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THE BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES
In 1948 Wright was released from her contract with independent producer
Samuel Goldwyn and began to free-lance in Hollywood, returning to the
western genre for her next film project. Advertised as a "violent
story" in the same vein as
David O. Selznick's Technicolor epic DUEL IN THE SUN (1946) (also
written by Wright's then-husband Niven Busch), THE CAPTURE (1950) is
actually a relatively low-budget programmer which, story-wise, is very
similar to Wright's first western, PURSUED (1947) -- although not nearly as
good. Lew Ayres is the man in mental torment this time, struggling to
find out if the man he killed was indeed the payroll thief he suspected him
Wright (at right with Ayres and Victor Jory) plays the dead man's widow for
whom Ayres now feels responsible. Though the story is not bad, the film
suffers from what appear to be budget constraints, most notably sloppy
editing and cliché music -- characteristics typical of B-movie studio
Republic Pictures, where the film was shot.
Also in 1950, Wright turned in a stellar performance opposite
Marlon Brando in THE MEN (1950), the story of an ex-GI who returns from
World War II a paraplegic and must learn to live with his disability.
Stanley Kramer produced the film, and director
Fred Zinnemann used real paraplegic patients from a California veterans'
hospital as supporting characters and extras. The film also marked
Brando's screen debut.
In THE MEN, Wright plays the girl to whom
Brando was engaged before he left for the war, and though he has told
her off in no uncertain terms, she is determined to show him that his injury
has not changed her feelings toward him. She finds out however, that perhaps
it has. Released just weeks after the start of the Korean War and therefore
not well received by a generation once again anxious about the fate of its
sons headed into overseas conflict, despite its financial failure, THE MEN
is highly regarded today a precursor to the many post-Vietnam films which so
successfully called attention to the problems of returning veterans --
especially those returning with physical disabilities.
Above, Wright with Brando
on the set of THE MEN (1950). "I chose to do The Men with
Marlon Brando for only $25,000," she later explained. "From then, that's
what my salary was and after that I never got the quality films again. I
know that sounds crazy, but that is the way it worked in those days in
Hollywood. Your importance was determined by how much money you made. The
Men was a flop and I never again achieved the kind of status I had with
my first few films." (*4)
- Doug McClelland, Hollywood Talks Turkey: The Screen's
Greatest Flops (Boston: Faber and Faber, 1990): 82.
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