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Silver River

Silver River(1948)

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teaser Silver River (1948)

Anyone who's familiar with the life of Errol Flynn knows that his film shoots were usually peppered with one form of debauchery or another. Flynn had a knack for drinking, brawling, womanizing, and playing pranks, and he often managed more than one of them at a time. For the better part of his career, Flynn behaved in any manner he deemed fit, but it eventually caught up with him in a number of ways. By the time he made a Western called Silver River (1948) for Warner Bros., his luck was running out.

Flynn plays Mike McComb a disgraced former Union soldier who becomes a professional gambler, then gets hooked up with a mining business. His best friend, Stanley Moore (Bruce Bennett), is married to a beautiful woman named Georgia (Ann Sheridan). But McComb has his sights on Moore's wife, so he intentionally puts Stanley in a dangerous situation that gets him killed. Then McComb and Georgia hook up. This is hardly a role that one would expect to see Flynn playing, and most of the film's interest lies in seeing him behave so immorally. At least Robin Hood gave to the poor after ripping off the rich.

Director Raoul Walsh signed on to Silver River determined to keep Flynn on a short leash. He was particularly concerned about the actor's drinking, and was very strict about how much he would allow him to imbibe. Flynn, of course, felt that it was nobody's business how much he drank, so long as he showed up on the set on time. But there were even bigger powers than Walsh keeping an eye on Flynn this time around- Jack Warner himself was also on the case.

After Flynn was late to the set several times during the Silver River shoot, Warner, who obviously had had enough of his shenanigans, fired off the following memo: "If Flynn is late, if liquor is being used so that from the middle of the afternoon on it is impossible for the director to make any more scenes with Flynn, if liquor is brought on the set or into the studio we must hold Flynn legally and financially responsible for any delay in making the picture. We may go so far as to abrogate the entire contract and sue him for damages...We will never again make pictures where Flynn or any other artist becomes incoherent due to liquor or whatever it may be...This has happened repeatedly during the last pictures we have made in which Flynn has appeared and we cannot permit it any longer."Shortly thereafter, Flynn worked only half a day when he decided to start drinking during his lunch break. Then, a couple of weeks later, he insisted that he would continue to work only if the scenes were shot in chronological order, a virtual impossibility given the modus operandi of a big-time film studio. The demand may well have been the result of a drunk, but it didn't sit well with Warner Bros.

Flynn, however, wasn't the only performer on Silver River who caused a commotion via bottles of vodka. Ann Sheridan was his equal at putting it away, and the two often teamed up on the set to intentionally drive Walsh crazy. Their favorite trick was to deliver extremely off-color variations on their dialogue when they played scenes with their backs to the camera.Walsh would scream for them to stop, to little avail. This held up filming a couple of times. It's no surprise that Silver River was the last of seven films Walsh would make with Flynn.

Still, you have to wonder if Flynn was really as big a handful as his lovely co-star. Sheridan's reported cure for a hangover was eating a "mountain oyster" in the morning while a Mexican band strummed a tune on her patio.She even kept the band on location with her, so that they could play tunes while she drank! Apparently, she'd never heard of a record player.

Director: Raoul Walsh
Producer: Owen Crump
Screenplay: Stephen Longstreet
Cinematographer: Sidney Hickox
Editing: Alan Crosland, Jr.
Music: Max Steiner
Art Direction: Ted Smith
Costumes: Marjorie Best
Principal Cast: Errol Flynn (Capt. Mike McComb), Ann Sheridan (Georgia Moore), Thomas Mitchell (John Plato Beck), Bruce Bennett (Stanley Moore), Tom D'Andrea (Pistol Porter), Barton MacLane (Banjo Sweeney), Monte Blue (Buck Chevigee), Jonathan Hale (Maj. Spencer), Alan Bridge (Sam Slade), Joseph Crehan (President Grant).
BW-109m. Closed captioning.

by Paul Tatara

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