' Cinema Romantico: Friday's Old Fashioned: From The Terrace

Friday, October 14, 2011

Friday's Old Fashioned: From The Terrace

"So much is going on, yet nothing happens." You hear that phrase, or a variation of it, often in relation to cinema. Except when it comes to "From The Terrace" (1960) because in this movie so much is going on and, in turn, so much happens. It's got everything! Disappointed fathers, vengeful sons, alcoholic mothers, beautiful women, more beautiful women, late hours, fancy houses, private offices, liquor cabinets, airplanes, uncomprising photographs, a Big Speech, a character actually named Sage Rimmington, a seemingly omnipresent music score by Elmer Bernstein that re-inforces everything, Paul Newman dialing up the suaveness to "11" and Joanne Woodward taking on a hairdo that makes her look a lot like a late 50's Lady Gaga (which makes her a couple fingers of scotch hotter than she already was). It spans years, decades, so much so that if a couple characters get hitched we will instantly flash ahead to several years later in the marriage when inevitable discourse has set in because there isn't enough time, you see, to chart the evolution of the whole thing. Make no mistake, this is a melodrama. A serious melodrama. It's the White House Christmas Party of melodramas. If you will indulge me.....


Alfred Eaton (Newman) has just returned home from the war - that's WWII as this is 1946, Philadelphia - to find his mother (Myrna Loy) an alcoholic wreck and his father (Leon Ames) still running the family mill and still expecting his son to take it over which Alfred has no intention of doing because he not only wants to be his own man, he wants to be a better man than his father. He and his pal Lex (George Grizzard, talking like a cliched Dartmouth man) hatch a plan to start an aircraft manufacturing company at a cocktail party where Alfred first spies Mary St. John (Woodward) who's on the arm of Jim Roper (Patrick O'Neal) to whom she's engaged, not that this would prevent from Alfred from swooping in, asking her to dance, turning her off at the same time he's turning her on, and court her with Newman-esque intensity and style and, thus, despite the reservations of her parents who want her to marry "well" and not to some boy who's father owns a - gasp! - mill, Mary says so long to Jim and says yes to Alfred and they move into a majestic home with scads of money and so on and so forth but wouldn't you just know that Alfred starts to neglect his wife for his job which puts a strain on the marriage and sends Mary seeking solace in the arms of down-but-not-out Jim Roper and Alfred seeking solace in the arms of the daughter of a rich coal miner whose property Alfred has gone to inspect because he actually left the aircraft job - did I forget to mention that? - when he realize his business plan didn't match his partner's business plan and......

I lost my train thought. Ah hell. I think I've introduced the movie enough.

Clearly the movie's intent is to turn Alfred into his father, becoming the monster swore he would never become, and demonstrating how despite our best intentions we are all our father's sons. It seems oddly content, though, to let Alfred off the hook much more easily than his poor spouse who as the film progresses is portrayed more and more as a status seeking what-have-ya. Her affair is painted as cold, calculating, desperate and his affair is painted as lovey-dovey, two people doing the wrong thing against their better judgment even though they both know the wrong thing really is the right thing. The closing shot, for God's sake, could have landed squarely in "Hot Shots: Part Deux."


Did "From The Terrace" forget that Mary had a chance to take status by marrying Jim Roper just as her parents wanted but shot down that idea and insisted on marrying Alfred even though his business plans at that point were far-fetched? Did it forget that Alfred is the one who initiates the neglectful marriage by working long hours, going on the road, and never being home? I'm not saying this excuses Mary from her actions but merely asking why does it excuse Alfred from his? Because he gives a Big Speech at the end?

Perhaps it's because "From The Terrace" is nothing more than trash. Glorious, ebullient trash. It's ludicrous, but damn, man is it fun.

2 comments:

Juanita's Journal said...

"Did "From The Terrace" forget that Mary had a chance to take status by marrying Jim Roper just as her parents wanted but shot down that idea and insisted on marrying Alfred even though his business plans at that point were far-fetched? Did it forget that Alfred is the one who initiates the neglectful marriage by working long hours, going on the road, and never being home? I'm not saying this excuses Mary from her actions but merely asking why does it excuse Alfred from his? Because he gives a Big Speech at the end?"

I wondered if I was the only one who found it difficult to harbor sympathy for Alfred?

Nick Prigge said...

You definitely weren't. It was just weird how easy they let Alfred off the hook, like how everything he was doing for the right reasons. So weird. Thanks for reading!