by Brad Nelson
Frank would. Natalie wouldn’t. And Tony was quite discourteous. Let me first say, is it just me or does Tony Curtis typically wear too much eye makeup in his movies?
This is one of those good “B” movies. It’s the kind of movie that is the heart and soul of Hollywood. It contains big stars although I doubt it was a blockbuster hit at the time. But it’s the basic meat-and-potatoes of film history.
One can reject Kings Go Forth as a sometimes mediocre picture, but there’s a romantic, historic, and ethnographic Hollywood-star-quality about this picture that is hard to find in today’s films. It’s memorable for things other than the quality of the actual movie. It’s Sinatra! It’s Natalie Wood! It’s Tony Curtis! There is the ambiance of true escapist entertainment, in glorious black-and-white.
I actually found this to be a terrific picture. I’m not a big fan of Tony Curtis. I think he was terrific in Operation Petticoat and Spartacus, but otherwise he sort of annoys me, particularly in the romantic comedies.
But in Kings Go Forth, Curtis plays a wonderful cad. It’s not an Oscar-winning caliber performance, but it’s good enough for this movie. And I just happen to like Frank Sinatra. And I have respect for the naturalness he brings to the screen. His daughter said that his least favorite things to hear were “The bar is closed” and “Take 2.” Frank liked the spontaneity of doing it on the first take. And he’s very natural-looking in this movie. It’s just him. Not a song to be found. And yet he makes it work.
The story is pretty simple. In fact, it could have and should have been more complex. If it had been, this truly would have been a more memorable movie. Basically, Frank and Tony fall for the same girl while soldiering in France in WWII. The plot twist (and stop reading here if you don’t want to know, although it’s really not that big of a deal) is that Natalie Wood’s father is black. (He’s now deceased.)
What could have been a much larger morality play is condensed down into just a few scenes where Frank, at first a bit repulsed, soon comes around and is knocking at Natalie’s door again. And soon he, Natalie, and Tony go out on the town together where Natalie quickly finds she would…with Tony. Soon those two become a couple and Frank turns into just the Secretary of the Board.
What anchors this film is Frank’s believable and steady presence and the wonderful dialogue he’s given. It’s less-is-more Clint Eastwoodian or John Waynian. Very nice. Very refreshing from the superficial blather of most of today’s films. Kings Go Forth is the kind of old movie that wraps around you like a blanket. It’s the warm glow of vintage. This is one worth watching. Not everything makes perfect sense. But there’s enough that does. I give it 2-3/4 fire-for-effects out of 5. • (890 views)