Amazon Update No. 4: “A Walk in the Spring Rain”

October 15, 2014

INGRID BERGMAN and ANTHONY QUINN

INGRID BERGMAN and ANTHONY QUINN

Ingrid Bergman and Anthony Quinn should have quit while they were behind. These two giants of the screen appeared together in the 1964 film The Visit, and it was a disaster. We didn’t know that before we watched their next joint venture, A Walk in the Spring Rain, released in 1970. This film, based on a novel by the same name by Rachel Maddux, has the disadvantage of never making sense.

Bergman plays Libby Meredith, a New York City woman whose husband, Roger (Fritz Weaver) is a college professor. Roger is under pressure to publish an academic work, so he takes a sabbatical, and the couple repair to a rented house in rural Tennessee where Roger plans to hold forth on some aspect of the Constitution of the United States. This move occurs while the Merediths are in the midst of a disagreement with their married daughter, Ellen (Katharine Crawford), who wants to attend law school but isn’t getting either encouragement or any offer of material assistance from her parents. The film doesn’t help us understand the couple’s chilly response to their daughter’s ambition. The rental house is overseen by a local man, Will Cade (Quinn), who immediately takes a shine to Libby and makes no attempt to hide it. He pursues her right under Roger’s nose until she succumbs. The problem is that it is not clear why she succumbs. We had the feeling that we were supposed to think she was bored with a husband who was absorbed in his academic career, but Roger is portrayed in the film as being attentive and even playful with her.

INGRID BERGMAN and FRITZ WEAVER

INGRID BERGMAN and FRITZ WEAVER

It also strains belief that Libby and Will carry on this affair while Roger is not only unaware of it but happily lets his wife go off on jaunts with this earthy guy who is always leering at her and making suggestive remarks. Not everyone is as blind as Roger, though, and the relationship between Libby and Will eventually explodes in lethal violence. Even after that, the pair are able to keep their liaison a secret from Roger. In movies and plays about infidelity, I like to have some sympathy for the transgressors, and that’s usually because I have no sympathy for the offended partner. But this story gives me no reason to dislike Roger or even Will’s eccentric spouse, Ann, played by Virginia Gregg. On the other hand, Quinn doesn’t come across as attractive or endearing — although I think director Guy Green was going for that — but rather as a predator who has no regard for anything but his own desires.

INGRID BERGMAN and ANTHONY QUINN

INGRID BERGMAN and ANTHONY QUINN

This movie was filmed in Tennessee and it’s premiere was held in Knoxville. Ingrid Bergman sat next to Rachel Maddux during the screening. The TCM web site quotes from Bergman’s autobiography her account of this event: “(A)ll through the film she was saying to me, ‘What is this?…What happened to the scene when she?…This isn’t meant to be here…this is later…Haven’t they understood that?’ …I didn’t know what I could do to help her. The book had been so well written, full of the country and the true feelings of a woman in this situation…and now poor Rachel Maddux had seen her book go down the drain. So she went to the ladies’ room and cried. I went after her and tried to comfort her…The film had been a good try. We’d started off with such high hopes. I thought maybe we could do a film with that elusive feeling which Brief Encounter [1945] had. We’d worked hard. We’d done our best and at the end of it we’d made Rachel Maddux cry.”

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2 Responses to “Amazon Update No. 4: “A Walk in the Spring Rain””

  1. shoreacres Says:

    This is so interesting. It’s not the film that intrigues me, as much as the experience of Bergman and Maddux at the screening. I have a friend who often ponders the the relationship between books and film: especially, the question of which books make for good movies and which don’t. I know she’ll be intrigued by this.

    • charlespaolino Says:

      Yes, I’ve always been interested in that subject. I have never understood why filmmakers think they know better how to tell a story than the author did. For example, there have been several movie versions of Victor Hugo’s novel known in English as “The Hunchback of Notre Dame,” but all of them distort the story told in the book — and pretty much miss the point of the book. The recent movie “Saving Mister Banks” was on this topic. It portrayed the conflict between Walt Disney and Pamela Travers over the film version of her novel “Mary Poppins.” I suppose it’s appropriate in a wry sort of way that “Saving Mr. Banks” is somewhat indifferent to historical accuracy.

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