Saturday, January 19, 2013

About 'Lonely Are the Brave'

When I booked “Lonely Are the Brave” to play at the Biograph Theatre in the summer of 1980, I had probably seen it before on television only. While I don’t remember when I first saw it, I do remember that when it played at the Biograph most of the regulars hadn’t seen it before. So that made presenting it all the more fun.

Over the years since then, with subsequent viewings, it has slowly grown to be one of my favorites; it has crept into my personal Top 10. Here are the bare-bones details:

“Lonely Are the Brave” (1962): B&W. 107 minutes. Directed by David Miller. Screenplay: Dalton Trumbo. Score: Jerry Goldsmith. Cast: Kirk Douglas, Walter Matthau, Gena Rowlands, George Kennedy, Carroll O’Connor. Note: The story is set in what were then current times. To help his fellow Korean War vet best friend, a free-spirited cowboy on horseback rides into a small town in New Mexico, to fling himself recklessly at the hobbling effects of modernity’s demands … then he tries desperately to make a seemingly impossible escape.

To celebrate the Biograph’s 40th anniversary in February of 2012, I had the pleasure of being a part of presenting “Lonely” to an audience again, as the James River Film Society paired it with “Breathless” and showed the double feature as a fundraiser. Once again it was worth noting how many in attendance said they hadn’t seen it before.
If you ask the 96-year-old star of “Lonely” what has been his all-time favorite Kirk Douglas movie, Douglas would probably still say, “It's my baby.” He was the one who read the Edward Abbey novel, "The Brave Cowboy," hired Trumbo to write the screenplay and then assembled the production's cast and crew. Douglas intended to make it a modern western crafted for art house release. He was trying to make a lean Hollywood answer to European art films, like those of the French New Wave. 

Instead, the studio, Universal, slated the movie for general release and promoted it as an action film. So, like some other noteworthy film classics, “Lonely” flopped in its original first-run release.  

Below are links to a seven-part 2002 interview with Douglas on YouTube, during which he talks about making the movie. Each part is short, two or three minutes. If you haven't seen the movie yet, note there's a spoiler alert for a bit of info that is in Part Five.

Part One
Part Two
Part Three
Part Four
Part Five (spoiler alert)
Part Six
Part Seven 

Bonus! Here's a link to see the entire movie on YouTube.


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