All the Brothers Were Valiant
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Based on Ben Ames Williams' exciting 1919 adventure novel, the film version of All the Brothers Were Valiant (1953) is the story of two seafaring brothers, Joel (Robert Taylor), the "good" one, solid and dependable, and Mark (Stewart Granger), the "bad" one, reckless and unscrupulous. When Mark disappears, Joel and his wife Priscilla (Ann Blyth), who was formerly engaged to Mark, sail their whaling vessel to the South Pacific to search for him. When they find him, the brothers' old conflicts re-emerge as Mark tries to take over Joel's ship, his wife, and his crew.
Williams' story was first filmed in 1923, by Metro Pictures (before it merged into MGM), starring Lon Chaney as Mark and Billie Dove as Priscilla. In 1928, MGM remade it as Across to Singapore, starring Ramon Novarro as the good brother, Ernest Torrence as the bad one, and Joan Crawford as the girl. In 1953, MGM revived the story again as a vehicle for two of its popular male stars, Taylor and Granger. The studio spared no expense, and gave it a handsome Technicolor production that earned cinematographer George Folsey an Oscar® nomination.
British actor Stewart Granger had been signed by MGM in 1950, and immediately scored a hit with King Solomon's Mines (1950). He was quickly cast in dashing or swashbuckling roles in films such as Scaramouche (1952) and The Prisoner of Zenda (1952), and by 1953 he was one of the studio's top stars. Producer Sam Zimbalist wanted to make a sequel to King Solomon's Mines with Granger, but in his autobiography, Granger claimed he talked Zimbalist into a remake of Red Dust (1932) instead, to be called Mogambo and set in Africa instead of Indochina. According to Granger, the script was written and production was about to start, when Clark Gable, whose last two films had been flops, decided he wanted to reprise the role he'd played in Red Dust, one of his biggest hits. Gable was given the role in Mogambo (1953), and Granger's consolation prize was All the Brothers Were Valiant, which he called a "crappy melodrama."
Granger did relish the opportunity to play an antihero, however, and he was fond of his co-star. "Bob Taylor was the easiest person to work with but he had been entirely emasculated by the MGM brass who insisted that he was only a pretty face. He was convinced he wasn't really a good actor and his calm acceptance of this stigma infuriated me," Granger wrote in his autobiography. "He was such a nice guy, Bob, but he had even more hang-ups than I had." For his part, Taylor reportedly did not like Granger, and found him stuffy. But if there was antipathy between the two men, it did not show onscreen, or if it did, it worked to show the rivalry between the two brothers.
All the Brothers Were Valiant was the final screen appearance of a longtime MGM stalwart, Lewis Stone, who had been with the studio from its beginning, in 1924. He was one of the first actors to sign with the new studio, and was best known for playing the wise Judge Hardy in the Andy Hardy series. By the early 1950s Stone was working only twelve weeks a year, but MGM head Louis B. Mayer insisted that he be paid for the full forty weeks of the year that was the standard contract. Shortly after he finished playing Ann Blyth's father in All the Brothers Were Valiant, Stone ran out of his home to chase three teenagers who were vandalizing his front lawn. He collapsed in the street and died of a heart attack. He was 73 years old.
Reviews for All the Brothers Were Valiant were lukewarm at best. "There is plenty of high-seas adventure, dished up in Technicolor on a wide screen....But reluctantly, we must inform you that it is brashly artificial at best," grumbled Bosley Crowther in the New York Times. "What it all boils down to, in essence, is a lot of pseudo-salty South Seas whoop-de-do." The Time Magazine critic agreed: "Since this movie has been made so often, it is curious that Hollywood cannot at least make it well....Actor Granger, admirably suited to British drawing-room movies, is badly miscast." But audiences ignored the critics, and thoroughly enjoyed the South Seas whoop-de-do - All the Brothers Were Valiant was a big success at the box office.
Director: Richard Thorpe
Producer: Pandro S. Berman
Screenplay: Harry Brown, based on the novel by Ben Ames Williams
Cinematography: George Folsey
Editor: Ferris Webster
Costume Design: Walter Plunkett
Art Direction: Randall Duell, Cedric Gibbons
Music: Miklos Rozsa
Principal Cast: Robert Taylor (Joel Shore), Stewart Granger (Mark Shore), Ann Blyth (Priscilla Holt), Betta St. John (Native Girl), Keenan Wynn (Silva), James Whitmore (Fetcher), Kurt Kasznar (Quint), Lewis Stone (Capt. Holt).
C-96m. Closed Captioning.
by Margarita Landazuri