"From the Terrace" is an example of a type of the melodrama that Hollywood turned out from the late 1950s to early 1970s. Films such as this and "Peyton Place" of 1957, "Home from the Hill" of 1960, "Breakfast at Tiffany's" of 1961, and others came close to being soap operas. They had the good and the bad, often in the same person or people. The stories were different and usually interesting enough to hold an audience's attention. But the plots were definitely more melodramatic than good drama or story telling. Romance was usually a part of all of them, and most often they were about struggles in marriage, infidelity, family breakups, etc. The usual stuff of soapers, under various genres.
This one is a lavish production by 20th Century Fox, based on a novel by John O'Hara. It hits on another theme that was common in the Mid- 20th century – after WW II and Korea. A man, striving to get ahead, becomes a workaholic and in the course neglects his wife. Not all wives are unfaithful to hubby, as is Joan Woodward's Mary St. John. And, not all men wind up unfaithful to their wives as does Paul Newman's David Eaton.
Having seen this film when it came out in 1960, as I recall, I might have seen Newman as the poor hero and good guy whose wife dumps on him. But, it's amazing how time and a little maturity yields some wisdom. Because the blame for the breakup of the marriage here is definitely Newman's Eaton. He knew the woman he married, and his ambition and drive led him to forget her. It doesn't excuse her carousing and infidelity, but it shows what led to that.
This film probably is viewed as very slow by 21st century audiences. It has some glamorous sets. The cast is very good, especially Joanne Woodward. She was one of the most talented actresses of the 20th century. Paul Newman was a fine leading man in a variety of genres, and a good entertainer. But his acting wasn't anything exceptional. The young Ina Balin won a Golden Globe as the most promising newcomer in 1960. She was in some good movies after this, but her star never quite reached to the heavens. She died at age 52 of a heart problem.
Others of the supporting cast are very good. Leon Ames has a fine role as Samuel Eaton and Myrna Loy has a small part as his wife, Martha Eaton. Elizabeth Allen is the flamboyant, brassy rich broad, Sage Rimmington. She plays the part well, and it's the only way to describe her. Patrick O'Neal is Mary St. John's lover on the side. Felix Aymer is very good as David Eaton's boss and the head of the blue blood, Wall Street, and wealthy MacHardie's, James Duncan MacHardie.
In an exchange with Eaton, MacHardie articulates a wise philosophy that had guided civilization for centuries. James MacHardie, "There are no grounds for divorce. And if you need my personal theology, infidelity is the lesser sin. I will do anything in my power to prevent a divorce." David Alfred Eaton, "Including condoning infidelity?" MacHardie, "I consider your word 'condoning' disrespectful. I condone none of it. The problem of infidelity is between husband and wife and God. The problem of divorce concerns the whole of civilization. What is marriage? An exchange of vows, a contract. It is my duty to myself and to any man who is working for me to demand that he honor all of his contracts. When you came here, you found out that we always honor our word, even if it means taking a loss."
Many of these films, of course, are about well-to-do if not outright filthy rich people. In this film, David and Mary live a high life style. One might wonder where they got the money in their early stage. But, they live and socialize in high society, and among the young rich – two different groups. I don't know how that may resonate with audiences in the 21st century, when most people seem to live as much for fun and entertainment as for family or other things. But back then, the folks who lived the high life were quite distant from the vast majority of people, and they often were the envy of the common man.
From the Terrace
Action / Drama / Romance
From the Terrace
Action / Drama / Romance
Alfred Eaton, an ambitious young executive, climbs to the top of New York's financial world as his marriage crumbles. At the brink of attaining his career goals, he is forced to choose between business success, married to the beautiful, but unfaithful Mary and starting over with his true love, the much younger Natalie.
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April 19, 2016 at 10:47 PM