The Men (film)
|Directed by||Fred Zinnemann|
|Produced by||Stanley Kramer|
|Written by||Carl Foreman|
|Music by||Dimitri Tiomkin|
|Cinematography||Robert De Grasse|
|Edited by||Harry W. Gerstad|
|Distributed by||United Artists
Republic Pictures (current)
The Men is a 1950 film directed by Fred Zinnemann. It tells the story of a World War II lieutenant, who is seriously injured in combat, and the struggles he faces as he attempts to re-enter society. It stars Marlon Brando in his feature film debut, Teresa Wright, and Everett Sloane. The movie was written by Carl Foreman who had previously scripted Champion and Home of the Brave.
Although not a commercial success, this film was notable for being Marlon Brando’s movie debut.
Brando appears at the start of the film as Ken, a young infantry lieutenant leading his platoon through an embattled European town. He advances into an open square and a shot rings out. He is hit in the lower back and in an instant a robust young man is made paraplegic for the rest of his life. In the hospital Ken is a sullen and resentful patient, and in feeling sorry for himself he finds no sympathy from his fellow paraplegics. (These include Norm, a bitter and caustic man, (Jack Webb), and Leo, (Richard Erdman), who plays a happy go lucky patient who smokes cigars and bets on horses.) Ken's reluctance to respond to treatment begins to diminish through the persistence of his fiancée (Teresa Wright) who refuses to give him up, despite his wish that she do so. With the support too, of a sympathetic doctor (Everett Sloane), Ken begins to tackle the programme of adjustment. He decides to go through with the wedding, determined to take the vows standing up at the altar. The wedding night however is painful for him and he returns to the hospital. Later he is involved in a drunk driving accident and is disciplined by his fellow patients. Eventually Ken comes to appreciate that he has responsibilities, especially to his wife, who is also faced with the problems of being married to a paraplegic, a course she has accepted with full knowledge and considerable courage.
For accuracy and feeling, the writer Carl Foreman had spent much time at Birmingham Army Hospital Van Nuys, Los Angeles, California. Brando spent two weeks there also, living in a ward, undergoing therapy, using a wheelchair to move himself around and going with the men on their social and recreational activities. Much of the film was shot at the hospital in Van Nuys, and forty-five of the patients agreed to appear in it. Despite Brando's dedication, the producer, Stanley Kramer, and director, Fred Zinnemann, were at first worried about Brando's performance in rehearsals because he mumbled his lines and gave little response to his fellow actors. Yet with the actual filming of his first scene he reduced co-star Teresa Wright to tears and won a minute of applause from the cast and crew. This was Brando's first film, and with no prior film experience he had employed the stage technique of holding back in rehearsals and saving the projection for the performance. It was the first evidence that Brando was not only a capable film actor but an exceptional one.
Upon release, The Men received generally positive reviews. Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reports that 70% critics have given the film a positive review, with a rating average of 7/10. Bosley Crowther of The New York Times gave the film a positive review and wrote: "Stern in its intimations of the terrible consequences of war, this film is a haunting and affecting, as well as a rewarding, drama to have at this time." Variety also gave a favorable review, and noted: "Producer Stanley Kramer turns to the difficult cinematic subject of paraplegics, so expertly treated as to be sensitive, moving and yet, withal, entertaining and earthy-humored."