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Bad Day at Black Rock


CaveGirl
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Last nite I watched "Bad Day at Black Rock". Now with all the millions of movies I've seen surprisingly I have never see this film from start to finish.

 

I was excited to view it since I love Robert Ryan and it was a great film. That is until the scene where Spencer Tracy became Jackie Chan and started doing karate chops to Ernest Borgnine.

 

Now I am good at suspending belief usually, and can accept aliens, zombies, Robert Redford being in love with Barbra and many more suspicious plot lines, but I could not believe that Spencer would in a million years be capable of the mayhem he inflicted on Ernie.

 

Now up to that point, I think Tracy was great in the acting, and very believable but that scene just pushed me over the edge. I think Tracy always looked by the late 1940's like a guy who would have trouble doing one push-up, and could talk his way out of a fight but could never overpower even Elisha Cook Junior. Tracy looked totally out of shape, and with no arm it would have been ever more unbelievable for him to be scaring the bejeepers out of Ryan's henchmen.

 

So then I started recasting the film. I thought to myself, it would have to be a guy who could have served in the Big One, but would not be as decrepit as Tracy and as old, so I looked up his age and was astonished to find he was only like 55 when the film came out. Nevertheless my dream casting would be a man in shape for his age but not physically prepossessing, but capable of administering some judo moves. Some of my dream casting included John Garfield [who of course was already dead], Bogart and a few others, with the criteria that it was not Tracy's age totally that was the problem, but that the role needed someone who looked more agile even though to the naked eye they might not appear strong. I finally came up with two choices that I think would have been much better than Tracy in the role. They were Henry Fonda or Richard Widmark, both of whom could have served in the war and also looked fit, unlike Spencer who appeared not to be able to hardly get off the train. They are also both good actors and could have played the calm essence of the part.

 

Who would you have cast or do you love Tracy in the role?
 

I apologize in advance for casting aspersions on Tracy but a girl's gotta do what a girl's gotta do.

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Borgnine himself thought it was funny getting beat up by a one armed Tracy.  But being professional, just went with it.

 

all in all, I liked Ryan in a variety of his roles, but I STILL think one of his best was as TY TY WALDEN in GOD'S LITTLE ACRE

 

To I guess disappoint you, I did know a guy through elementary school in the late '50's, who had polio as a toddler and was left with one arm so shriveled he always walked around with the hand of it tucked into a pant's pocket.  But by the time he reached adulthood, he managed, with that shriveled arm, to achieve a THIRD DEGREE black belt in karate, and opened an instruction center that did OK for several years.  He unfortunately developed early-onset Alzheiner's and died in 2010 at the age of 59( his and my birthdays were about three weeks apart, him being that much older than me).

 

 

Sepiatone

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Borgnine himself thought it was funny getting beat up by a one armed Tracy.  But being professional, just went with it.

 

all in all, I liked Ryan in a variety of his roles, but I STILL think one of his best was as TY TY WALDEN in GOD'S LITTLE ACRE

 

To I guess disappoint you, I did know a guy through elementary school in the late '50's, who had polio as a toddler and was left with one arm so shriveled he always walked around with the hand of it tucked into a pant's pocket.  But by the time he reached adulthood, he managed, with that shriveled arm, to achieve a THIRD DEGREE black belt in karate, and opened an instruction center that did OK for several years.  He unfortunately developed early-onset Alzheiner's and died in 2010 at the age of 59( his and my birthdays were about three weeks apart, him being that much older than me).

 

 

Sepiatone

Oh, honey it was not the loss of Tracy's arm that made me laugh at his attempts to off Borgnine!

 

It was his general sense of malaise and out of shape appearance. Let's face it, Tracy looked by that point in his career like he'd been sitting at a desk for many years or the local pub. He was no magnificent specimen. Look how Robert Cummings looked years younger than his age, whereas Tracy looked years older. I agree, I'm sure a one-armed man can do karate and down a big guy like Borgnine, just not Tracy. The stunt man who was doing all the karate chops was easy to see in the clips. That was what got me to laughing out loud at the implication that old man Tracy could pull it off. Thanks!

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Suspending belief, that's often required when watching a Hollywood film (like watching 50+ year old leading men romancing 22 year old actresses). Actually the character played by Tracy probably should have been in his mid to late 30's, the war was only 10 to 15 years in the past. So choosing  a 55 year old Tracy (in shape or not) was a bit of a stretch.  Clearly a guy with his acting chops enables his character to be somewhat believable.  I remember Ernie Borgnine in one of his interviews or commentaries claiming responsibility for suggesting Tracy use martial arts technics to handle the big hulking Borgnine. If Tracy had been well  schooled in martial arts before his disability , I can see where he could  still effectively defend himself.  But how about the one armed Tracy racing down the desert road driving a Jeep?   That I find more implausible .  I like CaveGirl's idea of Richard Widmark in the role, he's more age appropriate and in much better physical shape than Spencer Tracy.  How about Sterling Hayden or Robert Mitchum, they project that kind of stoic personality that the part seems to call for.  In any event, BAD DAY AT BLACK ROCK is still a great film, with a great cast of supporting players and a lot of interaction between interesting characters.  The storyline / plot almost becomes secondary in this film.  

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i watched some of BAD DAY last night, and i have seen it in its entirety once and really liked it a lot (the "fiery" finale cannot be forgotten and is quite well done.)

 

John Sturges was nominated for Best Director for it, and I wish the film had been nominated for Best Picture; whether or not Robert Ryan wanted to be considered a "supporting actor" or not, I dunno, but he merited a nomination (and did not get one.)

 

I like Tracy- who was nominated for Best Actor for BAD DAY- but I'd have to see it again to remember whether or not i thought he deserved it- i remember it as being a very quiet, subdued performance and he acts with his posture and gestures a lot.

 

i'm fine with him in the role....is the film set in the forties or the "present day" of 1955? Either way, Tracy's age is not a problem for me, a lot of guys- especially the injured ones- came back looking older than their years.

 

i really can't imagine anyone else in the part...it needs to be played by someone who is compelling as an actor, yet not physically imposing at all- so, Tracy seems like a good fit to me.

 

(and the scene where he fights the guys was fine with me as i recall- i think his character/stand in used Jiu-Jitsu moves, which uses the strength of the opponent against him. )

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The story takes place in the 1940s even though the movie was made in the 1950s. Ryan's character, Smith, had killed the Japanese-American man after Smith had been rejected by the Army the day after Pearl Harbor. The other characters talk about how that incident was four years earlier, which places the story late 1945 or early 1946. In reality Tracy was in his mid-fifties so probably too old for WW2 even though the Army was taking men in their 40s. So, yes, we viewers do have to suspend our disbelief to accept him as this veteran (especially after Lee Marvin calls him "boy" which is a bit of an eyeroll) yet he pulls it off, acting-wise, for me anyway. I think he earned the Oscar nom as this world-weary vet who wants to do this one deed. Anyway, I also love the scenes among the other characters and when one thinks about all the awards they had won or been nominated for in their careers (Tracy, Ryan, Walter Brennan, Lee Marvin, Ernie Borgnine, Dean Jagger) it's a pretty impressive cast.

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The story takes place in the 1940s even though the movie was made in the 1950s. Ryan's character, Smith, had killed the Japanese-American man after Smith had been rejected by the Army the day after Pearl Harbor. The other characters talk about how that incident was four years earlier, which places the story late 1945 or early 1946. In reality Tracy was in his mid-fifties so probably too old for WW2 even though the Army was taking men in their 40s. So, yes, we viewers do have to suspend our disbelief to accept him as this veteran (especially after Lee Marvin calls him "boy" which is a bit of an eyeroll) yet he pulls it off, acting-wise, for me anyway. I think he earned the Oscar nom as this world-weary vet who wants to do this one deed. Anyway, I also love the scenes among the other characters and when one thinks about all the awards they had won or been nominated for in their careers (Tracy, Ryan, Walter Brennan, Lee Marvin, Ernie Borgnine, Dean Jagger) it's a pretty impressive cast.

It's a movie!  Every movie or TV show I have ever seen required that I accept some things which are obviously inaccurate.  Begins with the "streamliner" stopping in the middle of nowhere, even as a flag stop.  Secondary trains made these stops, not the best the SP had.  Stand alone hotel and  diner and jail and sheriff and garage and vet/mortuary in a location with only six or so buildings.

I have no problem thinking that Tracy could have learned karate or whatever and kicked a fat red-neck's ****.  Did the Borgnine and Marvin character's also sit out the war?  Don't recall. 

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I waited to respond to this thread until several people had commented.

 

I LOVE THIS FILM.

 

It is one of my favourite all time movies.

 

I think I have seen it about 100 times.

 

I am indeed able to have a suspension of disbelief as Mr. Roberts says.  I would not want any other casting, because part of the reason why everyone did such a great job is that many of them were in awe of Spencer Tracy and wanted to do a great acting job for him.

 

Meanwhile, Robert Ryan intimidated Spencer Tracy which is fantastic because Ryan is supposed to be scary.

 

I would not change the film at all.

 

And this is coming from a person who LOVES Richard Widmark.

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The story takes place in the 1940s even though the movie was made in the 1950s. Ryan's character, Smith, had killed the Japanese-American man after Smith had been rejected by the Army the day after Pearl Harbor. The other characters talk about how that incident was four years earlier, which places the story late 1945 or early 1946. In reality Tracy was in his mid-fifties so probably too old for WW2 even though the Army was taking men in their 40s. So, yes, we viewers do have to suspend our disbelief to accept him as this veteran (especially after Lee Marvin calls him "boy" which is a bit of an eyeroll) yet he pulls it off, acting-wise, for me anyway. I think he earned the Oscar nom as this world-weary vet who wants to do this one deed. Anyway, I also love the scenes among the other characters and when one thinks about all the awards they had won or been nominated for in their careers (Tracy, Ryan, Walter Brennan, Lee Marvin, Ernie Borgnine, Dean Jagger) it's a pretty impressive cast.

It's funny how you can watch a film multiple  times and  clearly remember some details and not others. I'm talking about the time in which the story takes place.  It makes sense that the time would have to be only a short time after the war, but I got caught up in thinking the story was in current (1955) time.  That does make Tracy an even less likely candidate to play the character, but then again Bogart was too old to play the part of Queeg in THE CAINE MUTINY,  and "I" (Fonda)  was too old to play MISTER ROBERTS, etc.

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It's funny how you can watch a film multiple  times and  clearly remember some details and not others. I'm talking about the time in which the story takes place.  It makes sense that the time would have to be only a short time after the war, but I got caught up in thinking the story was in current (1955) time.  That does make Tracy an even less likely candidate to play the character, but then again Bogart was too old to play the part of Queeg in THE CAINE MUTINY,  and "I" (Fonda)  was too old to play MISTER ROBERTS, etc.

I don't think anyone could see anyone other than Henry Fonda playing Mr. Roberts being that he played the role for so long on stage.

 

And I think fans of certain actors don't care about the age issue when they are fans of the actors as much as if they are not a fans of the actors.

 

I know a lot of people have a hard time watching huge age differences between leading men and their leading ladies (there was someone on another site who had to "look away" whenever Clark Gable kissed Marilyn Monroe in the Misfits)  and yet still have no trouble watching Bogart and Bacall have love scenes.  Maybe it was because they were a real life  couple.

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i'm fine with him in the role....is the film set in the forties or the "present day" of 1955? Either way, Tracy's age is not a problem for me, a lot of guys- especially the injured ones- came back looking older than their years.

 

 

I did a little quick research. The Southern Pacific train that pulled into Black Rock had F7 Diesel units in what was called the "Black Widow" paint scheme, which was done from 1947 on, so the film isn't set earlier than that. Or it could be a screwup, if Tracy did say the war ended a few months ago, two years ago would have made more sense. 

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The story takes place in the 1940s even though the movie was made in the 1950s. Ryan's character, Smith, had killed the Japanese-American man after Smith had been rejected by the Army the day after Pearl Harbor. The other characters talk about how that incident was four years earlier, which places the story late 1945 or early 1946. In reality Tracy was in his mid-fifties so probably too old for WW2 even though the Army was taking men in their 40s. So, yes, we viewers do have to suspend our disbelief to accept him as this veteran (especially after Lee Marvin calls him "boy" which is a bit of an eyeroll) yet he pulls it off, acting-wise, for me anyway. I think he earned the Oscar nom as this world-weary vet who wants to do this one deed. Anyway, I also love the scenes among the other characters and when one thinks about all the awards they had won or been nominated for in their careers (Tracy, Ryan, Walter Brennan, Lee Marvin, Ernie Borgnine, Dean Jagger) it's a pretty impressive cast.

Not quite he could have been a career officer, and there are examples i.e., future U.S. Senator Paul Douglas of Illinois enlisted in the Marines at age 51.

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Ever see a movie you know is really good, but you still don't like it? That's me with Bad Day at Black Rock. I saw it once, I thought it was a fine film, well-directed, well-acted, well-written. But I've never wanted to see it again, even though it's been aired on TCM many times since my first viewing.

 

I fully acknowledge that what I'm about to say is completely irrational and also unworthy of a true film fan: I don't enjoy movies that are set in a "world" I find repellent. And the world of Bad Day at Black Rock is definitely one I'd never want to be. It's not just the red neck attitudes of its few residents; more than that, it's the depressing feel of the place. It's so tiny and barren - I feel bored and dispirited just looking at that world and the people who dwell in it.

Most of all, I can't handle the desert; anywhere that dry always makes me feel down.

 

Now, I recognize that that's the whole point: Black Rock is a tiny, barely inhabited desert town in the middle of nowhere. That's partly why the few people who do live there are so narrow-minded, as well as vaguely bored. A perfect recipe for a bit of clandestine racism and murder. 

And the town's desolate, barren quality is an effective metaphor for the hearts and minds of its citizens.  I get all that.

Still, understanding why the film has the setting it has does not help me to enjoy it any better. The story is an interesting one, the acting is superb, and the "message" of the film resonates today as much as it did then. I know. But I still don't ever want to visit Black Rock again.

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I'd side with the camp who'd leave Bad Day as is - I think Tracy worked so well in the role that I can't imagine anyone else doing the part without producing a different mood to the whole film. His portrayal seemed to have the right mix of strength/tenacity vs quiet dignity when the various antagonists were attempting to intimidate his character from poking around any further - they feared what he might find out, more than they actually feared him, so a tougher/meaner portrayal would made his character's overall restraint against their provocations much less believable.

 

I will admit to mentally thinking of the time period shown in the film as been later than the indicated ~4 years after Pearl Harbor, for a couple of reasons - the first been the lovely Cinemascope images, whilst the second (more nerdy) reason is that the lead Southern Pacific diesel locomotive looked to be something from the mid 50's, rather than from ~1946. A little digging reveals this to be the case, as the loco shown turns out to be SP F7A 6378, built by EMD (part of General Motors) in 1952. Amazingly, that loco is still around today.

 

BTW, an interesting little snippet in the TCM notes about the opening sequence with the camera dropping down low in front of the speeding locomotive - first time I saw that, I was trying to work out how they did that shot, given the risks of running a camera on another train in front, or on the same helicopter used for earlier shots - as I rather suspected, the sequence was played back in reverse, with the filmed train running backwards, with the loco on the 'back' - away from the camera following it.

 

[Edit - hmm - some further discussion on the subject of the trains used, indicates that 2 separate consists may have been used, but both were likely still too recent for the period shown - I may have be do some frame by frame checking for myself now...]

Edited by limey
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It's a movie! Every movie or TV show I have ever seen required that I accept some things which are obviously inaccurate. Begins with the "streamliner" stopping in the middle of nowhere, even as a flag stop. Secondary trains made these stops, not the best the SP had.

He was a federal agent on government assignment, wasn't he? That could get the government to go above and beyond in persuading the "streamliner" to make a stop in the middle of nowhere.

 

 

I did a little quick research. The Southern Pacific train that pulled into Black Rock had F7 Diesel units in what was called the "Black Widow" paint scheme, which was done from 1947 on, so the film isn't set earlier than that.

More likely an anachronism. Then again, I'm one of those weirdos who, when watching a western, tries to count the number of stars on the flag at the fort to see if they got it right.
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BAD DAY AT BLACK ROCK would make a pretty good triple bill with FURY and THE OX-BOW INCIDENT.

I still have not read the Robert Ryan biography, but the biographer refers to a "Holy Trinity of Intolerance" - three films where Robert Ryan plays a bigot  far from the real Robert Ryan.

 

 

They are, alphabetically;

 

1. Bad Day at Bad Rock (Anti-Japanese)

2. Crossfire (anti-semetic)

3. Odds Against Tomorrow (Anti-negro)

 

 

I saw all three movies Friday night. The first two I had seen so many times I could not tell you how often I have seen them.  I had never seen Odds Against Tomorrow before.

 

There is a boxed set for you. WOW.

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I admit that I am film nerd myself.  I check for tiny detail that others might not care  about one way or the other.  Whether  or not something bothers me beyond the point that I can't watch a movie more than once or even one time the whole way through has a lot to do with the performances of the actors.

 

Sometimes even my love of the actors can't get my through a film even once - The Pride and the Passion starring Cary Grant (a favourite), Frank Sinatra (a favourite), and Sophia Loren (a favourite).  The film is boring and put me to sleep.

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Where did you find this poster? It is fantastic.  Bizarre, but fantastic.

 

 

BING IMAGES.

 

I dislike google for a variety of reasons and I use bing.com as my search engine. if you enter a name or title or subject in the search bar, it'll come up with news, images, and video options for whatever you're looking for. generally bing has better (and always naughtier) images than google.

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to get back to that weird poster i posted, who would be your pick for the fourth face on MOUNT CRUSHMORE- Bad Rock, California's exciting attempt to drum up some tourist trade by carving the visages of a quartet of classic movie heavies into the face of a rock wall?

 

McQueen?

Edward G. Robinson?

Marjorie Maine?

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