|Wild River (1960)
Run time: 110 min
Genres: Drama | Romance
Director: Elia Kazan
Writers: Paul Osborn, William Bradford Huie
Stars: Montgomery Clift, Lee Remick, Jo Van Fleet
A first-rate film about the dramatic conflicts surrounding the Tennessee Valley Authority’s efforts to build dams during the tail end of the Depression years. Director Kazan and a superb cast bring the period graphically to life.
Release Date: May 1960 (USA)
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There is little to add to the eloquent appreciations of Wild River by other users. Still, I want to pay my tribute. My father took me to see the film when I was a little girl and it made such an impression on me I have been searching for it for years. Odd, since I remembered nothing of the plot, retaining only fleeting images of autumn colours, Lee Remick’s autumnal hair, the old ferry, an indelible impression of Montgomery Clift’s face, the old woman surrounded by still ‘figures in a landscape’. And the creation of a unique atmosphere so tangible, so lyrical, so elegiac it stayed with me for 40+ years. I’ve been wanting to know why it clung to me so. And wondering why it seemed to have disappeared without trace. This Christmas, in the fullness of time, my niece presented me with the DVD and I have at last seen it again. Why did it affect me so profoundly? That one’s easy. Why had the film disappeared. That one’s complex, as you know. What I hadn’t expected was that stunning performance from the incomparable Jo Van Fleet. No Oscar? Were they mad? It is intensely interesting and sobering to reflect how politics can hold art hostage.
WILD RIVER is one of Elia Kazan’s best films, with brilliant affecting performances, beautiful cinematography, atmospheric settings, and a multilayered plot with important thematic points to make about the rights of the individual vs. the needs of the larger society as a whole. Jo Van Fleet gives one of the all time great performances of the screen in this film as far as I’m concerned. The music is also beautiful and evokes the time and place of the setting, 1930s Tennessee.Why isn’t this film on video? Wonderful, one of my favorite movies.
Once again I endured American Movie Classics’ merciless mangling of one of their rarely shown archival masterpieces, "Wild River," shown non-letterboxed, interrupted excessively by endless strings of commercials and their completely unpalatable promotions for showings of future films and special programs. I’ve complained about this in other IMDb comments I’ve posted so I won’t give into the almost irresistible temptation to rail against AMC once more. That said…
This film contains one of the all-time greatest performances by an American actress that it is possible to see. Jo Van Fleet is so convincing as the intransigent matriarch, who refuses to leave her island, that the injustice of her not receiving an Academy Award nomination for her performance still rankles. Perhaps the members of the Academy could not decide to grant her a nomination as the lead actress or as an actress in a supporting role and muffed the chance to show their admiration. Other comments here aptly point out all of the other outstanding elements in this film and the pain of seeing it so diminished in this TV broadcast (I did see it during its theatrical release, but had forgotten how eloquently most of it was done.) was, nevertheless, worthwhile. I join others who have expressed a desire for a DVD release (where the CinemaScope ratio would be approximated, we can hope.) Wish we could persuade Fox Classics to see if the response to a video audience would exceed the neglect this film was subjected to during its first exposure to the paying public.
I found this little gem to be an exquisite piece of ensemble work by some of the best screen actors to ever to be in front of a lens. Elia Kazan impeccable direction and a performance by Jo Van Fleet that could be a learning tool for some of these putrid so-called actress that now are being lauded as the neo-contemporary actress’s of the day. When you see a film of this artistic magnitude you can easily understand the dumbing down process of the American cinematic media. Not one of the so-called stars of today could measure up to Lee Remicks complex and sensitive portrayal of Carol in Wild River. Montgomery Clift an actors actor , there will never be another. A master of controlled raw emotion and body language. Gone are the days indeed when this kind of movie production will return. Not special effects or remake after loathsome remake or some equally obnoxious star or starlet will match this cinematic jewel.