The Young Lions

TheYoungLionsSuggested by Brad Nelson • The story of three soldiers: an apolitical German (Marlon Brando) caught up in a conflict he doesn’t understand, a Jewish American (Montgomery Clift) forced to suffer anti-Semitism from his fellow servicemen, and a sophisticated coward (Dean Martin) forced into war against his will.
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8 Responses to The Young Lions

  1. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    I got the idea for seeing this movie from a biography I’m reading on Frank Sinatra. I did a double-take when I read that the movie starred both Marlon Brando and Dean Martin. I had to see how any movie could make that combination work.

    This is ostensibly a story about three soldiers. And it is, although Dean’s story is nowhere near as central to that of Brando and Clift. Both Brando and Clift are renowned “method” actors. And I have no idea what the method is…I think it includes a bit of over-acting because both do it, but Brando gets away with it better.

    In fact, his story is the best of the three and the film would have been better to tighten its focus a little. As much as they try to shoehorn Montgomery Clift in as the Jew who is discriminated against, he’s an odd fellow in this film. I don’t know what to call it but odd. I was never a Clift fan until I saw him in “Red River” with John Wayne. I think it’s Clift at his best in that film. But what worked for him ten years earlier doesn’t seem to work for him now. He just seems wooden and stilted. At times he burrows down to a kind of uncomfortable realism. But there’s still something very affected about it.

    Dean is Dean…except, he’s not really Dean. He’s not allowed to be Dean. I think at the very start of the movie he does one number and then that’s it. Many don’t consider Dean much of an actor, but he was by far the more natural of all three stars.

    But Brando has by far the better storyline. The other storylines failed to capture much. They seemed somewhat artless. But the Brando storyline packs in some interesting situations and moments.

    These three storylines kinda-sorta intersect, but it’s a bit forced. I’m guessing this is another case where the novel was better…but the novel wouldn’t have had Brando, and I’d consider this a must-see for Brando fans. He’s everyone’s favorite Nazi.

  2. Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

    I’m guessing this is another case where the novel was better

    Your guess is correct. I read the book many years ago and naturally the characters are more developed and believable.

    I thought Clift was lousy in this movie, but I have never been a fan.

    In my opinion Brando should have dropped the German accent and spoken proper English. I thought Maximilian was the best actor in this film.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      I thought Clift was lousy in this movie, but I have never been a fan.

      I was trying to be carefully objective in my review, Mr. Kung. But “lousy” is sort of what was in the back of my mind as well. Something just seemed out of place. He seemed a bit zombie-ish.

      Yeah, others have commented about Brando’s accent, some saying that it came and went at times. Maybe Meryl Streep has raised the bar for what we expect regarding accents. But maybe putting some time into doing a good one is the way to go. I’m sure that’s difficult because Brando’s voice inflections and such are much of what he’s about. I would imagine trying to throw an accent on top makes acting even more difficult. Perhaps, as you said, dropping the accent entirely was the thing to do.

      But things such as that I can easily let slide. Clift needed to trim his eyebrows or something. It was like looking under a girl’s skirt. Dean needed to sing at least one more song. For the movie, I would have cut a lot of Clift and delved more into that relationship Our Favorite Movie Nazi was having with the French girl. Probably the best scene was when they first met and she’s two hours late showing up for their double date and then flips Brando all kinds of crap about being a Nazi. You wonder if he’s going to shoot her. Great stuff.

      I also read that Brando’s character in the book starts out as being good and then slowly turns into a monster because of being a Nazi. In the film, this goes in reverse. It’s Brando, so I think it works fine the way they did it.

      Yes, I agree that Schell was terrific…as was his “wife,” played by May Britt (who wasn’t hard on the eyes either. Heil Hitler, baby.) Lee Van Cleef has a minor roll, as does Sergeant Schultz. Hope Lange was in there as well.

      • Timothy Lane says:

        Sergeant Schultz was played by John Banner. As I mentioned in my review of 36 Hours, he previewed the Schultz role there as a Home Army sergeant who helps the hero and the girl escape.

      • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

        I also read that Brando’s character in the book starts out as being good and then slowly turns into a monster because of being a Nazi.

        As I recall, it was more that he became a completely burnt out case.

        In the movie I recall he was shot by Martin or Clift. In the book he was walking in the woods and noticed the racket Clift was making which he found typically American and very irritating. And instead of being shot the Americans threw hand grenades at him. As he lay dying he again thought that this was typically American. No subtlety, no skill, no training. Perhaps the implication was, “we have been defeated by a bunch of no talent rubes who have no idea how to fight with economy.”

        • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

          Yep, Dean Martin shot him in sort of a twist of irony. It was, from what we could see, the first real action by Martin in the war…and it was to put Brando out of his misery. The way the scene was shot, we aren’t sure if Brando was surrendering or offering himself up as a target. It seemed to be a little of both.

          To some extent, Germany was defeated by “a bunch of no-talent rubes.” I mean, compared to the SS and other aspects of the German command, were the Allies ever as committed or disciplined? And looking at some of the German weapons, did the Allies have much that was technically as good?

          Yes, we had some good toys too. But from what I understand, what we had was that we had a *lot* of whatever we produced. And some of it was obviously inferior and this inferiority, to some extent, seemed to be offset by quantity. On the other hand — again, from what I understand — the superior German equipment tended to be cranky and hard to repair. No weapon is superior if in the long run it isn’t working much of the time.

          Perhaps more than anything, the Germans committed suicide when they attacked Russia, got bogged own, and instead of consolidating what they had and re-planning based on the reality of the situation, reality itself was thrown out. In this movie Brando (or one of the officers) is noting to the other officers that many of the resources that would normal go to Africa were being diverted to Stalingrad.

          I don’t know all the ins and outs of the war strategy on the Eastern front, but taking the Suez Canal would have likely been much more useful than a victory in Stalingrad…or Moscow, for that matter.

          On the other hand, Patton and his men showed that they were every bit the match for the Germans, at least in my opinion. As did the Allied (mostly British, of course) pilots in the Battle of Britain.

          • Timothy Lane says:

            Actually, I’m not sure how much good the Suez Canal would have been, given that the Mediterranean was unavailable for through-shipping for a year or two anyway, and the Allies survived. Taking the Kirkuk oil fields and gaining access to the Persian oil would have been much more useful, but also much more difficult — much like getting Grozny and especially Baku in the Caucasus.

        • Timothy Lane says:

          This was the common German complaint — that they were defeated by inferior Anglo-Americans and Russians who relied on massive material superiority. This had some truth to it, though probably not as much as they claimed. (One book I have notes that the 7th Army was able to push the Germans back in the rugged Vosges even without the air support and massive artillery available elsehwere on the front.)

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