HOME |  JOIN |  CULT MOVIES | COMPETITIONS | ADVERTISE |  CONTACT US |  ABOUT US
 
 
Newest Reviews
Birth of the Dragon
Revenge of the Pink Panther
Thelma
Stratton
February
Taking of Beverly Hills, The
Marjorie Prime
Hotel Salvation
Mangler, The
Shiraz
Mercy, The
Kickboxer: Retaliation
Molly Maguires, The
Party, The
Dante's Peak
Housemaid, The
Vendetta
Brimstone
Boys in the Trees
Once Were Warriors
Red Planet Mars
Blade Runner 2049
Devil's Express
Belko Experiment, The
Flashback
War of the Arrows
One-Trick Pony
Cloverfield Paradox, The
Beach Rats
In Between
   
 
Newest Articles
They're All Messed Up: Night of the Living Dead vs Land of the Dead
The House, Black Magic and an Oily Maniac: 3 from 70s Weird Asia
80s Meet Cute: Something Wild vs Into the Night
Interview with The Unseen Director Gary Sinyor
Wrong Forgotten: Is Troll 2 Still a Thing?
Apocalypse 80s UK: Threads and When the Wind Blows
Movie Flop to Triumphant TV Revival: Twin Peaks and The League of Gentlemen
Driving Force: The Golden Age of American Car Chases
Madness in his Method: Jim Carrey and Andy Kaufman
Music, Love and Flowers: Monterey Pop on Blu-ray
   
 
  It's a Big Country From Sea To Shining SeaBuy this film here.
Year: 1951
Director: Charles Vidor, William A. Wellman, John Sturges
Stars: Ethel Barrymore, Keefe Brasselle, Gary Cooper, Nancy Reagan, Van Johnson, Gene Kelly, Janet Leigh, Marjorie Main, Fredric March, George Murphy, William Powell, S.Z. Sakall, Lewis Stone, James Whitmore, Keenan Wynn, Leon Ames
Genre: Comedy, Drama
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: The United States of America: it's a big country, all right, all forty-eight states reaching from sea to shining sea and with such a diversity contained within its population. Here are a series of vignettes to remind us of what is great about America, and how that can mean so many different things to so many different people from all backgrounds. Take the first segment, where a talkative chap (James Whitmore) gets on a train carriage for a cross-country trip and finds a seat next to a gentleman (William Powell) who has his nose buried in a book. The first fellow insists on striking up a conversation, enthused by the sight of the scenery passing by the windows, about how fantastic America is. However, he is stopped in his tracks when the reader starts asking him which America he means...

This was a patriotic anthology movie designed to bring the nation together, though in effect it did nothing of the kind as hardly anybody was much interested in a civic lecture from out of Hollywood, and it was one of the major flops of its year. As time has gone by and the United States has proven itself less united than it might have liked to be, it was instructive to go back and see what the big idea was, a literally big idea as this MGM production sought to appeal to every part of the population, even if in effect it did nothing of the sort. Still, a noble failure can be more interesting than a noble success, though that was not quite the case here as each of the eight sections was more than a shade contrived, not to say schmaltzy and obvious, which could give the impression of being patronised.

That may well have been the motive for audiences staying away, no matter that there were some pretty sizeable talents involved in its manufacture, both behind and before the cameras. After Powell has bamboozled Whitmore, we launched into a teeth-squeaking item of treacle where Ethel Barrymore played an Irish-born widow who lived alone and never saw anyone, no friends or neighbours at all. She realises through a newspaper report that she has been missed off a recent census, and sets about trying to matter, the upshot being that once the journalists twig they make sure that she does, for every individual matters in the U.S.A., right? Again, you were thinking these thespians were not getting the acting workout that they were capable of, and it was clear the message was not being given the space to breathe.

And that feeling would last throughout the rest of the movie. For instance, Gene Kelly played a Greek (!) who falls in love with a Hungarian (Janet Leigh!) much to the prejudice of her father (professional Hungarian S.Z. Sakall), all so we can learn a lesson that love conquers all no matter what your ethnic background, though that fact that one of the most famous Irish-Americans in Hollywood was drafted in to essay a Mediterranean representation was bizarre, needless to say. Other segments were a chore to watch such was their overly earnest delivery, as a Jewish solider (Keefe Brasselle) proves his people are all right to the mother (Marjorie Main) of his killed in action buddy, or Van Johnson as a minister taught a lesson in humility when he realises his sermons designed to impress President Roosevelt are dull as ditchwater - not the most riveting ten minutes you'll see.

Gary Cooper had a bit of fun as a Texan cowboy setting us right about his home state (n.b. Cooper was from Montana), but it was a brief distraction before Fredric March played an Italian (complete with ice-a-da-cream-a accent) fretting that his son's new glasses make him look effeminate and thus threatens to throw hot soup over future First Lady Nancy Reagan, playing the boy's schoolteacher. Possibly the most interesting part was a tribute to African Americans done documentary style where their race was never mentioned, just their achievements, so the black officials, military men (and women), religious leaders, community notables and entertainers were string together in seconds-long clips, admirable that the filmmakers wished to include them, but perhaps not so much that they were integrated into the stories, and in a segment that would have been easily snipped out in the Southern theatres. Overall, you could see their heart was in the right place as the nineteen-fifties dawned in a "let’s make ourselves proud" sort of way, but as time has illustrated, it takes more than sentimentality and corny humour to bring a nation together, if it ever can be.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

This review has been viewed 238 time(s).

As a member you could Rate this film

 
Review Comments (0)


Untitled 1

Login
  Username:
 
  Password:
 
   
 
Forgotten your details? Enter email address in Username box and click Reminder. Your details will be emailed to you.
   

Latest Poll
Which film has the best theme song?
Spectre
The Ups and Downs of a Handyman
   
 
   

Recent Visitors
Graeme Clark
Darren Jones
Enoch Sneed
Paul Smith
Jason Cook
  Andrew Irvine
Ian Phillips
Paul Shrimpton
   

 

Last Updated: