Monday, January 15, 2018

Tonight's Movie: All the Brothers Were Valiant (1953) - A Warner Archive DVD Review

Robert Taylor, Stewart Granger, and Ann Blyth star in the seafaring adventure ALL THE BROTHERS WERE VALIANT (1953), available on DVD from the Warner Archive.

Thanks to recent discussion in the comments here I intend to review Taylor and Granger's Western THE LAST HUNT (1956) in the fairly near future. Before watching that for the first time, however, I wanted to return to ALL THE BROTHERS WERE VALIANT, which I hadn't seen in over a dozen years.

ALL THE BROTHERS WERE VALIANT tells the story of Joel Shore (Taylor), a seaman from 19th century New Bedford, Massachusetts. Joel returns home from a long voyage to discover his brother Mark (Granger) didn't come back from his last voyage and is presumed dead. Joel also finds Priscilla (Blyth), the beautiful granddaughter of his friend Captain Holt (Lewis Stone), all grown up and eager to marry him.

Joel is named captain of Mark's old ship and takes his bride Priscilla with him on his next whaling voyage, which is anticipated to last at least a couple of years. When the ship arrives in the South Pacific, who should turn up but Mark. Unfortunately things don't go well between the brothers...Mark had routinely taken away Joel's toys when they were children, and now he wants two things which are much more important, his ship and his wife.

There is much to like about this film, starting with the stirring theme music by Miklos Rozsa; I'd go so far as to say it might be worth watching the film at least once just for the score! The film was beautifully shot in Technicolor by the Oscar-nominated George Folsey, and the Warner Archive DVD looks especially good. I suspect it may be a remastered print but could not find confirmation.

When I first saw the movie years ago it was one of the first Taylor films I'd seen, and I found his character a little too stoic compared to the more flamboyant Granger. Viewed now, with more context, I really appreciate Taylor's restrained performance. Both actor and character have a quiet confidence which contrasts effectively with Granger's animated persona.

Blyth is enjoyable as Priscilla; I especially liked her exuberance in a scene where she climbs to the ship's crow's nest for the first time. Her character is young and innocent enough that it's believable she's able to be somewhat manipulated by Mark. Blyth looks beautiful in Technicolor, wearing dresses by Walter Plunkett.

Where the movie falls short is in its central conflict between Joel and Mark. I like Granger tremendously in films such as KING SOLOMON'S MINES (1950), SCARAMOUCHE (1952), and GUN GLORY (1957), but here he's entirely too believable as a total heel, to the point I grew weary of his character's screen time.

Mark is briefly sympathetic in a mid-movie romantic flashback sequence with Betta St. John, playing an unnamed native girl; however, that sympathy only goes so far -- what kind of man marries a woman and doesn't know her name? Unfortunately the flashback sequence goes on so long it becomes tedious and rather grinds the 95-minute movie to a halt.

Mostly, the viewer just wants Mark to go away and leave Joel and Priscilla to be happy again. Mark is a bad boy without much rhyme or reason; I suppose he was just born that way, but his special brand of evil isn't all that interesting.

Honestly, the movie would have been a lot more fun if it had simply been Joel and Priscilla's adventures at sea! All in all it's a film I enjoy and found worth watching a second time, but it's not wholly successful.

It is worth noting that the special effects for this film are quite good; a whaling sequence obviously uses process shots and a tank, but it's done particularly well. Likewise a storm scene manages to be quite believable despite being filmed on a soundstage. Location scenes were filmed in Jamaica.

The movie was directed by Richard Thorpe. Harry Brown's screenplay was based on a novel by Ben Ames Williams.

The supporting cast includes Keenan Wynn, Lewis Stone, James Whitmore, Leo Gordon, Michael Pate, Kurt Kasznar, Peter Whitney, James Bell, and John Doucette.

For more on this movie, please visit a typically thoughtful analysis by Jacqueline at Another Old Movie Blog.

The Warner Archive DVD includes the trailer.

Thanks to the Warner Archive for providing a review copy of this DVD. Warner Archive releases are MOD (manufactured on demand) and may be ordered from the Warner Archive Collection at the WBShop or from any online retailers where DVDs and Blu-rays are sold.

2 Comments:

Blogger Jacqueline T. Lynch said...

Thank you so much for linking to my post, Laura. I enjoyed your review very much, and I can see we were of one mind on several points of this movie. It would have indeed been interesting to experience more the tale of a marriage at sea, but romantic triangles are certainly tantalizing in moviedom.

4:41 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

I'm glad I remembered you'd written about this movie, Jacqueline; after I wrote my review I went back to your and was struck by how similarly we saw much of the film. I'm glad you enjoyed my take as well!

A movie focused totally on a seafaring marriage would have been really different and interesting!

Best wishes,
laura

11:08 PM  

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