Hurry Sundown


2h 26m 1967

Brief Synopsis

An unscrupulous Southern landowner takes advantage of racial tensions to extend his holdings.

Film Details

Genre
Drama
Adaptation
Release Date
Jan 1967
Premiere Information
Los Angeles opening: 9 Feb 1967
Production Company
Sigma Productions
Distribution Company
Paramount Pictures
Country
United States
Screenplay Information
Based on the novel Hurry Sundown by K. B. Gilden (New York, 1964).

Technical Specs

Duration
2h 26m
Sound
Mono
Color
Color (Technicolor)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
2.35 : 1

Synopsis

Following World War II, a Northern canning plant negotiates for the purchase of a large tract of uncultivated Georgia farmland, and all but two small plots are optioned from owner Julie Ann Warren and her bigoted, draft-dodging husband, Henry. The remaining land belongs to Henry's cousin, Rad McDowell, a combat veteran with a wife and family, and Reeve Scott, a young black whose mother had been Julie's mammy. Neither Rad nor Reeve is interested in selling, and they form an unprecedented biracial partnership to improve their land. Henry, infuriated by this turn of events, remains determined to push through the big land deal, and when Reeve's mother dies, he tries to persuade Julie to charge Reeve with illegal ownership of his property, confident that bigoted Judge Purcell will rule against a black. Meanwhile, schoolteacher Vivian Thurlow, granddaughter of the most respected member in the local black community, finds proof in the town's official records that Reeve's land deed is legally registered. Later, Julie decides to leave Henry because of his negligent care of their retarded son and withdraws any claim to Reeve's land. In a desperate move to force the partners to sell, Henry dynamites the dam above their farms; Rad's oldest child is caught in the raging waters as the area is flooded and drowns in spite of a rescue attempt by Henry, whom the child had idolized. The tragedy unites McDowell and his wife, Lou, even more closely with Reeve and Vivian, who have fallen in love. As they set about rebuilding the farms, they are aided by neighboring blacks.

Film Details

Genre
Drama
Adaptation
Release Date
Jan 1967
Premiere Information
Los Angeles opening: 9 Feb 1967
Production Company
Sigma Productions
Distribution Company
Paramount Pictures
Country
United States
Screenplay Information
Based on the novel Hurry Sundown by K. B. Gilden (New York, 1964).

Technical Specs

Duration
2h 26m
Sound
Mono
Color
Color (Technicolor)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
2.35 : 1

Articles

Hurry Sundown - Michael Caine, Jane Fonda & an All-Star Cast in Otto Preminger's HURRY SUNDOWN


As Otto Preminger's stock value continues its slow ascent in the last decades, we are naturally given cause to explore the less heralded and recognized corners of his filmography, where the filmmaker's distinctively ambivalent, unjudgemental, Fontane-like voice becomes tinctured with egomania, celebrity (Hurry Sundown came right after several appearences as Mr. Freeze on the camp TV series Batman) and the demands of a changing industry. The strange arc of Preminger's career is what happened to a handful of Hollywood auteurs as they gained, not lost, popular prominence in the postwar decades; George Stevens, Fred Zinneman, and Stanley Kramer are similar cases, but Preminger's is unique, at least for the brio and publicity-savvy aggression he brought to his public profile. Preminger, after all, was the first Hollywood director to label a movie in its credits as "A Film by," in the case of The Man with the Golden Arm. (Reportedly, novelist Nelson Algren was decidedly unpleased.)

Unsurprisingly, Preminger's films became less interesting as his stature hyper-expanded. Laura (1944), Fallen Angel (1945), Daisy Kenyon (1947) and Angel Face (1952) are sublime, detailed meta-noirs that age beautifully, while his subsequent "big productions," including Saint Joan (1957), Porgy & Bess (1959), Exodus (1960) and The Cardinal (1963), begin to suffer from budgetary obesity and lumbering messiness. (1959's remarkable Anatomy of a Murder is notable bump on the downward roll.) Certainly by the time the late '60s came around, Hollywood was a radically different sort of board game than when Preminger began for real in the '40s, and like his fellow expatriate auteur Billy Wilder (among others) he found the generational New Wave transformations difficult to slalom.

Hurry Sundown (1967) is commonly considered the nadir of Preminger's long and rocky career (his career began in the '30s with an Austrian film, but, typically, Preminger refused to publickly acknowledge it and the five other minor films he made before Laura), and it is something to see, a great, preening, dumb dinosaur of a movie, from an erstwhile Jurassic period when, in response to television, Hollywood resolved to make the movies, the budgets, the lengths and even the screens bigger than ever. In fact, it's been most renowned in the home video age due to its inclusion in Harry Medved's now-out-of-print book The 50 Worst Films of All Time - which, it should be noted, also included Eisensteins's Ivan the Terrible and Alain Resnais's Last Year in Marienbad, and which obviously had a tangle of agendas that forbade it from actually being the reasonable tally of badness its title claims. Hurry Sundown isn't even the worst American film of 1967, much less a world-qualifying turkey. (I'd nominate top-20 hits like Murderers' Row, A Guide for the Married Man and Follow Me, Boys instead, if I was pressed.)

Preminger's film, a high-profile filmization of a racy Southern-gothic bestseller, is a sweaty, overwrought race-relations saga, set in post-WWII Georgia and dizzy with the audacity to cast and hyper-fuel Michael Caine and Jane Fonda as soulless, drawling Georgia landowners endeavoring to save their family's vanishing fortune by selling their land to a corporate cannery. The problem is, of course, two contiguous plots have to be included in the deal, one owned by a white sharecropper returning from the war (John Philip Law, supported in his obstinence by wife Faye Dunaway) and black farmers Robert Hooks and Diahann Carroll. The story template itself is such a Hollywood standard - little people vs. evil developers - that you'd think the offices of Santa Monica were occupied by fire-breathing Luddites, but it's in its textures that Preminger's movie distinguishes itself, so to speak. The film has a weird admixture of plainness (the sets sometime seem hardly decorated, and are often thoughtlessly overlit, making the grubby sharecropper shacks look like soap opera hospital rooms) and lurid character hyperbole, whether it be the wild overacting, as a bigoted judge, of fellow Batman villain Burgess Meredith, the hellish keening of Caine's apparently demon-possessed grade-school son or the scene in which an elderly black woman (Beah Richards) has a climactic heart attack, staged by Preminger in a manner that suggests either contempt, negligence, madness, or an unholy cocktail of all three.

It's a film that seems due for a cult rediscovery as an explosion of high camp - after all, if The Ten Commandments, Valley of the Dolls and Barbarella can acquire passionate postmodern devotees, Preminger's film seems a neglected midnight movie must-see, particularly once Caine starts playing his saxophone in masturbatory frustration; when Fonda tries it, at crotch level, she's derisively told "some things are better left to experts." (The development company in question is called Delta Field Erection.) A flaring sense of anachronism makes the tumult even stranger - Fonda's hair and couture seem very 1967, and a rich man's helicopter figures prominently, even though helicopters of any make weren't licensed for civilian use until well after WWII had ended.

Still, Hurry Sundown creates a distinctive hothouse world for itself, and typical of Preminger it indulges a wide variety of points of view, all of them equal and ambivalent. The cartoonishness of the film's surface is deceptive; some hilarious character bits, like George Kennedy's corrupt sheriff and Jim Backus's jovial lawyer, turn out to be far less predictable than you'd thought. (This more than makes up for the immobile presence of Law, who was one of those momentary movie stars who was briefly landed lead roles based only on his sterling good looks.) But the Preminger touch hardly mitigates the project's rabid righteousness - substantially less fair-minded in its depiction of evil Southern whites and righteous blacks than contemporaneous movies, the film suggests Preminger's attempt to conjure a fusion of Duel in the Sun, In the Heat of the Night and The Chase, and the results, pretensions of the time aside, are saucy, outrageous and, in its details, self-mocking.

For more information about Hurry Sundown, visit Olive Films. To order Hurry Sundown, go to TCM Shopping.

by Michael Atkinson
Hurry Sundown - Michael Caine, Jane Fonda & An All-Star Cast In Otto Preminger's Hurry Sundown

Hurry Sundown - Michael Caine, Jane Fonda & an All-Star Cast in Otto Preminger's HURRY SUNDOWN

As Otto Preminger's stock value continues its slow ascent in the last decades, we are naturally given cause to explore the less heralded and recognized corners of his filmography, where the filmmaker's distinctively ambivalent, unjudgemental, Fontane-like voice becomes tinctured with egomania, celebrity (Hurry Sundown came right after several appearences as Mr. Freeze on the camp TV series Batman) and the demands of a changing industry. The strange arc of Preminger's career is what happened to a handful of Hollywood auteurs as they gained, not lost, popular prominence in the postwar decades; George Stevens, Fred Zinneman, and Stanley Kramer are similar cases, but Preminger's is unique, at least for the brio and publicity-savvy aggression he brought to his public profile. Preminger, after all, was the first Hollywood director to label a movie in its credits as "A Film by," in the case of The Man with the Golden Arm. (Reportedly, novelist Nelson Algren was decidedly unpleased.) Unsurprisingly, Preminger's films became less interesting as his stature hyper-expanded. Laura (1944), Fallen Angel (1945), Daisy Kenyon (1947) and Angel Face (1952) are sublime, detailed meta-noirs that age beautifully, while his subsequent "big productions," including Saint Joan (1957), Porgy & Bess (1959), Exodus (1960) and The Cardinal (1963), begin to suffer from budgetary obesity and lumbering messiness. (1959's remarkable Anatomy of a Murder is notable bump on the downward roll.) Certainly by the time the late '60s came around, Hollywood was a radically different sort of board game than when Preminger began for real in the '40s, and like his fellow expatriate auteur Billy Wilder (among others) he found the generational New Wave transformations difficult to slalom. Hurry Sundown (1967) is commonly considered the nadir of Preminger's long and rocky career (his career began in the '30s with an Austrian film, but, typically, Preminger refused to publickly acknowledge it and the five other minor films he made before Laura), and it is something to see, a great, preening, dumb dinosaur of a movie, from an erstwhile Jurassic period when, in response to television, Hollywood resolved to make the movies, the budgets, the lengths and even the screens bigger than ever. In fact, it's been most renowned in the home video age due to its inclusion in Harry Medved's now-out-of-print book The 50 Worst Films of All Time - which, it should be noted, also included Eisensteins's Ivan the Terrible and Alain Resnais's Last Year in Marienbad, and which obviously had a tangle of agendas that forbade it from actually being the reasonable tally of badness its title claims. Hurry Sundown isn't even the worst American film of 1967, much less a world-qualifying turkey. (I'd nominate top-20 hits like Murderers' Row, A Guide for the Married Man and Follow Me, Boys instead, if I was pressed.) Preminger's film, a high-profile filmization of a racy Southern-gothic bestseller, is a sweaty, overwrought race-relations saga, set in post-WWII Georgia and dizzy with the audacity to cast and hyper-fuel Michael Caine and Jane Fonda as soulless, drawling Georgia landowners endeavoring to save their family's vanishing fortune by selling their land to a corporate cannery. The problem is, of course, two contiguous plots have to be included in the deal, one owned by a white sharecropper returning from the war (John Philip Law, supported in his obstinence by wife Faye Dunaway) and black farmers Robert Hooks and Diahann Carroll. The story template itself is such a Hollywood standard - little people vs. evil developers - that you'd think the offices of Santa Monica were occupied by fire-breathing Luddites, but it's in its textures that Preminger's movie distinguishes itself, so to speak. The film has a weird admixture of plainness (the sets sometime seem hardly decorated, and are often thoughtlessly overlit, making the grubby sharecropper shacks look like soap opera hospital rooms) and lurid character hyperbole, whether it be the wild overacting, as a bigoted judge, of fellow Batman villain Burgess Meredith, the hellish keening of Caine's apparently demon-possessed grade-school son or the scene in which an elderly black woman (Beah Richards) has a climactic heart attack, staged by Preminger in a manner that suggests either contempt, negligence, madness, or an unholy cocktail of all three. It's a film that seems due for a cult rediscovery as an explosion of high camp - after all, if The Ten Commandments, Valley of the Dolls and Barbarella can acquire passionate postmodern devotees, Preminger's film seems a neglected midnight movie must-see, particularly once Caine starts playing his saxophone in masturbatory frustration; when Fonda tries it, at crotch level, she's derisively told "some things are better left to experts." (The development company in question is called Delta Field Erection.) A flaring sense of anachronism makes the tumult even stranger - Fonda's hair and couture seem very 1967, and a rich man's helicopter figures prominently, even though helicopters of any make weren't licensed for civilian use until well after WWII had ended. Still, Hurry Sundown creates a distinctive hothouse world for itself, and typical of Preminger it indulges a wide variety of points of view, all of them equal and ambivalent. The cartoonishness of the film's surface is deceptive; some hilarious character bits, like George Kennedy's corrupt sheriff and Jim Backus's jovial lawyer, turn out to be far less predictable than you'd thought. (This more than makes up for the immobile presence of Law, who was one of those momentary movie stars who was briefly landed lead roles based only on his sterling good looks.) But the Preminger touch hardly mitigates the project's rabid righteousness - substantially less fair-minded in its depiction of evil Southern whites and righteous blacks than contemporaneous movies, the film suggests Preminger's attempt to conjure a fusion of Duel in the Sun, In the Heat of the Night and The Chase, and the results, pretensions of the time aside, are saucy, outrageous and, in its details, self-mocking. For more information about Hurry Sundown, visit Olive Films. To order Hurry Sundown, go to TCM Shopping. by Michael Atkinson

Quotes

Trivia

Was the first major motion picture film with black actor to ever be shot on location in the South. The film was shot in St. Francisville, Louisiana, the home of the Ku Klux Klan. The cast and crew received death threats, had their car tires slashed, and had to be protected by armed state troopers.

National Catholic Office of Motion Pictures gave the movie a "C" (condemned) rating, saying "superficial and patronizing in its treatment of racial attitudes and tensions, this melodramatic depiction of life in a small Southern town during the 1940s is also prurient and demeaning in its approach to sex."

Footage from this film of a young 'Michael Caine' was later used in the film Austin Powers in Goldmember (2002).

Notes

Location scenes filmed in Louisiana. Also reviewed at 142 and 148 min; copyright length: 144 min. Director of photography Griggs was replaced by Krasner during filming.

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States Winter January 1, 1967

Released in United States Winter January 1, 1967