There are 3 very worthwhile Robert Taylor films playing on Turner Classic Movies on Thursday, February 6. They are: Above and Beyond, 1952, 11:00 a.m. est. Closed captioned; All the Brothers Were Valiant, 1953 at 1:15 p.m. est.; Three Comrades, 1938, at 6:15 p.m. est. Closed captioned.Above and Beyond is one of several roles for which Robert Taylor should have won an Oscar. He was outstanding.
Considering that Above and Beyond was made during the height of the hysteria now known as McCarthyism, one would have expected a jingoistic flag-waver out of Hollywood. Instead, surprisingly, the screenplay as written allows the Paul Tibbets character (Robert Taylor) the opportunity to register a variety of emotions, in a most realistic and compelling performance.
This is ironic, seeing as the real Tibbets, decades after the event (the bombing of Hiroshima), is to this day unrepentant. Not to criticize his position in any way, because that was a different time and place, and it’s Tibbets’ view that he had a job to do, and the morality of it all, he has stated, is best debated by others.
But the film is all the more compelling because of the ambivalence written into the Tibbets character, and Taylor’s especially fine work. There are uniformly strong performances throughout the cast, notably those of Eleanor Parker (Lucy Tibbets), James Whitmore (the security officer) and Larry Keating (General Brent).
Another surprise: the team of Melvin Frank and Norman Panama (screenplay, direction) had been best known for their Bob Hope comedies, when under contract at Paramount. Their first dramatic effort was “Above and Beyond,” and they acquitted themselves admirably.
Final note: the musical score by Hugo Friedhofer is immensely satisfying: stirring in an emotional sense, with just a touch of, but not too much of, militaristic flavor.
Dore Schary, a Democrat, had succeeded fervent Republican Louis B. Mayer at MGM in 1951, and had encouraged the production of Above and Beyond. One wonders if (a) the film would have been made at all on Mayer’s watch, and (b) if it had, would it have been more of a cornball, John Wayne-type flag-waver. Thankfully, those questions are moot. “Above and Beyond” is a stirring, finely-crafted film. I would stress again the unusual nature of the protagonist’s ambivalence as portrayed in a film made during a very sensitive time in America’s history. Review by Alan Rosenberg, Toronto, Canada for the imdb.
Note: I don’t agree with some of this reviewer’s comments but I thought the review is worth reading. Judith
Some behind the scenes photos:
This film has quite a good story by Ben Ames Williams, which was competently brought to the screen. Robert Taylor is the “good” brother and Stewart Granger the “bad” one. Ann Blyth is the woman who marries Taylor thinking Granger is dead. Three years later Granger and Taylor would star in The Last Hunt with a reversal of roles: Granger as the “good” guy and Taylor the “bad”. There are two aspects of this film which create a strong impression:1)the destructive relationship between the brothers, which started in childhood with Granger always taking for himself Taylor’s toys. Now Granger wants to take away Taylor’s ship and also his wife. 2)How Granger is able to seduce Ann Blyth by making her think her husband is a coward. Blyth is a bit too “angelical” for her role, when you see the ship you have the feeling you are seeing a miniature on MGM’s tank, but both Granger and Taylor are excellent. Great entertainment. Review for the IMDB by tmwest from S Paolo, Brazil.
Here are some behind the scenes photos:
Left to right: Joan Crawford and Robert Taylor; Richard Thorpe, Ms. Crawford, Ann Blyth, Mr. Taylor. The original caption for the first photo: Joan Crawford, returning to MGM for the first time in a number of years to star in Torch Song, visited an old friend, Robert Taylor, on his set.
New York Times Review (summary): Based on a novel by Erich Maria Remarque, Three Comrades represented one of the few successful screenwriting efforts of F. Scott Fitzgerald. Set in Germany in the years just following World War I, the film stars Robert Taylor, Franchot Tone and Robert Young as three battle-weary, thoroughly disillusioned returning soldiers. The three friends pool their savings and open an auto-repair shop, and it is this that brings them in contact with wealthy motorist Lionel Atwill–and with Atwill’s lovely travelling companion Margaret Sullavan. Taylor begins a romance with Sullavan, who soon joins the three comrades, making the group a jovial, fun-seeking foursome Though Sullavan suffers from tuberculosis (her shady past is only alluded to), she is encouraged by her male companions to fully enjoy what is left of her life. This becomes increasingly difficult when one of the comrades, Young, is killed during a political riot (it’s a Nazi riot, though not so-labelled by ever-careful MGM). In the end, the four comrades are only two in number, with nothing but memories to see them through the cataclysmic years to come. Despite its Hollywoodized bowdlerization of the Remarque original, Three Comrades remains a poignant, haunting experience. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi
Some promotional material: