Updated Rankings Hellís Heroes
Geez, another version of 3 Godfathers? I have yet to like any version of this story, unless you count 3 Bad Men or Three Men and a Baby, and if you canít even reach the bar of Three Men and a Baby, your source material may be flawed. 68 minutes isnít much time for Wyler to put a spin on it. I like the final scene, but the rest is like the rough outline of a film I wouldnít want to see completed.A House Divided
(1931)★ ★ ★ - Okay
In my review of Hell's Heroes above, I wrote, "I'm curious to see how long into the sound era it takes him to return to strong visual sense he displayed at the end of the silent era." A House Divided put an immediate end to my curiosity, showing Wyler back in fine form.
I watched the two films back-to-back and agree, the difference is immediately noticeable. This is the Wyler I was looking for, a melodrama told like a down and dirty horror film. Walter Huston is too broad, but I love the actor so much and he hints at years of relentless toil that hardened him into this cartoon villain. (The only time heís been meaner is Kongo, where he plays a very similar character and starts out where this film eventually takes him.)These Three
(1936)★ ★ ★ - Okay
Iíve seen the play The Childrenís Hour and Wylerís 1961 version of this story, which is why I waited so long to catch up with this adaptation. Despite the star power of Miriam Hopkins, Merle Oberon and Joel McCrea, I didnít see how the story could work without the lesbianism. The answer is by focusing more on the destruction caused by the lie than the lie itself.
This version felt very rushed, making Bonita Granvilleís devil child a one-dimensional terror. (It could be that Iíve seen her play the shrill, obnoxious, brat in too many movies that followed this one.) Hopkins is hit and miss, but Wyler sees something more behind her eyes and makes sure the camera is always there for her. I also like seeing Walter Brennan making the most of these early-career, brief appearances.Carrie
(1952)★ ★ Ĺ
My lack of interest in this romantic melodrama can be attributed to my lack of interest in the cast. Jennifer Jones is an uninteresting version of Jean Simmons and Laurence Olivier is a less interesting version of every other leading man of the time. (This isnít limited to posh equals like Cary Grant, but extends down to Gary Cooper, Tyrone Power and Dana Andrews, all of whom Iíd rather watch than Olivier.) Wylerís touch is to make the film more and more crushingly downbeat until I started to wonder if Alejandro GonzŠlez IŮŠrritu was around at the time.The Liberation of L.B. Jones
(1970)★ ★ ★ - Okay
Wylerís complete filmography is one of the most eclectic, and there isnít even a clear trajectory to his final films. This portrait of the absolute refusal to accept interracial romance is coated in layers of anger that recall The Collector and Carrie, but the two films before this were light and happy romances. Even the interracial couple at the center is a cheating wife and a self-hating, racist cop who looks for similar-minded individuals when trouble starts. Itís a lot to take on and perhaps a younger master couldíve made it all mean something instead of just bowing our heads in shame.