A Hope Lange Double-Header: The Best of Everything + The Young Lions on Blu

August 7, 2015 | By

She will make you cry. You cannot resist.

Hope Lange rose to prominence as a new Fox contract player of note via Peyton Place, that deliciously steamy melodrama which David Lynch and Mark Frost used a inspiration for Twin Peaks (1990-1991), and while she continued to enjoy co-starring roles in feature films, her career slowly reoriented itself to TV where many actors no longer satisfied or benefiting from the aging studio system found job security, if not semi-regular employment.

Lange would get a career boost when she co-starred in the TV series adapted from Fox’s classic fantasy weepie, The Ghost and Mrs. Muir (1947), but she’s perhaps best-remembered as one of the studio’s most interesting actresses because she presented a compelling mix of sensitivity, confidence, and warmth in her character portrayals. Lange was also one of the best damn screen criers, largely because her portrayal of tearful joy came off as wholly honest.

YoungLions_BRThat’s certainly one of the reasons her performance resonates in the screen adaptation of Irwin Shaw’s best-selling novel The Young Lions (1958), playing a headstrong woman who chooses to give a schmo a second chance. Lange has essentially three ‘big’ scenes which, one can argue, would’ve been straightforward if performed by any other actress.

Giving said schmo a break, visiting him in a military prison and revealing her expectant state, and reading aloud her new husband’s letter as he beams with pride over his daughter might be schmaltzy to the jaded and the cold-hearted, but heart-breaking to those affected by her natural performance style which she use to shape up-and-coming book editor in the studio’s big screen version of Rona Jaffe’BestOfEverything_BRs best-seller The Best of Everything (1959).

As Caroline Baker, Lange seeds the layers of confidence as her character chooses to break out of the typing pool and apply her degree towards her intended career, and while the finale, if not her choice of male companion, could be termed as ill-made, Baker ends the day as a respected career woman determined to make room for a little romance – but on her terms. She didn’t fall for her shitty ex-fiance, so we know if Mike (Stephen Boyd) remains a heavy drinker, she’ll end it rather than be victimized.

My preference veers towards Lions only because it’s a more interesting film, whereas Best has the stronger female role, albeit with Baker surrounded by roommates trapped in relationships with disingenuous men.

Both films are fine works, but Lions has the stronger story, plus the triple threat of Marlon Brando as a good German, Montgomery Clift as the schmo, and Dean Martin in his first straight role. It also boasts a superb score by Hugo Friedhofer, and expert direction by Edward Dmytryk.

Best trumps Lions with gorgeous Deluxe colour and some of the most beautiful fifties design, in terms of colours, furniture, and set decor, and a mix of modernist architecture and street-level vernacular designs. (Director Jean Negulesco always knew how to spread elegant images across the ‘scope ratio.) Boyd and Louis Jourdan may be the big male leads, but they’re overshadowed by Joan Crawford, herself playing a supporting role that leaves an indelible impression by her underplaying the publishing house’s main editor.

Fans of Fox’s classic CinemaScope films will really love the clarity, colours, and sonic scope of these HD transfers, and Twilight Time’s presentation features excellent commentaries + isolated scores. My reviews are a little long and windy, but like film historian Julie Kirgo, I accept the inherent flaws of Lions and love every minute of what still feels like one of the best WWII dramas from the 1950s. I tried to quantify my attraction in the review which I know one day I’ll expand after reading Shaw’s novel, which I’m saving to savour one day. Or months, as it’s a fat one.

Coming next: Brian Yuzna’s weird & wonderful Society (1989), showcased in a stellar limited special edition set from Arrow Video, another set of soundtrack reviews, and Lost Soul: The Doomed Journey of Richard Stanley’s Island of Dr. Moreau from Severin.




Mark R. Hasan, Editor

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