Men, The (1950)

“You try and you try, and you’re still behind the eight ball.”

Men 1950 Poster

Synopsis:
A paraplegic vet (Marlon Brando) struggling to adjust to life without the use of his legs finds solidarity with his disabled friends (Jack Webb, Richard Erdman, and Arthur Jurado), but is unsure whether to marry his long-time girlfriend (Teresa Wright).

Genres:

Review:
Marlon Brando made an auspicious cinematic debut in this hard-hitting social drama about paraplegic veterans struggling to re-enter mainstream society at a time when mortality rates were much higher, and public sympathy was much lower. Naturally, Brando — fresh from Broadway success as Stanley Kowalski — brought plenty of Method intensity to his preparation for the role (including living for a month in a hospital ward with vets); nothing about his performance here is sugar-coated. Wright’s overly earnest, non-“Method” portrayal role feels somewhat jarring in contrast, though she nicely conveys the tensions inherent in such a life-altering choice. Meanwhile, Carl Foreman’s Oscar-nominated script is refreshingly authentic, touching on a variety of uncomfortable topics (including the sudden, unexpected death of a well-liked vet, and the very real possibility of infertility), and making it clear that life for these brave soldiers has been brutally transformed. While other films — i.e., Coming Home (1978), Born on the Fourth of July (1989), and Murderball (2005) — have since covered similar territory in both narrative and documentary form, The Men remains worth a one-time look for its historical relevance and for Brando’s performance. Watch for Everett Sloane as the men’s no-nonsense doctor, and Jack Webb in a supporting role as a cynical bearded vet.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Marlon Brando as Ken
    Men Brando2
  • Carl Foreman’s Oscar-nominated script
    Men Script
  • Robert De Grasse’s cinematography
    Men Cinematography

Must See?
No, but it’s certainly worth a one-time look. Listed as a film with Historical Importance.

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3 Responses to “Men, The (1950)”

  1. A once-must, at least – for its place in cinema history, and for Brando and Wright’s performances.

    This is an excellent – and powerful – film, and I’m glad I finally had an opportunity to rewatch it.

    There are two very memorable lines of dialogue that sum up the film for me. Somewhat early on, Webb explains how a good deal of the world looks at paraplegics: “We make other people uncomfortable. You know why? Because we remind them that their own bodies can be broken – just like that – and they don’t like it.”

    At the midway point, Sloane chimes in, as he tries to be supportive to Brando: “Before you can change the world, you have to accept it as it really is – without illusions.”

    While it’s very true that many Americans have evolved in the way they view those who are physically challenged, ‘The Men’ remains instructive and relevant.

    I was very moved by the relationship between Brando and Wright – and it all reads as believable. Their wedding night scene is incredibly painful and real. (Wright even says a few things that it seems her character would only say because she’s unhinged.)

    Perhaps my fave scene, though, comes when Wright confronts her parents regarding marrying Brando. The parents are a ‘well-meaning’ couple but, when it finally comes out that they want to be assured of a grandchild – from a healthy father…Wright comes up to the plate in defiance. (Wright, along with Dorothy McGuire, is the kind of actress my sister always admired – I think because those two were role models for her.)

    ‘The Men’ has a very strong message for its audience – one unchanged by time, really. It makes a terrific companion piece to both ‘The Best Years of Our Lives’ and Huston’s ‘Let There Be Light’.

  2. I could be persuaded by your argument to vote “must see once” on this!

  3. 😉

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