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Thursday, February 23, 2012

Youngblood Hawke (1964)

A rather unrefined Kentucky struggling writer (James Franciscus) comes to New York where his first novel is published to middling success. But it's his second novel (which wins the Pulitzer Prize) that elevates his career to another level but he sells out his Art for fame and fortune. Based on the Herman Wouk (THE CAINE MUTINY) novel, any chance for a good film was severely compromised by the casting of the bland Franciscus in the lead role. With his clean scrubbed Yale looks and demeanor, he's the very antithesis of a rough Kentucky truck driver. The film's ads shrieked, "Youngblood Hawke, A Woman Could Feel Him Across The Room". Not with the white bread Franciscus they can't, the role screams for a young Steve McQueen. The film's changes from the novel, which includes a happy ending, alters the story's tone severely. The film's most complex and interesting character is the predatory cafe society maven superbly played by Genevieve Page (BELLE DU JOUR). She's too good for both Hawke and the film which punishes her harshly for her trespasses while Hawke simply learns a lesson. Directed by Delmer Daves. The monotonous score is by Max Steiner. The large cast includes Suzanne Pleshette, Mary Astor, Eva Gabor, Mildred Dunnock, Edward Andrews (who has one terrific scene as a book critic), Lee Bowman, Kent Smith, John Dehner, Hayden Rorke, Don Porter and Mark Miller.

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