Sunday, 10 September 2017

The Pride and the Passion (1957)

The Pride and the Passion is a 1957 film from Stanley Kramer. It is set in French-occupied Spain during the Napoleonic Wars and concerns an enormous siege canon left abandoned by the Spanish army in their defeat. Locating its whereabouts, a group of Spanish guerrillas and a British naval officer commit to trekking 1,000km across Spain to use it to recapture the fortified town of Avila before handing it over to the British to continue the fight against Napoleon's forces. 

Anyone who may have initially missed the Freudian implication of watching Cary Grant and Frank Sinatra lug an enormous canon in Sophia Loren's wake will have almost certainly have cottoned on to it by the time Loren performs a very sexy flamenco dance - because by that stage any red blooded male in the audience will have developed a giant canon of their own. I know I did.

Based on Hornblower author CS Forester's 1933 novel The Gun (an undeniably bland title but really is The Pride and the Passion any better? It sounds less like an actual film title and more like a strap line. The implication is, I guess, that Grant's British naval officer is proud whereas Sinatra and Loren's Spanish guerrillas are passionate, being Latin and all) Stanley Kramer's 1957 epic is about as thrilling as you would expect from a two hour six minute film which concerns one hour fifty five of its run time with the logistics of getting a canon across Spain. For the audience, much like the protagonists, it's a bit of a dry and thankless slog. However, I found the rich colour palette, the use of literally thousands of extras, and its three stars appealing enough to forgive The Pride and the Passion it's mistakes. 

Whether you enjoy it or not I guess depends on if you can accept Cary Grant as a British naval hero (yes, Grant was a British, and not only that, but he hailed from Bristol which has a fine naval tradition, but by this stage in his career he was just too Americanised to truly convince and he seems less comfortable in period swashbuckling romps than he does in urbane contemporary settings) and Frank Sinatra as a Spanish freedom fighter. Adopting a Spanish 'accent', Sinatra isn't that bad really, but every time he has to say the word 'you' (which is a heck of a lot by the way) I did keep thinking of that perceived slight Woody Allen had in Annie Hall, when he felt sure someone said to him 'No, Jew?' instead of 'No, d'you?'

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