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Virtually ignored by the public when it was released in 1962, All Fall Down (1962) is a finely etched portrait of Berry-Berry Willart (Warren Beatty), an irresponsible ladies' man whose hedonistic lifestyle and aimless drifting creates a family crisis when he visits his family in Cleveland. Although he is idolized by his younger brother, Clinton (Brandon de Wilde), the infatuation ends when Berry-Berry takes advantage of a vulnerable, older woman (Eva Marie Saint), exposing his true nature.
1962 proved to be a banner year for director John Frankenheimer. Following The Young Savages (1961), he was offered a choice of properties to direct. One was Irwin Shaw's Two Weeks in Another Town (which eventually went to Vincente Minnelli) and a novella by James Leo Herlihy called All Fall Down. The playwright William Inge (Picnic) adapted the latter for executive producer John Houseman and Frankenheimer eagerly agreed to do it in-between post-production on Birdman of Alcatraz and preparation for The Manchurian Candidate, both of which were released the same year to unanimous critical acclaim.
In The Cinema of John Frankenheimer by Gerald Pratley, the director comments on the filming of All Fall Down: "The only thing I didn't like was the insistence of MGM that we had to do the interiors and the mid-Western part of it at the studio, to use their back lot; and as John Houseman had agreed to that there was really nothing I could do because we did need four seasons. We needed that seasonal change and they could do this artificially in the studio...If I'd known then what I know now we would have shot it on location. But I didn't. The best part of the film was the location part in Key West. I had a terrific fight with MGM who wanted to shoot the inside of the bus in process and I said, 'There's no way.' You can tell the difference. And how. In reality there was a whole scene that took place inside the bus that we had to cut out. It just didn't play."
According to John Houseman, it was William Inge who suggested Warren Beatty for the role of Berry-Berry and while it remains one of Beatty's finest performances, the rising young star created considerable tension on the set. In his autobiography, Final Dress, Houseman said, "From the start, our most serious problem was young Mr. Beatty. With his angelic arrogance, his determination to emulate Marlon Brando and Jimmy Dean, and his half-baked, overzealous notions of "Method" acting, he succeeded in perplexing and antagonizing not only his fellow actors, but our entire crew. While the company was on location in Key West, our veteran cameraman, Curly Lindon, became so exasperated with him that he flew a camera-bearing helicopter within a few inches of his head. And on the last day of shooting, in a secret agreement with the local police, Warren Beatty was left to languish overnight in a bare cell of the Key West jail while the company flew back to California." While Houseman also criticized MGM for the inept marketing and distribution of All Fall Down, he remained fond of the film: "Two of my films that I often find myself bracketing (although they were made more than a dozen years apart) are All Fall Down and They Live By Night (1949). Both were modest, adventurous, emotional films about young people made by young directors at the start of their careers."
Producer:John Houseman, Ethel Winant (associate)
Screenplay:James Leo Herlihy (novel), William Inge
Art Direction:E. Preston Ames, George W. Davis
Principle Cast:Eva Marie Saint (Echo O'Brien), Warren Beatty (Berry-Berry Willart), Karl Malden (Ralph Willart), Angela Lansbury (Annabell Willart), Brandon De Wilde (Clinton Willart)
BW-111m. Letterboxed. Closed captioning.
by Jeff Stafford