Thanks again to Paul of the People’s Movies for choosing this month’s genre.
Next month’s genre has been chosen by Rebecca of Almost Ginger and we will be reviewing our favorite Travel Films.
Please get me your submissions by the 25th of Apr by sending them to email@example.com
Try to think out of the box! Great choice Rebecca!
Let’s see what Michael thought of this movie:
I actually didn’t choose this film in the loners in films genre because it literally has “lonely” in the title, but because it fits and is one of my favorite Kirk Douglas movies. And that’s not to diminish the quality of this one, because my list of favorite Kirk Douglas movies is a lengthy one. And according to some sources, it was also a personal favorite of Douglas himself (and he made over 70 movies in his career).
“Lonely Are The Brave” from 1962 is what might be called a “modern Western”. Based on a novel, the screen adaptation was written by Dalton Trumbo who Douglas hired a few years earlier to write “Spartacus” for him and used that credit to break the Hollywood blacklist. It also features the first film score by the legendary Jerry Goldsmith.
Douglas plays Jack Burns, a Korean war vet and a throwback to the old days of the classic cowboy loners – a man for whom modern society is more of an encumbrance than a salve. His best friend is his horse and that’s his mode of transportation. Home is wherever he hangs his hat for the night. Modern gadgets are not for him. Neither is ID. He carries no driver’s license or draft card. He has no address because he’s constantly on the move, sleeping under the stars.
The film begins with Jack going to visit an old friend and finding only his wife, played by Gena Rowlands. Turns out her husband is in the local jail for helping illegal immigrants (which makes it quite timely for today – sadly, almost 50 years after the movie was made). Jack, the loner, has no love for anyone or anything that tells a man what he can and cannot do, where he can or cannot go. To that purpose, he gets the idea to get himself arrested and thrown into jail so he can help his buddy to break out. He accomplishes that by getting into a bar fight with a one armed man who more than holds his own. In fact, to make things “fair”, Jack agrees to fight him using only one arm himself. The one armed man, is played by Bill Raisch – who, a year later, would become the “one armed man” pursued by David Janssen as the man who murdered his wife in the TV series “The Fugitive”. Local cops show up t break up the fight. They’re about to Jack go when no one presses charges. So Jack seals the deal by slugging one of the cops.
Once in jail, he’s reunited with his buddy Paul, who is less than enamored of the scheme to break out. But using the small hacksaws Jack’s smuggled in, and with Paul’s help and that of a few other cellmates who are not averse to a jailbreak, he spends the night discussing old times and working on sawing his way through the bars in an outside window to give him enough room to wriggle free. Along the way, he manages to get on the wrong side of a sadistic deputy, well played by George Kennedy, who inflicts some physical pain on Jack who antagonizes Kennedy in order to take the heat off his buddy Paul as a punching bag and brutalize himself in his place.
At daybreak, with the bars sawed through, Jack can’t convince Paul to leave with him. Paul’s sentence is nearly done and he has a family to consider and won’t make a run and have to stay on the run. For Jack, it’s a no brainer. He’s looking at a year in jail for slugging a cop and a sentence like that, cooped up, “I’ll kill somebody” he tells Paul. So he breaks out along with a few others from the cell, returns to Paul’s house to retrieve his horse and some food and keeps going.
The friendly, good-hearted Sheriff (Walter Matthau), tasked with herding up the escapees, does a bit of research on Jack and discovers he’s a Korean War vet with a Purple Heart and other medals for bravery in battle, who also did time in a military brig for slugging an officer. But he sees him more as a “character” than a dangerous criminal and sets out to apprehend him with his deputy, a sardonic less than witty man played by William Schallert.
From here, Jack’s cowboy skills and knowledge of the land kick in and he proves to be a handful for the pursuing cops and their jeeps and helicopters and modern technology. It’s him and his horse against the world. Without giving any spoilers, I won’t go into any further detail – but to say that this is a wonderful role for Douglas – the loner, the (not quite) anti-hero who just wants to go his own way and be left alone to his own devices. A man with few friends but ones he would put himself and his life on the line for. Not dissimilar to many of Douglas’ other roles and those of Paul Newman whose career overlapped with Douglas by the 60s.
Douglas is all in on this one, ably supported by a terrific array of character actors who I’ve mentioned along with a small, but pivotal appearance by none other than Carroll O’Connor, a decade before he’d make his own splash as “Archie Bunker” on “All In The Family”. And an unbilled cameo by Bill Bixby (who’d go on to play Eddie’s father in The Courtship of Eddie’s Father and The Incredible Hulk on TV) as a helicopter pilot. This is one of the shining lights on the marquee of Kirk Douglas movie characters. He had a wonderful life, 103 years of it – and if this was indeed, a favorite film of his, far be it for me to disagree. I agree one hundred percent. If you’ve never seen it and are a fan of Kirk Douglas, add it to your list. Or if you’ve seen it before a while ago, like Rob – watch it again. It holds up well for it’s themes and what it says about the American spirit and what one individual can do when he has a sense of right and wrong and purpose and a strong point of view.