Legends of the Fall
|Legends of the Fall|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Edward Zwick|
|Based on||Legends of the Fall
by Jim Harrison
|Music by||James Horner|
|Edited by||Steven Rosenblum|
|Distributed by||TriStar Pictures|
|Box office||$160.6 million|
Legends of the Fall is a 1994 American epic drama film directed by Edward Zwick and starring Brad Pitt, Anthony Hopkins, Aidan Quinn, Julia Ormond and Henry Thomas. Based on the 1979 novella of the same title by Jim Harrison, the film is about three brothers and their father living in the wilderness and plains of Montana in the early 20th century and how their lives are affected by nature, history, war and love. The film's time frame spans the decade before World War I through the Prohibition era, and into the 1930s, ending with a brief scene set in 1963. The film was nominated for three Academy Awards and won for Best Cinematography (John Toll). Both the film and book contain occasional Cornish language terms, the Ludlows being a Cornish emigrant family.
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Sick of the betrayals the United States government has perpetrated on the Native Americans, Colonel William Ludlow retires with his family to a remote part of Montana with One Stab, a Cree friend, where they build a ranch. Accompanying them are hired hand Decker, who's an outlaw; Decker's Cree wife, Pet; and their daughter, Isabel Two. Ludlow's wife Isabel, who does not adapt to the harsh winters, at first leaves for the winter to come back during the summer. One spring she doesn't return and moves to the East Coast. As much as her sons love her, it's Tristan that is most affected by her abandonment and he vows never to speak of her again.
Ludlow has three sons: Alfred, the eldest, is responsible and cautious; Tristan, the Colonel's favourite son, is wild and well versed in American Indian traditions; and Samuel, the youngest, is educated but naive and constantly watched and protected by his brothers.
At age 12, Tristan touches a sleeping grizzly bear. The bear awakens and slashes at Tristan, injuring him, but he stabs at the bear's paw and cuts off a claw.
As the boys grow up, Samuel returns from Harvard University with his fiancée, Susannah Fincannon. While Susannah is introducing herself and talking with Isabel Two, Isabel Two asks if she is going to marry Samuel, to which she replies yes. Susannah then asks Two who she is going to marry and Two replies, in an almost knowing way, that she's going to marry Tristan. Susannah finds Tristan captivating but loves Samuel. Before they can marry, Samuel tells his family that he is leaving for Calgary to join the Canadian Expeditionary Force and aid Britain in the fight against Germany. Much to their father's displeasure, Alfred also joins. Although Tristan does not want to join, he does so only to protect his brothers.
During World War I, the brothers find themselves in the 10th Battalion, CEF. Alfred, commissioned as an officer, leads a charge into no man's land. Tristan abandons his unit to be at Samuel's side. The attack is repulsed with heavy casualties, and Alfred is wounded. While visiting Alfred in the field hospital, Tristan learns that Samuel has volunteered for a dangerous reconnaissance mission. He rushes off to protect his brother but arrives too late to save him from being killed. Devastated, Tristan holds Samuel until he dies, then cuts out Samuel's heart, which he sends home to be buried on his father's ranch. Seething with hatred, Tristan single-handedly raids behind German lines, killing two gunners. To the horror of his fellow soldiers, he returns to camp with the scalps of German soldiers hanging around his neck. He is discharged from army service but does not go home. Alfred returns to Montana and proposes marriage to Susannah, but she declines.
Tristan returns home, where Susannah finds him weeping over Samuel's grave. Susannah tries to comfort him, and they become lovers. A jealous Alfred confronts Tristan and later leaves to make his name in Helena. Tristan's relationship with Susannah is doomed by his guilt and pain for failing to protect Samuel, as well as feeling responsible for driving Alfred away. These demons force him to go travelling for several years. At the ranch, Susannah waits for him but eventually receives a letter; "All we had is dead. As I am dead. Marry another". Alfred finds her weeping on the porch and tries to comfort her. Colonel Ludlow finds them together which leads to an argument and falling out between the Colonel and Alfred. Colonel Ludlow later suffers a stroke. He does not speak for years and the ranch deteriorates. In time Susannah agrees to marry Alfred, now a congressman. Alfred's business and politics cause him to get involved with the O'Banion brothers, bootleggers and gangsters.
Tristan returns during Prohibition, bringing life back to the ranch and his father. He accepts Susannah's marriage to his brother and soon afterwards begins falling in love with Isabel Two, whom he also marries. They have two children, the elder being a boy named Samuel, in honor of his late brother. Life seems to become normal again for Tristan as he finds true happiness in his young family. Tristan becomes involved in small-scale smuggling of bootleg liquor, finding himself at odds with the O'Banion brothers. Tristan's wife is accidentally killed by a police officer working for the O'Banions. In a fit of agonized grief, Tristan beats the officer nearly to death and has to serve thirty days in jail. Susannah visits, but Tristan refuses her advances and insists she "go home to Alfred." After his release, Tristan and Decker kill those responsible for Isabel Two's death, including one of the O'Banion brothers.
Susannah commits suicide after realizing she cannot live without Tristan. When the remaining O'Banion brother comes for Tristan, he and the corrupt sheriff are killed by Colonel Ludlow and Alfred, while Tristan attempts to protect his father. Alfred reconciles with his father and brother. Tristan, knowing he will be blamed for the men's disappearance, leaves for the mountain country after asking Alfred to take care of his children. Over time, everyone in Tristan's life dies before him. As an old man, in 1963, Tristan enters a clearing to investigate an animal carcass and is set upon by a grizzly bear. He draws his knife and fights it. As they struggle, the image freeze-frames as One Stab narrates; "It was a good death".
- Brad Pitt as Tristan Ludlow
- Anthony Hopkins as Col. William Ludlow
- Aidan Quinn as Alfred Ludlow
- Julia Ormond as Susannah Fincannon-Ludlow
- Henry Thomas as Samuel Ludlow
- Karina Lombard as Isabel "Isabel II" Decker/Isabel Decker Ludlow
- Sekwan Auger as Young Isabel II Decker
- Gordon Tootoosis as One Stab
- Christina Pickles as Isabel Ludlow
- Paul Desmond as Decker
- Tantoo Cardinal as Pet Decker
- Robert Wisden as John T. O'Banion
- John Novak as James O'Banion
- Kenneth Welsh as Sheriff Tynert
- Bart the Bear as the Bear
Legends of the Fall was filmed on location in Alberta and British Columbia, Canada. Principal photography began in mid-September 1993. The World War I battlefield scenes took two weeks to film and were shot near Morley, Alberta, with hundreds of locals and a few Canadian Forces soldiers recruited as extras. A historic harbour area in Vancouver called Gastown was augmented with period building facades for the Helena, Montana street scenes. Hotel scenes were shot at the Hotel Europe at 43 Powell Street in Vancouver. Additional scenes were shot at Maple Leaf Square in Vancouver, and Ocho Rios in St. Ann, Jamaica. Filming wrapped up around January 1994.
The film opened in limited release on December 23, 1994 and expanded to a wide release on January 13, 1995. During its first weekend in wide release, which was a four-day weekend due to Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, the film reached number one at the domestic box office after grossing $14 million. After its initial run, the film brought in a final box office total of $160,638,883.
Legends of the Fall received mixed critical reviews. Review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes reports that 56% of 54 film critics have given the film a positive review, with a rating average of 5.8 out of 10. Metacritic, which assigns a weighted average score out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics, gives the film a score of 45 based on 23 reviews, indicating "mixed or average reviews."
Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times described the film as "pretty good ... with full-blooded performances and heartfelt melodrama." Peter Travers of Rolling Stone particularly praised Pitt's performance saying, "Though the admirable Quinn has the toughest role, Pitt carries the picture. The blue-eyed boy who seemed a bit lost in Interview With the Vampire proves himself a bona fide movie star, stealing every scene he's in." Comparatively, Chris Hicks of Deseret News noted, "Pitt is the hunk of the moment, and Legends of the Fall will only further cement his big-screen, romantic leading-man status. And he is satisfying as the internalized, rebellious Tristan (look for that name to be given to more than a few babies over the next few years). Even if the character seems only a slight twist on the similar role he played in A River Runs Through It. (He even becomes a bootlegger!)"
On the other hand, Rita Kempley of The Washington Post stated that the film's "...yarn doesn't so much sweep as sprawl across the screen in all its panoramic idiocy." Janet Maslin of The New York Times commented, "Before it turns exhaustingly hollow, this film shows the potential for bringing Mr. Harrison's tough, brooding tale to life. And the actors may have captured the spirit of the story, but that's impossible to know." She concluded, "These are performances that lost too much in the editing room, smothered by music and overshadowed by a picture-postcard vision of the American West."
The film was nominated for the Academy Awards for Best Cinematography (John Toll), Best Art Direction (Lilly Kilvert, Dorree Cooper), and Best Sound (Paul Massey, David E. Campbell, Chris David and Douglas Ganton), and won the category for Best Cinematography. In addition, the film was nominated for the Golden Globes for Best Picture – Drama, Best Actor – Drama (Brad Pitt), Best Director (Edward Zwick), and Best Original Score (James Horner).
Legends of the Fall was first released on DVD on April 29, 1997, and once again on October 17, 2000. The film was later released on Blu-ray on February 8, 2011, with bonus content that includes two audio commentaries, deleted scenes with optional commentary and two behind-the-scenes featurettes.
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- Travers, Peter (13 January 1995). "Legends of the Fall | Movie Reviews". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 12 December 2012.
- Hicks, Chris (17 January 1995). "Film review: Legends of the Fall". Deseret News. Retrieved 12 December 2012.
- Kempley, Rita (13 January 1995). "'Legends of the Fall' (R)". The Washington Post. Retrieved 11 December 2012.
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