Tuesday, April 02, 2013

Kirk Douglas, Jerry Goldsmith, and Dalton Trumbo: Lonely are the Brave 



Thanks to valdez244.

By Nicholas Stix

Kirk Douglas has said that Lonely are the Brave (1962) was his favorite picture. And anyone who has seen this spare masterpiece, shot on a shoestring, about a 19th century cowboy, Jack Burns, set down in the middle of the tractor-trailer, interstate highway Southwest of the early 1960s, can see why.

The movie co-stars a youngish Walter Matthau on his way up and a beautiful, still young Gena Rowlands, and features a supporting cast that includes an unknown George Kennedy and William Shallert (the dad on The Patty Duke Show).

The score is by a then very young Jerry Goldsmith at the beginning of his composing career. It was influenced by Elmer Bernstein’s score to The Magnificent Seven (1960), but stands on its own as a classic Western score, and is very unlike Goldsmith’s later work.

I referred to this as Kirk Douglas’ Lonely are the Brave, even though he was not the official director. That would be Hollywood journeyman David Miller, who had a mixed record. But this picture has Douglas’ fingerprints all over it, while not even modern DNA testing can link Miller to it.

Douglas made a series of movies as an independent producer-star between The Juggler (1953) about the eponymous protagonist, a Jewish concentration camp survivor and Lonely are the Brave, all of which had a trademark humanity, in spite of having different directors, including the distinctly inhumane Stanley Kubrick in Paths of Glory and Spartacus. Some of his heroes were betwixt and between, as in The Indian Fighter 1955, others fought the good fight against impossible odds, as in Glory and Spartacus, while others—The Juggler and Lonely—were displaced persons in this world, with nowhere anymore to call home.

Several of the screenplays were authored by the Communist Dalton Trumbo, who had been justifiably blacklisted during the 1950s, when he wrote under a series of “fronts.” Trumbo was one of the greatest screenwriters the screen has ever seen (with Michael Wilson, Robert Bolt, Ben Hecht, Frances Marian, Preston Sturges, Robert Riskin, the pre-Soon Yi Woody Allen, Francis Ford Coppola, Billy Wilder, Ingmar Bergman, William Goldman, Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett, and Ernest Lehman ).

In the same year that Lonely was released, Douglas produced and starred in the off-Broadway production of Ken Kesey’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, about wild man Randall McMurphy, in a society that will no longer tolerate such characters. Unfortunately, Douglas was unable to get financing for a film version, grew too old for the role of McMurphy, and handed off the rights to his son, Michael. Thus, Kirk’s Oscars ended up in Michael and Jack Nicholson’s hands.

Thus, it has long been clear to this observer that Douglas was much more than a vain star who produced his own pictures, in order to reap more money and power, and much more a David O. Selznick-type, who had an artistically ambitious, directorial vision, though rarely—excepting Glory and Spartacus—with a Selznickian budget.

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