Breaking Point, The (1950)

“What else do I know? What else am I good at? I’m a boat jockey.”

Breaking Point Poster

Synopsis:
A charter boat skipper (John Garfield) struggling to support his wife (Phyllis Thaxter) and kids agrees to take a man (Ralph Dumke) and his mistress (Patricia Neal) to Mexico, but soon finds himself embroiled in increasingly dangerous dealings.

Genres:

Response to Peary’s Review:
Peary writes that while this “excellent remake of To Have and Have Not… doesn’t resemble Hemingway’s novel any more than Faulkner’s script for Howard Hawks’s 1944 film did, at least it conveys more of its spirit”. He praises the film — directed by Michael Curtiz — for presenting “the WWII veteran as a disillusioned, financially troubled forgotten man” who may long “for some of the excitement of war rather than his life of bills to pay and familiar spats”, and he argues that “it makes sense that, having reached his breaking point, [Garfield] dares get involved with lawbreakers, risks his life to make a bundle of money in a hurry, [and] contemplates an affair with a loose woman”. He concludes his review by noting that the film is “well acted, nicely shot (partly on location)”, “smartly written” and “has an exciting climactic action sequence and classic final shot”. Peary’s review is spot-on, though he neglects to point out the excellent performances all around — not only by stars Garfield and Neal but by Phyllis Thaxter as Garfield’s loyal yet far-from-dull wife (“I can think about you anytime and get excited.”) and Juano Hernandez as Garfield’s doomed right-hand man (the scenes with his son [Juan Hernandez] are particularly poignant and heartbreaking). This one is well worth a look.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • John Garfield as Harry Morgan (nominated by Peary as one of the Best Actors of the Year in his Alternate Oscars)
    Breaking Point Garfield
  • Patricia Neal as Leona Charles
    Breaking Point Neal
  • Phyllis Thaxter as Lucy Morgan
    Breaking Point Thaxter
  • Juano Hernandez as Wesley Park
    Breaking Point Hernandez
  • Atmospheric cinematography
    Breaking Point Cinematography

Must See?
Yes, as a finely acted and directed adaptation of Hemingway’s novel.

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One Response to “Breaking Point, The (1950)”

  1. A must-see.

    I’ve always preferred this remake to the Hawks original. Having just rewatched ‘To Have and Have Not’, I still find it more than a bit of a slog. I can only imagine that it maintains a higher profile because it’s where Bogart and Bacall met…which, of course, says nothing about the film itself; it’s just funny how a work can acquire a reputation because of what it’s associated with (rather than what it is).

    I haven’t read Hemingway’s original story (never been a big fan of Hemingway’s writing style) but, compared with ‘THAHN’, ‘The Breaking Point’ has a whole lot of zip throughout.

    It seems that screenwriter Ranald MacDougall gets a lot of the credit there. His script is tight and often terse – and it’s full of the way people actually talk!, which is always refreshing. Some of the talk here is surprisingly adult for a film of this period – i.e., “A man can be in love with his wife and still want something exciting.”

    (MacDougall, by the way, also provided wonderfully sharp scripts for three of Joan Crawford’s best pics: ‘Mildred Pierce’, ‘Possessed’ and ‘Queen Bee’.)

    I don’t really have any desire to see ‘THAHN’ ever again but I could easily return to this flick every once in awhile. It works well in every department, moves quickly and touches on a number of still-relevant issues regarding the human condition.

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