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The Iceman Cometh Movie Review

american march ryan marvin

The idea for the American Film Theatre was laudable: the very best American plays, interpreted by the very best American actors, and helmed by the very best American directors. Season tickets would be sold in advance to subscribers who presumably cared about the preservation of American theatrical classics on film… whoa, let me stop right there. It sounds rather elitist, doesn't it? And PAY for eight movies all at once? (Well, okay, there WAS a special rate for students.) The ordering information said that only subscribers would ever be able to see these movies, which seems to be true, because The Iceman Cometh, the personal favorite of its director John Frankenheimer, didn't appear to turn up anywhere after its original screenings in 1973. Two-thirds of its cast members are now deceased and it did provide Frederic March, Robert Ryan, and Martyn Green with fitting swan songs to their long careers. There are many memorable moments in this ensemble piece, but it also gave this audience member my one and only movie hangover. It's 17 minutes LONGER than Gone with the Wind, and it all takes place in one bar where the mostly male patrons discuss their need for illusions. For example, Harry Hope (March) can't leave the bar—he'll get run over by a car if he does. Some reviewers in 1973 felt that Jason Robards, as the greatest actor of his generation to interpret Eugene O'Neill, should have played Hickey instead of Lee Marvin. Oscar-winner Marvin wound up being okay instead of great in the role, which compromises the film's value to scholars AND audiences, then and now. The acting by everyone else (especially by March, Ryan, and Jeff Bridges, with two Oscars and seven nominations between them) is remarkable, but it's still very heavy going and undoubtedly benefits writers of O'Neill theses the most.

1973 239m/C Lee Marvin, Fredric March, Robert Ryan, Jeff Bridges, Martyn Green, George Voskovec, Moses Gunn, Tom Pedi, Evans Evans, Bradford Dill-man, Sorrell Booke, John McLiam; D: John Franken-heimer; W: Thomas Quinn Curtiss; C: Ralph Woolsey.

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