ALL FALL DOWN (1962) B/W widescreen 110m dir: John Frankenheimer
w/Eva Marie Saint, Warren Beatty, Karl Malden, Angela Lansbury, Brandon de Wilde, Constance Ford, Barbara Baxley, Evans Evans, Madame Spivy, Albert Paulsen, Paul Bryar, Robert Sorrells
From Variety's contemporary review of the film: "Within John Houseman's production there are some truly memorable passages --- moments and scenes of great pith, poignance, truth, and sensitivity. How disheartening it is, then, that the sum total is an artfully produced, cinematically rich, historically noteworthy, dramatically uneven near-miss.
"A sixteen-year-old boy (Brandon de Wilde), who idolizes his emotionally unstable older brother (Beatty), is the pivotal figure in William Inge's screenplay based on James Leo Herlihy's novel. The important issue is that the adolescent matures into a decent young man. But his path to maturity is threatened by his adulation for his brother, a selfish, irrational free spirit who survives on odd jobs and loose women. When the older boy proceeds to destroy a young spinster (Eva Marie Saint), whom de Wilde adores in a hopeless, adolescent fashion, the latter has his moment of reckoning.
" Angela Lansbury and Karl Malden, as the tragicomic elders, create indelible, dimensional, and deeply affecting people."
From the Film Comment magazine website (www.filmcomment.com), this article about the film by Steven Mears:
"In such works as Picnic and Bus Stop, William Inge explored the frustrations roiling beneath placid Midwestern domesticity, and in James Leo Herlihy’s novel, filmed in 1962 by John Frankenheimer, he found a vessel suited to his preoccupations. Warren Beatty stars as Berry-Berry, and if the name evokes a fatal paucity of nutrition (the affliction 'beriberi' is caused by Vitamin B1 deficiency), that serves as an able account of the character and his influence: he infects and depletes everyone with whom he comes into contact.
"Like many Inge personages, particularly Picnic's Hal (played by William Holden in the 1955 film adaptation), Berry-Berry barnstorms through the heartland, igniting sexually frustrated females of all ages and leaving them sated but unfulfilled. He’s idolized by his younger brother Clint (professional hero-worshiper Brandon de Wilde, a decade past Shane but still a year away from Hud). And he’s the Oedipal fixation of mother Annabel, played by Angela Lansbury in the first of two galvanizing 1962 portraits of toxic matriarchy for Frankenheimer, the other being her ruthless Soviet agent in Manchurian Candidate.
"Lansbury’s plummy demeanor often belies a calculating nature, and that’s certainly the case with her Annabel, who ostensibly lives to nurture her children but takes every opportunity to needle them for petty violations (dangling their feet out of bed when they sleep), and belittle their high-minded, hard-drinking father Ralph (Karl Malden, who manages to appear both sonorous and ineffectual). Berry-Berry’s return home and passionate affair with houseguest Echo (Eva Marie Saint) confronts Anabel with the unwholesome essence of her feelings for her eldest son, and the lengths to which she’ll go to retain supremacy in her domicile. The baseness of Annabel’s character is indicated in a heartbreaking sequence when Ralph brings home three elderly vagrants on Christmas Eve --- 'three kings.' Once they’ve been feted with liquor, Annabel offers them ten dollars apiece in place of the lodgings and good cheer promised by Ralph, to prove to her husband that avarice trumps fellowship. All three instantly accept.
"Lansbury began playing mothers far above her actual age with the 1960 stage production of A Taste of Honey (in which 'daughter' Joan Plowright was a mere four years younger) and followed that with her stint as Elvis’s parent in Blue Hawaii (a performance she renounces). When filming All Fall Down, Lansbury was actually a year younger than Saint, cast as her best friend’s daughter. But neither the age discrepancy nor the fundamental Midwesterness of the role (the word 'oodles' creeps into her conversation) prevents the actress from making a meal of Inge’s histrionic screenplay --- especially when, her back turned to Ralph, she acknowledges that seeing Berry-Berry in love, even with a 'perfectly nice girl,' causes her pain. Her face contorted with impure longing, she offers no euphemisms or explanations --- she simply, shockingly confides her envy of her son’s lover to her mystified husband.
"Beatty, who made his film debut the year before in the Inge-scripted Splendor in the Grass, is used sparingly here; Berry-Berry is more catalyst than protagonist. Inge repurposes themes that course throughout his plays: parochial unrest (The Dark at the Top of the Stairs), sexual repression (Picnic), and unhealthy intergenerational desire (Come Back, Little Sheba). Only now they can all be found in a single character, brought to combustible life by Lansbury at the peak of her powers. And when finally she howls 'I don’t care what he’s done --- I'll love him forever!" the full weight of the title comes crashing down and no one is left standing."