Wild River (1960)
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Movie InfoFilmed on location in the Tennessee Valley, Wild River is set in the early 1930s. Montgomery Clift plays an idealistic TVA agent, assigned to convince the locals to move from their property so that a beneficial dam can be built. The principal holdout is feisty octogenarian Jo Van Fleet, who refuses to budge from her land, convinced that she will die if she ever gives an inch. Her prophecy turns out to be true, as Van Fleet becomes yet another sacrifice to progress. Clift also runs into opposition because of his fair treatment of the local black population. Lee Remick costars as Van Fleet's granddaughter, who comes to love and understand the sensitive Clift. Some dated fuzzy-headed liberalism aside, Wild River is a masterful recreation of a difficult, complex period in American history. Watch for an uncredited Bruce Dern in his film debut. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi … More
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Critic Reviews for Wild River
Kazan's films are better known for showcasing stratospheric Method-emoting over visual expressiveness, which makes Wild River's gorgeous imagery a shock...
Sympathetic to both sides, the movie pits tradition against progress, rugged individualism against the greater good.
Audience Reviews for Wild River
Will the river stay wild or be tamed? You can ask the same of the old woman who lives on the island about to be flooded or the other characters in this heartfelt melodrama. It features wonderful, yet restrained performances, particularly by Clift. The love story between Clift's character, the TVA representative and local girl Carol Garth (Lee Remick)is as important to the story as the TVA's struggle to evict the inhabitants of one island. Furthermore, the TVA and Clift struggle to drag the town into the 20th century, including some degree of racial integration.
Although much younger than these characters, having grown up in a similar town in TN, I found them and their town believeable. Wild River was filmed on location on the Hiawassee river near Charleston,TN. Finally,the cinematography is excellent. Elia Kazan and his crew did a superb job all around. Highly recommended.
In "Wild River," to curb deadly flooding along the Tennessee River and create jobs during the Great Depression, the Roosevelt Administration creates the Tennessee Valley Authority to build dams to control the flow of the river. By 1934, all but one landowner has sold their property, the exception being eighty-year old matriarch Ella Garth(Jo Van Fleet). Chuck Glover(Montgomery Clift) is the third man sent to persuade, not force, her, her family and sharecroppers to vacate before the island is flooded by the closing of the dam's gates.
Directed by Elia Kazan, "Wild River" is a well-photographed, if obvious, movie that succeeds by capturing a time and a place without being consdescending towards the rural inhabitants, especially in its use of unadorned faces(Hey, isn't that Bruce Dern?), while also having meaning for the present day. As shown by the opening footage, a documentary approach would have definitely been the way to go. The underlying theme is progress and Glover sometimes forgets exactly where he is in helping not only the white people of the valley who dominate the social structure, but also the blacks who he attempts to hire at the same wages against the wishes of racist businessmen, bringing electricity to all, regardless. He also has to combat Ella and her plantation mentality. She is another force of nature that progress is meant to curb. Without any doubt this is Jo Van Fleet's movie and it suffers badly when she is offscreen which is often, ceding much of the story to a romantic subplot.
Elia Kazan uses color brilliantly in this film, giving it an autumnal tone and atmosphere that emphasizes its quiet sadness. Beautifully subdued and patiently paced, the movie's power settles in a few minutes after the closing credits have rolled. Montgomery Clift's performance is outstanding, and he shares great screen chemistry with Lee Remick. I was forced to watch this picture on Youtube, but its potency shone through despite the bad quality of the transfer.More
A good movie which went deeper into the subject matters than I expected. The DVD cover read like a cheap romance pulp novel and I was surprised when the movie addressed issues of racism and old age. Unfortunately, Montogomery Clift's downfall is more than apparent in this picture and his performance is wooden and stale and almost grotesque at times. One particular scene comes to mind, when Lee Remick (who does a fantastic job) delivers a powerful monologue and Clift more or less drops off of the screen, that is how bad he is. I have always been fond of him, sincing seeing him in Red River when I was a kid. Here and then, Kazan's talent shines through and some scenes are powerful compositions illustrating the relationship between man and nature and Kazan uses fog, light and the remoteness of Tennesse to great effect. The ending is a bit inconclusive but at least it is not some Hollywood serving of candy-colour cheesecake. All in all, a good movie which could have been great with a better cast, as Lee Remick cannot pull the weight alone.
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