The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse
Directed by Vincente Minnelli
Written by Robert Ardrey and John Gay from a novel by Vicente Blasco Ibañez
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer/Moctezuma Films/Olallo Rubio
First viewing/YouTube rental
This movie is just too darned long … and miscast.
I’m not familiar with the source novel or the 1921 original. The film updates the story from WWI to WWII and presumably changes the plot in other ways as well.
The story begins in 1938. Anyway, Grandpa Julio Madariaga (Lee J. Cobb) is a life-loving Argentine and the patriarch of a large family. One of his daughters married Frenchman Marcelo Desnoyers (Charles Boyer) and bore playboy Julio (Glenn Ford) and idealist Chi Chi (Yvette Mimeaux). The other daughter married German Karl von Hartrott (Paul Lukas) who bore Heinrich (Karl Böhm), an early Nazi supporter. The Desnoyers end up moving back to Paris while the Hartrotts relocate to Germany. It doesn’t take a genius to see where this is going.
Upon arrival in Pairs, Julio takes up a paintbrush but actually spends most of his time in the high life. That is until he begins a tempestuous love affair with Marguerite Lanier (Ingrid Thulin), who is married to idealistic newspaper publisher Etienne Laurier (Paul Heinreid). After France is invaded, Etienne is conveniently taken out of the picture by his activities for the French Resistance. He is eventually imprisoned and released home. Marguerite calls it quits and Julio is moved to join the Resistance himself. And so on …
This movie is almost three hours long. It could have been cut to two hours without sacrificing much but likely still would have been dull. It was a major flop at the box office.
For me, one of the main problems was Glenn Ford. The hero of the silent version was Rudolph Valentino. By this point in his career, Ford was much too stodgy to play a dashing and romantic leading man. I read that the director was keen on Alain Delon who would have been perfect in the part but was vetoed by the producers.