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All The Fine Young Cannibals
USA 1960
Directed by Michael Anderson
Running time 1960 minutes
Rated PG

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
1 stars


Although thematically belonging in the category of contemporary Southern melodramas like Cat On A Hot Tin Roof and The Long, Hot Summer that were so popular in the 1950s All the Fine Young Cannibals is an embarrassingly gauche member of the family that manages to get so much wrong so often it is almost funny.

Playing the Paul Newman part is Robert Wagner as Chad, the rebellious son of a Texas preacher who has just died.  He’s in love with Sarah (Natalie Wood, Wagner's real life wife) who insists on being called Salomé. When she becomes pregnant to him after their first bonk she runs away to avoid becoming poor white trash and ends up marrying rich kid, Tony (George Hamilton), who in a triumph of ignorant bliss doesn’t realize that he’s not the father.  Chad, who happens to be a mean trumpet player, takes under his wing a black blues singer (Pearl Bailey) who is drinking herself to death and not only becomes a star in the New York but ends up marrying Tony’s bratty sister (Susan Kohner) who just happens to look like Sarah/Salomé.  Everything goes pear-shaped but somehow turns alright in the end.

It is impossible to enumerate all the things this film gets wrong. From Wagner’s blues trumpet wunderkind (at least Kirk Douglas looked like he was playing his instrument in Young Man With A Horn) to Wood’s here-today-gone-tomorrow Texas accent to the studio-built backwoods exteriors and the tenuous plot, the film is never remotely convincing and often jaw-droppingly soap-opera-ishly ham-fisted.  What it does have going for it is a nice suite of Pearl Bailey numbers midway through the proceedings  but that’s all except perhaps some perverse humour value.

 

 

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