Wednesday, August 6, 2014
'East of the River' DVD: John Garfield Does 'Rich Man. Poor Man'
Warner Archive including the 1940 noir film "East of the River" in a recent trickle of DVD releases of John Garfield movies provides a chance to see that Hollywood royalty at his tough guy best. The strong vibe of the novel (and subsequent uber-classic '70s mini-series) "Rich Man, Poor Man" is a wonderful bonus.
We meet Garfield's Joe Lorenzo when he is an arrogant young punk, whom Mama Lorenzo barely (and temporarily) rescues from the consequences of his evil ways. Conversely, brother Nick quickly gets the message and mends his ways in a manner that a clever montage depicts.
We then meet the boys as young men; Ex-con Joe returns home for reasons that include attending the college graduation of honors student Nick. Joe bringing along his best gal Laurie leads to complications that include her fully embracing the strong work ethic and wholesome lifestyle that Italian restaurant owner Mama and upwardly mobile Nick represent.
Meanwhile, the shiftless Joe soon finds himself in hot water regarding his effort to obtain justice to which he feels an entitlement. This bad behavior and related hostility strain his relationships with Mama and the reformed Laurie.
Laurie falling for Nick further complicates things and notches the hostility of Nick up a level. His response threatens both the life of the new relationship and that of Laurie herself.
Archive notes on the back cover of the DVD that the training that prepares Garfield for the role includes his growing up "rough" in the inner city. This is about as "method" as it gets, and it pays off in spades in this case.
Aside from the spot-on casting in every role, "East" is also awesome for literally not having a dull moment and for including plenty of surprises in this oft-told tale of a man avoidably going wrong, the effort of a good woman to reform him, brothers turning out to be vastly different types of men, and the final outcome delivering (sometimes harsh) justice.
"East" additionally is awesome for presenting themes that are relevant today; many parents still struggle to raise their kids right, many families have both a "golden boy (or girl)" and a bum, and those who engage in nefarious activity often still receive ultimate justice.
Anyone with questions or comments regarding "East" is welcome to email me; you can also connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.