Nicholas Ray

Scen.: Budd Schulberg; Dial.: Sumner Williams; F.: Joseph C. Brun; Mo.: Georges Klotz, Joseph Zigman; Scgf.: Richard Sylbert; Co.: Frank L. Thompson; Op.: Saul Midwall; Mu.: Paul Sawtell, Bert Schefter; Su.: Ernest Zatorsky; Ass. regia: Charles H. Maguire; Int.: Burl Ives (Cottonmouth), Christopher Plummer (Walt Murdock), Chana Eden (Naomi), Gypsy Rose Lee (Sig.ra Bradford), Tony Galento (Beef), Sammy Renick (Loser), Pat Henning (Sawdust), Peter Falk (lo scrittore), Coly Osceola (Billy), Emmet Kelly (Bob), MacKinlay Kantor (il giudice Harris), Totch Brown, George Voskovec (Aaron Nathanson), Curt Conway, Sumner Williams (Windy), Howard Smith (George Leggett); Prod.: Stuart Schulberg per Schulberg Productions; Pri. pro.: 20 agosto 1958 (New York)
35mm. D.: 93′. Col

T. it.: Italian title. T. int.: International title. T. alt.: Alternative title. Sog.: Story. Scen.: Screenplay. F.: Cinematography. M.: Editing. Scgf.: Set Design. Mus.: Music. Int.: Cast. Prod.: Production Company. L.: Length. D.: Running Time. f/s: Frames per second. Bn.: Black e White. Col.: Color. Da: Print source

Film Notes

The final cut “reduced the running time from an initially impractical three hours to a little more than half that length. The result, as Ray recognised, is a movie whose narrative continuity is often creaky. None the less, though in later years both director and writer tended to dismiss their collaboration as almost wholly disastrous, the film remains a remarkable achievement, years ahead of its time and, not- withstanding all the various problems in making it, a key work in the stylistic and thematic development of Ray’s oeuvre. For one thing, it brings into the foreground his interest in ethnography and folk-culture (and consequently in ecological and conservation issues), which had already manifested itself to a lesser degree in earlier works such as The Lusty Men, Run for Cover, Hot Blood and The True Story of Jesse James, and which would reach its apogee in The Savage Innocents. For another, it also foreshadows The Savage Innocents, We Can’t Go Home Again and Lightining Over Water in the sense that, into an essentially narrative format, Ray introduces sequences that are resonant less of fiction than of documentary. Indeed, the lm is perhaps Ray’s most bizarre hybrid; where several of his earlier movies function partly as generic concoctions (the thriller mixed with the love story, film noir with the social-conscience drama, and so on), Wind Across the Everglades not only mixes traditional Western motifs with costume melodrama and ecological pleading, but contrives to bring together poetry, metaphysics and violent action in a stylistic format that is partly mainstream Hollywood storytelling, partly art-movie and partly semi-documentary historical reconstruction. At the same time, for all that Ray and Schulberg failed to see eye to eye, the film is characteristically ‘Ray’ in terms of its protagonists and their rivalry, and in the way they are related to the environment in which they live. In fact, while its setting is in extreme contrast to the desert of Bitter Victory, the basic situation it depicts is remarkably similar to that in the previous film, and indeed, much of Ray’s earlier work. Since the film’s narrative structure is very like that of a traditional Western – a stranger enters a town on the brink of becoming ‘civilised’, and takes on, almost alone, a murderous band of poachers (rustlers in Westerns) living out in the wilderness – it is easy at first to regard Murdoch as the hero and Cottonmouth as the villain. As the film proceeds, however, Ray blurs the lines that mark their characters so that, as with Leith and Brand [in Bitter Victory], both their differences and their similarities are stressed. Both are outsiders and rebels.

Geoff Andrew, Wind Across the Everglades, in Id., The Films of Nicholas Ray. The Poet of Nightfall, BFI, London 2004

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