of his best performances by an actor best remembered as a screen hero.

 

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This is probably my favourite scene in the film, beautifully directed by Walsh and played by Flynn, in which the emotional vulnerability of the film's lead character is subtlely conveyed.

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I saw a fairly worn nitrate print of this at MOMA and loved it.  Yes, the finale doesn't ring true but overall it's a very good picture.  Max Steiner's score is outstanding - one of twelve full-length scores that Max did that year!

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You're right, Ray. Steiner's musical contribution to Silver River is very impressive. He was, of course, the master of the leitmotif in the films that he scored, little musical phrases that would accompany specific characters in the film, and be unique to them. I have always felt that his leitmotif for Ann Sheridan in Silver River to be particularly charming and even a little haunting. Steiner uses that same leitmotif on the soundtrack on at least one memorable occasion in the film when Sheridan is not on screen but her character is being discussed.

 

It's a little exasperating that Silver River can only be viewed when it is broadcast on TCM. There was some talk a few years ago of Warners doing some kind of restoration of the film (including a few minutes being added back in that had been missing on television prints for decades). I have heard nothing of that since. It's not even in the Warners Archives, which is a shame, since this neglected effort ranks as one of Flynn's better films, in my opinion.

 

There's an audio problem with the film's print that TCM shows as the sound fluctuates in volume for about five minutes or so in the middle of the film. It's the same print, I believe, of the film that had been used when the film was available on VHS because that tape had the same audio issue.

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Great, wonderful stuff, Ray. Thanks so much.

 

It sometimes saddens me to think that Steiner's genius as a composer doesn't appear to be as appreciated as was once the case. Warners was so fortunate to have him there to enrich so many of their productions, to make the mediocre films seem better than they were, and to make the great films even greater. 

 

That Silver River selection you posted ends with the strings playing the Ann Sheridan leitmotif that I so love (and, at times, over the years, have occasionally found myself humming).

 

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Errol Flynn and wife Nora Eddington at Silver River's premiere. The film, unfortunately, died at the box office.

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Dammit, I missed it again!  I had some "unimportant" meeting with a funder for the nonprofit for which I serve as a board member.  Why can't these organizations schedule their events around the TCM schedule?  I hope TCM On Demand shows it on Cable, as I have never seen this movie and have only learned about  it through TomJH's excellent summary.  Thanks for the gorgeous Flynn still, too.

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Dammit, I missed it again!  I had some "unimportant" meeting with a funder for the nonprofit for which I serve as a board member.  Why can't these organizations schedule their events around the TCM schedule?  I hope TCM On Demand shows it on Cable, as I have never seen this movie and have only learned about  it through TomJH's excellent summary.  Thanks for the gorgeous Flynn still, too.

I hope you do see Silver River some day, rosebette. It comes on TCM occasionally.

 

It really does have a Flynn performance of considerable subtlety and skill. Walsh and Flynn had a fallout while making this film. Possibly that's the reason why the director didn't even make reference to it in his autobiography, while Flynn barely mentioned it in his, perhaps for the same reason. It was not a happy shoot.

 

Don't let that disuade you from taking a good look at it one day. Ann Sheridan is one of Errol's best leading ladies in it. Their chemistry together really leaps off the screen, in my opinion.

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Wow! After your terrific write-up here Tom(yeah, like THAT'S not unusual) , I'm sorry to report I missed catching this film today for the first time. 

 

Hopefully TCM will reply this soon so I can get a chance to see Errol getting that rare chance to stretch as an actor.

 

Oh, and btw...you forgot to mention that apparently Kevin Spacey is in this flick too...

 

bscap0005c.jpg

 

(...sorry, couldn't resist) ;)

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Wow! After your terrific write-up here Tom(yeah, like THAT'S not unusual) , I'm sorry to report I missed catching this film today for the first time. 

 

Hopefully TCM will reply this soon so I can get a chance to see Errol getting that rare chance to stretch as an actor.

 

Oh, and btw...you forgot to mention that apparently Kevin Spacey is in this flick too...

 

bscap0005c.jpg

 

(...sorry, couldn't resist) ;)

Yeh, I know you couldn't resist, Dargo. But as you undoubtedly know, that's actually character actor Tom D'Andrea as Flynn's friend in the film. (Actually, his only friend). I hope you see Silver River. It's an unjustly neglected effort, even if the ending is a bit of a cop out.

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Wow! After your terrific write-up here Tom(yeah, like THAT'S not unusual) , I'm sorry to report I missed catching this film today for the first time. 

 

Hopefully TCM will reply this soon so I can get a chance to see Errol getting that rare chance to stretch as an actor.

 

Oh, and btw...you forgot to mention that apparently Kevin Spacey is in this flick too...

 

(...sorry, couldn't resist)

;)

 

Well that is actually Tom D'Andrea, a cab driver.   He is telling Errol;  hey,  if you don't stop drinking so much I'll have to take you to a plastic surgeon I know in Frisco.    He will either make you look like a bullfrog or Bogie!    (sorry I couldn't resist!).

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Well that is actually Tom D'Andrea, a cab driver.   He is telling Errol;  hey,  if you don't stop drinking so much I'll have to take you to a plastic surgeon I know in Frisco.    He will either make you look like a bullfrog or Bogie!    (sorry I couldn't resist!).

Actually, James, Silver River was made the same year as Dark Passage, 1947. D'Andrea is quite good in SR, too, with that same laid back conversational style that he had had in the Bogart film.

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Actually, James, Silver River was made the same year as Dark Passage, 1947. D'Andrea is quite good in SR, too, with that same laid back conversational style that he had had in the Bogart film.

 

Well, all I can say here is that considering Errol's reputation with the ladies, it's probably a good thing they cast D'Andrea as his friend in this thing and NOT Joy Barlow!

 

(...'cause THAT would've REALLY had made Errol "stretch" as an actor by trying to keep from getting a look on his face of "wanting to get into his friend's pants"!)

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Actually, James, Silver River was made the same year as Dark Passage, 1947. D'Andrea is quite good in SR, too, with that same laid back conversational style that he had had in the Bogart film.

 

Tom,  did  I need to put a happy face on my post so you would know it was a joke?   I assume by 'actually' and providing the year the movie was made,  your implying that Tom couldn't have told Errol about that surgeon since Dark Passage hadn't been made yet.  

 

Well,  why not just point out that Tom couldn't of driven Errol in a cab since there were no cars in Silver City.   ;)

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Tom,  did  I need to put a happy face on my post so you would know it was a joke?   I assume by 'actually' and providing the year the movie was made,  your implying that Tom couldn't have told Errol about that surgeon since Dark Passage hadn't been made yet.  

 

Well,  why not just point out that Tom couldn't of driven Errol in a cab since there were no cars in Silver City.   ;)

Well, James, I'm certainly glad to see you using a winkie face now. I suspect that D'Andrea started on Silver River shortly after playing the cabbie in the Bogart film. While there were no cabs in the western for Tom to drive, there was a stagecoach but I guess that wasn't the kind of horsepower with which he felt comfortable. ;)

 

(Man, that joke of mine was so weak that I just had to use an emoticon or no one would know it was supposed to be humour. They can't all be gems, of which this one is ample proof).

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I'm glad to see the love for Silver River, which I like very much, despite the weakness of the last quarter hour. (Note the influence of Citizen Kane on this last part of the film, by the way.) Flynn and Ann Sheridan have great chemistry.

 

I often find Raoul Walsh an overrated director--his best work tends to be three stars out of four, not four stars out of four--but White Heat and Silver River are the exceptions.

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I'm glad to see the love for Silver River, which I like very much, despite the weakness of the last quarter hour. (Note the influence of Citizen Kane on this last part of the film, by the way.) Flynn and Ann Sheridan have great chemistry.

 

I often find Raoul Walsh an overrated director--his best work tends to be three stars out of four, not four stars out of four--but White Heat and Silver River are the exceptions.

Glad to see another Silver River fan, kingrat.

 

Even though Walsh's films went into a serious decline in quality during the '50s, he created a number of my favourites of the '40s. Aside from the two films that you selected (to be honest, I would call SR one of his better, rather than best) Walsh also was the guiding hand behind The Roaring Twenties (ok, technically made in 1939), They Drive By Night, High Sierra, The Strawberry Blonde, They Died With Their Boots On and Gentleman Jim. That's a pretty darned impressive collection of films for any director to have on his resume, I feel.

 

Walsh and Michael Curtiz are without doubt my two favourite Warners directors of the studio era.

 

By the way, you lost me on the Citizen Kane reference.

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Tom, I think the sell-off of the possessions at the end of Silver River is clearly influenced by Kane. This hit me immediately.

I can't say that I ever considered that.

 

By the way, Stephen Longstreet, who wrote the Silver River screenplay based on a novel of his own, later wrote about Flynn. He had known him a few years before the film was made, and referred to him as more intelligent than most actors he had met in Hollywood. Ten years after SR, however, when Flynn's publishers were looking for someone to help the actor ghost write his autobiography, they made an offer to Longstreet. He turned them down, reasoning that the actor would be too difficult to work with. It was Earl Conrad who took on the assignment. The result: My Wicked Wicked Ways, a book that is still on sale today, over 50 years after Flynn's death.

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Tom, I think the sell-off of the possessions at the end of Silver River is clearly influenced by Kane. This hit me immediately.

 

Hmmmm....so you're sayin' in THIS one he sells the sled before it gets thrown into the furnace, EH?!

 

(...now I've GOT to see this Flynn flick, if just for that ALONE!!!) ;)

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I recorded this movie this morning; I haven't watched it yet and have never seen it. It's amazing to me that I'm still finding Flynn flicks I haven't seen. I will refrain from reading anything here until I see it.

 

Hopefully I won't be disappointed!

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I recorded this movie this morning; I haven't watched it yet and have never seen it. It's amazing to me that I'm still finding Flynn flicks I haven't seen. I will refrain from reading anything here until I see it.

 

Hopefully I won't be disappointed!

WHAT??? You didn't read my GREAT writeup? ;)

 

Okay, okay, I've calmed down now.

 

After you've seen Silver River, speedracer, let us know what you think.

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I can't say that I ever considered that.

 

By the way, Stephen Longstreet, who wrote the Silver River screenplay based on a novel of his own, later wrote about Flynn. He had known him a few years before the film was made, and referred to him as more intelligent than most actors he had met in Hollywood.

 

I was talking to Stephanie Zimbalist about Flynn a couple of weeks ago.  Her dad did TOO MUCH TOO SOON with him and thought Flynn was a marvelous actor.  He was very serious on the set and always prepared.  Flynn, of course, stole the piccture playing his old friend John Barrymore.

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I was talking to Stephanie Zimbalist about Flynn a couple of weeks ago.  Her dad did TOO MUCH TOO SOON with him and thought Flynn was a marvelous actor.  He was very serious on the set and always prepared.  Flynn, of course, stole the piccture playing his old friend John Barrymore.

That's interesting that she spoke of his seriousness and how well prepared he was during that shoot, Ray. I've read that Flynn was drinking in his trailer and there was a lot of friction on that set between him and director Art Napoleon.

 

At one point, after Napoleon told Errol how to play a particular scene, Flynn drew himself up in mock indignation and said, "YOU are telling ME how to play a drunk?"

 

Aside from that, I think that Flynn is touchingly poignant, largely because he is channeling his own anguish as an alcoholic into that performance. Efrem Zimbalist Jr. stated that he thought that Flynn's own insecurities as an actor added to the richness of his Barrymore characterization.

 

One more thing, the Ernest Gold score for Too Much Too Soon is quite lovely.

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