Movie Diary 2/21/2018

House of Strangers (Joseph L. Mankiewicz, 1949) and Broken Lance (Edward Dmytryk, 1954). Same story: A father’s domineering hold of the family business makes life miserable for his four sons. In the Mankiewicz, the talk is virtually non-stop, but it’s punchy and snappish and superbly delivered by Edward G. Robinson and Richard Conte, both on their game here. Nice role for Luther Adler as the eldest son, who gets passed over in his father’s affection because Conte is obviously the dynamo (Adler’s got the Fredo Corleone role, always a beat behind the action). The Dmytryk picture is a Western with Spencer Tracy as a rather more likable patriarch; it’s got much less dialogue and a lot more action, as befits the genre. Robert Wagner is no Richard Conte, let’s just say that. The film adds quite a bit of psychology and an entire layer of racial tension (Wagner is the “half-breed” son of Tracy and his second wife, an Indian played by Katy Jurado). CinemaScope was in its early blush and the movie looks very handsome. Richard Widmark plays the Luther Adler role and, of course, nails it.

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