This week’s mystery movie was the 1960 MGM film “Home From the Hill,” with Robert Mitchum, Eleanor Parker, George Peppard, George Hamilton, Everett Sloane, Luana Patten, Anne Seymour, Constance Force, Ken Renard and Ray Teal.
Screenplay by Harriet Frank Jr. and Irving Ravetch from the novel by William Humphrey. Music by Bronislau Kaper, orchestra conducted by Charles Wolcott. Photography by Milton Krasner, in CinemaScope and Metrocolor.
Art direction by George W. Davis and Preston Ames, set decorations by Henry Grace and Robert Priestley, special effects by Robert R. Hoag, color consultant Charles K. Hagedon, assistant director William McGarry. Edited by Harold F. Kress, recording supervisor Franklin Milton, costumes by Walter Plunkett, hairstyles by Sydney Guilaroff, makeup by William Tuttle.
Photographic lenses by Panavision.
Produced by Edmund Grainger. Directed by Vincente Minnelli. A Sol. C. Siegel production.
The mystery movies are a process of discovery for me. I only do films I don’t know and “Home From the Hill” was an especially rewarding find in the Daily Mirror vault. I recorded it from TCM yeas ago and in introducing the movie, the late Robert Osborne calls it one of Robert Mitchum’s most underrated films. And he was right. (Osborne says that the film was intended for Clark Gable, who refused to work for MGM after the unceremonious end to his career there).
The action unfolds in a small Texas town that is a blend of the South and the West, and the movie has elements of both, like “Giant” meets “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.”
The plot starts simmering in the opening scene as wealthy, handsome Captain Wade Hunnicutt (Robert Mitchum) gets shot by a jealous husband, setting the theme for picture. Hunnicutt has been poaching on lots of married women in town (cheating on Eleanor Parker? Really?), giving him unacknowledged son Rafe Copley (George Peppard) who takes after his father, and his “mama’s boy” offspring, Theron (George Hamilton), whom Hunnicutt wants to make into a man by giving him a rifle, a hunting dog and sending him into the wild to kill animals. Theron also starts courting one of the local ladies (Luana Patten), with advice from his half brother Rafe. George Hamilton as a man who’s awkward, shy and uncomfortable around women? Well, it is a stretch.
And no, it does not end well for the philandering Captain Hunnicutt.
The credits are heavy with old, experienced pros, starting with director Vincente Minnelli. Then there’s the script by the husband and wife team of Harriet Frank Jr. and Irving Ravetch, who had previously written “The Long, Hot Summer” and “The Sound and the Fury” and would go on to write “Hud,” “Hombre” and “Norma Rae.” Bronislau Kaper doesn’t have the name recognition of film composers such as Elmer Bernstein or Miklos Rozsa or Franz Waxman, but he does a fine job here. Also worthy of note is the art direction by George W. Davis and Preston Ames and set decorations by Henry Grace and Robert Priestley, who give Hunnicutt what may be the best mancave in film: rifles, dead animals, red leather and hunting dogs.
My biggest complaint about the film is that everyone in the cast has their own version of a Southern/Texas accent. Hollywood’s Southern accents drive me crazy and Hollywood’s Texas accents aren’t much better. If you are a stickler for that sort of accuracy, then “Home From the Hill” will grate on your ears for its entire 150 minutes. It is a long movie.
ps. Google image search made this a difficult mystery movie because there are screen caps all over the Internet.
I picked this movie based on its reviews in Motion Picture Daily and Film Bulletin.
Stories about life in a typical small town in America have a strong and continuing fascination for audiences, which should be thoroughly pleased with this new one called “Home From the Hill.” It comes like many others of the genre from a best-selling book; William Humphrey was the author, and the novel, his first, was widely praised by literary critics.
Unlike other films examining small town existence, “Home From the Hill” does not attempt to present a cross-section picture of all the inhabitants, but concentrates instead on one family. Also, unlike some others, (illegible) not for a welcome change emphasize sex and scandal. There are (illegible) lapses on the part of the protagonists to be sure, but they are never depicted for merely sensational effect.
Sprawling, overlong tale of Texas family has strong dramatic points. Mitchum heads cast. C’Scope, color.
William Humphrey’s critically acclaimed best-seller about the public and private tragedies surrounding members of a Texas dynasty comes to the screen a colorful, sprawling, overlong tale boasting among its many assets, a collection of topnotch performances, mood-catching, on-location backgrounds and a number of highly effective dramatic moments. Unfortunately, the overall product never quite becomes the emotional powerhouse its talented creators had in mind. It is definitely not another “Giant.” The plot of the MGM Metrocolor, CinemaScope release is a complex one and the characters fascinating people, but director Vincente Minnelli fails to bring off its cumulative effect. The tempo is erratic, shifting from scenes of power to languid, drawn-out sequences, and there are moments when the central characters struggle to make high tragedy out of unjustifiable situations. Much of the blame must fall on scripters Harriet Frank Jr. and Irving Ravetch, who failed to create flesh-and-blood characters, and Minnelli would have helped the pace by trimming some of the film’s excessive 150 minutes.
Bosley Crowther, writing in the New York Times (March 4, 1960) did not approve of such goings-on:
There must be a point lurking somewhere in MGM’s “Home From the Hill,” a giant film in CinemaScope and color that came to the Music Hall yesterday. But where it is centered precisely in the long, rambling tale that is told, or what thought it is meant to focus, entirely eludes this reviewer.
At the start, it appears that the drama is going to turn around a big, bruising brute of a Texan who shocks his wife and his 17-year-old son and maintains a lurid reputation as the mightiest hunter and Lothario in town. A young husband tries, indeed, to shoot him in the first few minutes of the film and a companion remarks with what seems foresight, “It’s gonna be open season on you as long as you go poaching on the preserves of love.”
But soon attention is shifted to the confusions of the son and the old man’s endeavors to train him to be a mighty hunter too — of game….
… Characters, motivations and even the lines of the plot are thoroughly loose and apparently set down without purpose other than to make for some sordid, violent sequences. A few of these are striking such as the boar hunt. But for the most part, the whole thing is aimless, tedious and in conspicuously doubtful taste. Under Vincente Minnelli’s direction, it is garishly overplayed.
For Monday, we have a mystery gentleman. And, as usual, he does not approve of such goings-on. Our leading lady has been cropped out due to her total lack of mysteriousness. She will appear Friday.
Update: This is Ken Renard in the uncropped image with Eleanor Parker.
For Tuesday, we have a mystery woman. And for a change, she approves of such goings-on.
Update: This is Hilda Haynes.
Brain Trust roll call: Jenny M. (mystery movie, Monday’s mystery guest and mystery leading lady’s arm).
For “Hm Wednesday,” we have this mystery woman. And would you believe it? She does not approve of such goings-on. Her companion has been cropped out due to insufficient mysteriousness. He will appear on Friday.
Update: This is uncropped image of Luana Patten and George Peppard.
Brain Trust roll call: Howard Mandelbaum (mystery movie and both mystery guests), Jenny M. (Tuesday’s mystery woman) and Sylvia E. (mystery movie’s location).
For “Aha Thursday,” we have this somewhat mysterious gent, and of all the people in our mystery movie who do not approve of such goings-on, he disapproves the most. He absolutely disapproves of these goings-on.
Update: This is Everett Sloane.
No, this mystery doctor doesn’t approve of such goings-on either.
Update: This is Ray Teal.
These mystery fellows have just the right amount of “Aha” for a Thursday.
Update: From the left – Denver Pyle, Stuart Randall, Dan Sheridan, Orville Sherman and Guinn “Big Boy” Williams.
Brain Trust roll call: Howard Mandelbaum (Wednesday’s mystery woman) and Mary Mallory (mystery movie, Tuesday’s and Wednesday’s mystery women and both mystery arms).
For Friday, we have two mystery men.
Update: George Peppard, who wears an unbuttoned shirt for most of the film, and George Hamilton.
Here’s a better look at mystery guest No. 2.
Update: This is George Hamilton.
And we have our mystery leading lady.
Update: This is Eleanor Parker in the closing scenes of the film with the Texas-sized tombstone of Wade Hunnicutt.
And here is our mystery star in what may be the best mancave on film: rifles, red leather and animal heads on the walls. The horseshoe brackets are a particularly good touch.
Update: And Robert Mitchum in Wade Hunnicutt’s mancave.
Brain Trust roll call: Floyd Thursby (mystery movie, Thursday’s mysterious angry father, mystery doctor and mystery cowboy No. 5), Howard Mandelbaum (Wednesday’s mystery hand and all of Thursday’s mystery guests), Michael Ryerson (mystery movie and all mystery guests), Mary Mallory (all of Thursday’s mystery guests), David Inman (mystery movie and Thursday’s mystery angry father), B.J. Merholz (mystery movie), Benito (Thursday’s mysterious angry father), Sylvia E. (mystery movie and Monday’s Tuesday’s and Wednesday’s mystery guests, various mystery hands, Thursday’s mysterious angry father, mystery doctor and mystery cowboy No. 1), L.C. (mystery movie and mystery cast), Thom and Megan (mystery movie and Monday’s and Wednesday’s mystery guests, Thursday’s mysterious angry father, mystery doctor and mystery cowboy No. 1) and Tucson Barbara (mystery movie and Monday’s, Tuesday’s and Wednesday’s mystery guests, Thursday’s mysterious angry father and mystery doctor and mystery cowboy No. 1).