The Crack of Dawn
The Crack of Dawn
It is night.
The trailer for Marty (1955) begins with a shot of the film’s producer, young Burt Lancaster with a brush cut, grinning and saying, “Hi, I’m Burt Lancaster, and I’d like to tell you about my new movie. No, I’m not in it. It stars my good buddy, Ernest Borgnine, and it takes place in my old neighborhood, the Bronx . . .”
As a historical note, in the 1600s the area north of Manhattan was a big farm owned by a Dutch family named Bronck. As the area started to become populated, people would say, “I live on the Bronck’s old farm.” Eventually, that was shortened to, “I live in the Bronx.”
Once the thirteen colonies of America submitted a piece of paper to England entitled, The Declaration of Independence, a war was imminent. The inhabitants of Manhattan Island got so paranoid, and rightly so, that they built a big wall at the bottom of the island, as though that would stop the most powerful military force in the world. The wall didn’t help anything. The British invaded and easily occupied New York City. The wall was torn down, but the road beside it was named Wall Street.
I think that the best 3-D movie ever made makes almost no use of the 3-D. The film is Hondo (1953), starring and produced by John Wayne. The film was well-directed (partially because it ignored the 3-D) by the Australian, John Farrow, who was married to the gorgeous Maureen O’Sullivan, who played Jane in the Tarzan movies, and their daughter was Mia Farrow. The female lead in Hondo is the great Geraldine Page in her film debut. The lead Indian is the fine Australian actor, Michael Pate, who made an entire career out of playing Indians.
Speaking of John Wayne, he was cast in the utterly thankless, nearly cameo, role of “The Centurion” in George Stevens’ epic biblical misfire, The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965). Jesus is of course played by the non-Jewish, Max Von Sydow. After nearly four hours (the film is 260 minutes long), and they’ve finally crucified Jesus, this tall, burly Roman centurion, played by John Wayne, steps up and says in his most John Wayne-ish drawl, “He truly was the son of God,” which got an enormous laugh. The movie bombed at the box office. When the film was released to TV (as soon as possible in a vain attempt to recoup their money, so maybe 1970), they made a big deal out of it, and alas, they had mixed the Duke’s one line to near inaudibility. In 1981 I saw a beautiful, brand-new, 70mm print on Easter Sunday at the Egyptian Theater in Hollywood. Charlton Heston, who plays John the Baptist in the film, was there to introduce the show. After four grueling hours, when you are praying for Jesus to be crucified so the film will end, up there in Ultra Panavision 70, with the sound mixed properly, the Duke steps up, says his one line, “He truly was the son of God,” and once again, just like it must have been in 1965, the laughter brought the house down.
Light in the sky appears, as though I’d planned it.