Wild in the Country


1h 54m 1961

Brief Synopsis

A counselor falls for the troubled young man she's trying to help.

Film Details

Genre
Drama
Musical
Adaptation
Release Date
Jan 1961
Premiere Information
Memphis, Tennessee, opening: 8 Jun 1961
Production Company
Company of Artists, Inc.
Distribution Company
Twentieth Century--Fox Film Corp.
Country
United States
Screenplay Information
Based on the novel The Lost Country by J. R. Salamanca (New York, 1958).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 54m
Sound
Mono (Westrex Recording System)
Color
Color (DeLuxe)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
2.35 : 1

Synopsis

Following a violent fight with his brother, Glenn Tyler, a moody, rebellious Shenandoah Valley farmboy, is paroled into the custody of his Uncle Rolfe, a conniving tonic manufacturer who hopes to find a husband for his daughter Noreen, the mother of an illegitimate child. Glenn is instructed by the court to pay weekly visits to psychiatric consultant Irene Sperry, a widow and the former fiancée of the town's wealthiest citizen, Phil Macy. Irene eventually succeeds in winning his trust and confidence by encouraging his efforts to become a writer and sends one of his stories to a college professor, hoping that Glenn will win a scholarship. Meanwhile, Glenn has rejected his former girl friend, Betty Lee, and entered into an affair with the wanton Noreen. Following a dispute with his uncle, Glenn leaves home and stops visiting Irene. She seeks him out, however, and takes him to the nearby university. Returning home, they are caught in a sudden storm and forced to spend the night at a motel. They take separate rooms, but Glenn's enemy, Cliff Macy, spreads vicious rumors among the townspeople. Furious, Glenn attacks him, unaware that Cliff has a weak heart. Cliff dies, and Glenn is arrested on charge of manslaughter. Macy takes the stand and refutes Irene's testimony that young Cliff was chronically ill. Blaming herself for the tragic turn of events, Irene attempts suicide. Only then does Macy admit the truth about his son's poor health, thus clearing Glenn. When Irene recovers completely, Glenn says goodby and leaves for college.

Film Details

Genre
Drama
Musical
Adaptation
Release Date
Jan 1961
Premiere Information
Memphis, Tennessee, opening: 8 Jun 1961
Production Company
Company of Artists, Inc.
Distribution Company
Twentieth Century--Fox Film Corp.
Country
United States
Screenplay Information
Based on the novel The Lost Country by J. R. Salamanca (New York, 1958).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 54m
Sound
Mono (Westrex Recording System)
Color
Color (DeLuxe)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
2.35 : 1

Articles

Wild In the Country - Wild in the Country


Made between Flaming Star (1960) and Blue Hawaii (1961), Wild in the Country (1961) was one of the last Elvis Presley features in which the rock 'n roller attempted a heavyweight dramatic showcase for himself. In this case, it was one that mirrored the type of angry young man role which James Dean had already perfected in Rebel Without a Cause in 1955.

On paper, the project looked promising. The screenplay, based on a novel by J. R. Salamanca (Lilith, 1964), was by the legendary Clifford Odets, one of Broadway's most acclaimed playwrights of the 20th century and a founding member of the Group Theatre and "The Method," an approach to acting that had had a major impact on stage, film and television actors ever since. Philip Dunne was a contract director for 20th-Century-Fox who was skilled at bringing best-sellers to the screen such as Prince of Players (1955) and Ten North Frederick (1958). More importantly, Dunne was a two-time Oscar® nominee for his screenplays for How Green Was My Valley (1941) and David and Bathsheba (1951).

In addition, Wild in the Country was being given the "A" movie treatment by Fox producer Jerry Wald which was reflected in its talented cast, most of whom were rising young stars such as Tuesday Weld, Millie Perkins, Gary Lockwood and Hope Lange (in a role originally intended for Simone Signoret). Yet, despite all of this, the film was a critical and commercial disappointment for Fox and one of Presley's last attempts at a serious role before slipping into his formulaic brand of romantic musical comedies.

SYNOPSIS: Glenn Tyler (Presley), a surly delinquent from the Shenandoah Valley, is arrested for fighting and put in the custody of his Uncle Rolfe (William Mims). Under the conditions of his parole he is required to have weekly sessions with Irene Sperry (Hope Lange), a psychiatric counselor who discovers Glenn has a talent for writing. Despite Glenn's initial hostility, he comes to trust Irene who encourages him to seek a college scholarship to develop his creative gifts. His love life, however, threatens to undermine his ambitions as he breaks off from his steady girlfriend Betty Lee (Millie Perkins) and begins an affair with Noreen (Tuesday Weld), the local bad girl. Events take a darker turn when Glenn gets into a fight with Cliff Macy (Gary Lockwood) over vicious rumors about Betty Lee and himself and accidentally kills Cliff. Accused of manslaughter, Glenn looks destined for prison until justice is served in an unexpected last minute turn of events.

Though set in Virginia, Wild in the Country was filmed on location in Napa, California. Almost from the start, there were endless consultations and compromises being made over the script. Odets was fired before filming even began and Colonel Tom Parker, Elvis's manager, insisted that the studio insert several songs into the film or it wouldn't be an Elvis Presley picture. Also, Philip Dunne was not the ideal director for his leading man and came across as an "intellectual poseur" according to co-star Millie Perkins who said he played the Fifth Brandenburg Concerto during some of the love scenes. Dunne later wrote in his memoirs, "I think I won a unique place in the directors' pantheon as the only director ever to make Elvis Presley listen to Bach. As a matter of fact, he loved it."

Millie Perkins recalled in Peter Guralnick's The Unmaking of Elvis Presley: Careless Love, "I saw Elvis looking around that set and summing up people faster than anyone else could have, and I felt that after a short period of time he was disappointed in Philip Dunne...He tried very hard to make this film better than his other movies and you saw him trying and asking questions...I remember doing this one scene; we were sitting in the truck, and we were supposed to be driving home from a dance or going to a dance, and in the script he was supposed to break into song, turn on the radio and start singing. And to me it was like, "Yuck,"....finally the director walked away, and Elvis looks at me and says, "God, this is so embarrassing. Nobody would ever do this in real life. Why are they making me do this?" So there we were, both of us having to do something and we just wanted to vomit."

There were other minor problems during the shoot including a new studio policy that limited filming to thirty-seven days instead of fifty, causing the production to run over schedule. Regardless, Elvis made the best of a bad situation. He socialized with Hope Lange occasionally and reputedly had a romance with Tuesday Weld.

When Wild in the Country was released, the majority of reviews were unfavorable. Bosley Crowther of The New York Times wrote: "In this seamy, sentimental lot of nonsense, which we are requested to believe that Clifford Odets has written, our nemesis plays a kid who has all the education and social presence of an underprivileged resident of Tobacco Road....Mr. Presley, who did appear to be improving as an actor in his last picture, is as callow as ever in this. The few times he sings are painful - at least they are to our ears - and his appearance is waxy and flabby." Variety reported "Dramatically, there simply isn't substance, novelty or spring to this wobbly and artificial tale of a maltreated country boy..." Even Elvis's ardent biographer Peter Guralnick admitted "He simply seems lost in the role, ambling his way through it, alternating between bouts of sullenness that start and end with bombastic declamation and equally silly posturings of trembling sensitivity."

Wild in the Country is, nevertheless, required viewing for any Elvis Presley fan if only to see him tackle Clifford Odets' overheated dialogue (it was the last film the playwright worked on; he died in 1963) and hear him sing four songs including the theme song, "I Slipped, I Stumbled, I Fell," "In My Way," and "Husky Dusky Day" performed with Hope Lange. "Lonely Man" and "Forget Me Never" were also recorded for the movie but not used.

Movie buffs will also get a kick out of seeing Christina Crawford, daughter of Joan and author of Mommie Dearest, in a minor role as Gary Lockwood's date at a party. Off screen she earned Presley's ire for insulting one of his inner circle and he responded with curses and hair pulling. Also look for Jason Robards, Sr., father of Jason Robards, Jr., in his final feature film and Rafer Johnson in the thankless role of Davis, the butler. Johnson was the 1960 decathlon Olympic champion who later became a member of Robert F. Kennedy's entourage and, along with football star Rosey Grier, helped physically detain assassin Sirhan Sirhan after he shot the senator.

Producer: Peter Nelson, Jerry Wald
Director: Philip Dunne
Screenplay: Clifford Odets, based on the novel "The Lost Country" by J.R. Salamanca
Cinematography: William C. Mellor
Music: Kenyon Hopkins
Art Direction: E. Preston Ames, Jack Martin Smith
Cast: Elvis Presley (Glenn Tyler), Hope Lange (Irene Sperry), Tuesday Weld (Noreen Braxton), Millie Perkins (Betty Lee Parsons), Rafer Johnson (Davis), John Ireland (Phil Macy), Gary Lockwood (Cliff Macy), William Mims (Uncle Rolfe).
C-114m.

by Jeff Stafford

SOURCES:
The Unmaking of Elvis Presley: Careless Love by Peter Guralnick
Elvis: The Films and Career of Elvis Presley by Steven Zmijewsky & Boris Zmijewsky
www.afi.com
The New York Times
Variety
Wild In The Country - Wild In The Country

Wild In the Country - Wild in the Country

Made between Flaming Star (1960) and Blue Hawaii (1961), Wild in the Country (1961) was one of the last Elvis Presley features in which the rock 'n roller attempted a heavyweight dramatic showcase for himself. In this case, it was one that mirrored the type of angry young man role which James Dean had already perfected in Rebel Without a Cause in 1955. On paper, the project looked promising. The screenplay, based on a novel by J. R. Salamanca (Lilith, 1964), was by the legendary Clifford Odets, one of Broadway's most acclaimed playwrights of the 20th century and a founding member of the Group Theatre and "The Method," an approach to acting that had had a major impact on stage, film and television actors ever since. Philip Dunne was a contract director for 20th-Century-Fox who was skilled at bringing best-sellers to the screen such as Prince of Players (1955) and Ten North Frederick (1958). More importantly, Dunne was a two-time Oscar® nominee for his screenplays for How Green Was My Valley (1941) and David and Bathsheba (1951). In addition, Wild in the Country was being given the "A" movie treatment by Fox producer Jerry Wald which was reflected in its talented cast, most of whom were rising young stars such as Tuesday Weld, Millie Perkins, Gary Lockwood and Hope Lange (in a role originally intended for Simone Signoret). Yet, despite all of this, the film was a critical and commercial disappointment for Fox and one of Presley's last attempts at a serious role before slipping into his formulaic brand of romantic musical comedies. SYNOPSIS: Glenn Tyler (Presley), a surly delinquent from the Shenandoah Valley, is arrested for fighting and put in the custody of his Uncle Rolfe (William Mims). Under the conditions of his parole he is required to have weekly sessions with Irene Sperry (Hope Lange), a psychiatric counselor who discovers Glenn has a talent for writing. Despite Glenn's initial hostility, he comes to trust Irene who encourages him to seek a college scholarship to develop his creative gifts. His love life, however, threatens to undermine his ambitions as he breaks off from his steady girlfriend Betty Lee (Millie Perkins) and begins an affair with Noreen (Tuesday Weld), the local bad girl. Events take a darker turn when Glenn gets into a fight with Cliff Macy (Gary Lockwood) over vicious rumors about Betty Lee and himself and accidentally kills Cliff. Accused of manslaughter, Glenn looks destined for prison until justice is served in an unexpected last minute turn of events. Though set in Virginia, Wild in the Country was filmed on location in Napa, California. Almost from the start, there were endless consultations and compromises being made over the script. Odets was fired before filming even began and Colonel Tom Parker, Elvis's manager, insisted that the studio insert several songs into the film or it wouldn't be an Elvis Presley picture. Also, Philip Dunne was not the ideal director for his leading man and came across as an "intellectual poseur" according to co-star Millie Perkins who said he played the Fifth Brandenburg Concerto during some of the love scenes. Dunne later wrote in his memoirs, "I think I won a unique place in the directors' pantheon as the only director ever to make Elvis Presley listen to Bach. As a matter of fact, he loved it." Millie Perkins recalled in Peter Guralnick's The Unmaking of Elvis Presley: Careless Love, "I saw Elvis looking around that set and summing up people faster than anyone else could have, and I felt that after a short period of time he was disappointed in Philip Dunne...He tried very hard to make this film better than his other movies and you saw him trying and asking questions...I remember doing this one scene; we were sitting in the truck, and we were supposed to be driving home from a dance or going to a dance, and in the script he was supposed to break into song, turn on the radio and start singing. And to me it was like, "Yuck,"....finally the director walked away, and Elvis looks at me and says, "God, this is so embarrassing. Nobody would ever do this in real life. Why are they making me do this?" So there we were, both of us having to do something and we just wanted to vomit." There were other minor problems during the shoot including a new studio policy that limited filming to thirty-seven days instead of fifty, causing the production to run over schedule. Regardless, Elvis made the best of a bad situation. He socialized with Hope Lange occasionally and reputedly had a romance with Tuesday Weld. When Wild in the Country was released, the majority of reviews were unfavorable. Bosley Crowther of The New York Times wrote: "In this seamy, sentimental lot of nonsense, which we are requested to believe that Clifford Odets has written, our nemesis plays a kid who has all the education and social presence of an underprivileged resident of Tobacco Road....Mr. Presley, who did appear to be improving as an actor in his last picture, is as callow as ever in this. The few times he sings are painful - at least they are to our ears - and his appearance is waxy and flabby." Variety reported "Dramatically, there simply isn't substance, novelty or spring to this wobbly and artificial tale of a maltreated country boy..." Even Elvis's ardent biographer Peter Guralnick admitted "He simply seems lost in the role, ambling his way through it, alternating between bouts of sullenness that start and end with bombastic declamation and equally silly posturings of trembling sensitivity." Wild in the Country is, nevertheless, required viewing for any Elvis Presley fan if only to see him tackle Clifford Odets' overheated dialogue (it was the last film the playwright worked on; he died in 1963) and hear him sing four songs including the theme song, "I Slipped, I Stumbled, I Fell," "In My Way," and "Husky Dusky Day" performed with Hope Lange. "Lonely Man" and "Forget Me Never" were also recorded for the movie but not used. Movie buffs will also get a kick out of seeing Christina Crawford, daughter of Joan and author of Mommie Dearest, in a minor role as Gary Lockwood's date at a party. Off screen she earned Presley's ire for insulting one of his inner circle and he responded with curses and hair pulling. Also look for Jason Robards, Sr., father of Jason Robards, Jr., in his final feature film and Rafer Johnson in the thankless role of Davis, the butler. Johnson was the 1960 decathlon Olympic champion who later became a member of Robert F. Kennedy's entourage and, along with football star Rosey Grier, helped physically detain assassin Sirhan Sirhan after he shot the senator. Producer: Peter Nelson, Jerry Wald Director: Philip Dunne Screenplay: Clifford Odets, based on the novel "The Lost Country" by J.R. Salamanca Cinematography: William C. Mellor Music: Kenyon Hopkins Art Direction: E. Preston Ames, Jack Martin Smith Cast: Elvis Presley (Glenn Tyler), Hope Lange (Irene Sperry), Tuesday Weld (Noreen Braxton), Millie Perkins (Betty Lee Parsons), Rafer Johnson (Davis), John Ireland (Phil Macy), Gary Lockwood (Cliff Macy), William Mims (Uncle Rolfe). C-114m. by Jeff Stafford SOURCES: The Unmaking of Elvis Presley: Careless Love by Peter Guralnick Elvis: The Films and Career of Elvis Presley by Steven Zmijewsky & Boris Zmijewsky www.afi.com The New York Times Variety

Quotes

Trivia

The song "Husky Dusky Day", sung in the movie by Elvis and Hop Lange, was unreleased for years and appeared on an official record only in the 1990s.

The songs "Lonely man" and "Forget Me Never" where recorded by Elvis for the movie, but were not used.

Notes

Some scenes were filmed on location in Napa Valley, CA. Wild in the Country marked the last screen appearance of character actor Jason Robards (1892-1963), father of Academy Award-winning actor Jason Robards, Jr. (1922-2000).

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States Summer June 1961

CinemaScope

Released in United States Summer June 1961