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The Roots of Heaven (film)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Roots of Heaven
The roots of heaven(2).jpg
Original film poster
Directed byJohn Huston
Produced byDarryl F. Zanuck
Screenplay byRomain Gary
Patrick Leigh-Fermor
Based onThe Roots of Heaven
(1956 novel)
by Romain Gary
StarringErrol Flynn
Juliette Gréco
Trevor Howard
Music byMalcolm Arnold
CinematographyOswald Morris
Edited byRussell Lloyd
Production
company
Darryl F. Zanuck Productions
Distributed by20th Century Fox
Release date
  • October 15, 1958 (1958-10-15)
Running time
121 mins
LanguageEnglish
Budget$3.3 million[1][2]
Box office$3 million[3]

The Roots of Heaven is a 1958 American adventure film in CinemaScope and DeLuxe Color made for 20th Century Fox, directed by John Huston and produced by Darryl F. Zanuck. The screenplay by Romain Gary and Patrick Leigh Fermor is based on Romain Gary's 1956 Prix Goncourt-winning novel of the same name. The film starred Errol Flynn, Juliette Gréco, Trevor Howard, Eddie Albert, Orson Welles, Paul Lukas, Herbert Lom and Grégoire Aslan. Huston later said Roots of Heaven "could have been a very fine film. And largely owing to me was not a good film at all."[4]

Premise

Set in French Equatorial Africa, the film tells the story of Morel (Trevor Howard), a crusading environmentalist who sets out to preserve the elephants from extinction as a lasting symbol of freedom for all humanity. He is helped by Minna (Juliette Gréco), a nightclub hostess, and Forsythe (Errol Flynn), a disgraced British military officer hoping to redeem himself. Filmink called it "possibly the first big budget studio film about an eco-terrorist (unless you count Tarzan movies)."[5]

Cast

Production

Development

20th Century Fox bought the film rights the novel in April 1957 for a price of more than $100,000.[6] In May, Darryl F. Zanuck announced he would produce the film independently for Fox (he had a contract with the studio to make films for them), and wanted John Huston to direct.[7] (This was before the novel had even been published in the US, but it had already sold over 300,000 copies in Europe).[8] Zanuck said the theme of the film was "simple... A man comes to the conclusion that if we don't stop killing people we destroy ourselves." And he says, "Why not start with our biggest companions on earth, the elephants, whose only enemy is man?"[9] He later added:

This picture is really great for us – intellectually great. Whether it's commercially great, whether people will grab on to it, we must wait and see. If they grab on to a man in love with a bridge, then why shouldn't they grab on to a man in love with an elephant?[9]

Huston said he wanted to direct the novel before Zanuck approached him:

After my experience with Selznick [on A Farewell to Arms] – all those memorandum! – I'd sworn never to work with a producer again, but I did want very much to make this particular film. So we met several times and talked it through and finally agreed to try it.[10]

Huston agreed to direct for a fee he described as "slightly higher" than $300,000. Regarding the irony of a big game hunter like Huston making a movie about a militant elephant conservationist, Huston said "Contrary to prevailing opinion, I never found an elephant big enough to justify the sin of killing one."[11] Zanuck headed to the Belgian Congo in late 1957 to scout locations, and Gary was hired to write the script.[12][13]

Casting

William Holden was mentioned as a possibility for the lead part of Morel, as was James Mason.[14] Holden wanted to make the film but he was under contract to Paramount, who would not let him make the film unless he signed another contract with them, which he refused to do.[15][16]

The lead role was taken by Trevor Howard. Errol Flynn signed to play a key support role but was given top billing.[17] Flynn left the cast of the play The Master of Thornfield to appear in the movie.[18][19] (Flynn and John Huston had famously brawled at a Hollywood party over a decade earlier.[20])

Juliette Gréco, who had been in Zanuck's version of The Sun Also Rises and since become the producer's lover, was signed as the female lead.[21] Eddie Albert and Paul Lukas rounded out the main cast. Orson Welles signed to do a cameo.

The book was eventually published in the US and became a best seller.[22]

Shooting

Shooting took place mainly on location in French Equatorial Africa[23] over five months, in the Belgian Congo and Chad in the Northern Cameroons, where the elephants were located. The cast and crew suffered from the heat, malaria and other tropical diseases. Temperatures would routinely reach 134 degrees in the day and 95 degrees at night; people had to shower four or five times a night. On some days it would be a four-hour drive to the location and back and all the water had to be flown in.[9]

It is the memories of the challenging location that Flynn mentions with affection in his memoirs My Wicked, Wicked Ways (1959). The company reported 900 sick calls from a cast and crew of 120 – however Flynn did not fall ill.[24] Juliette Gréco contracted a serious illness.[25]

"I would never make a picture there again", said Zanuck of Africa.[2] However he was proud that "There is not one dubbed line, transparency plate or process shot in the whole picture."[9]

The unit then moved to Paris, France for studio filming. While there, Gréco fell ill with a re-occurrence of her illness. Errol Flynn had a re-occurrence of his malaria, requiring hospitalisation as well.[10]

Orson Welles did his part in two days at a Paris studio. His rate was normally $15,000 but he did it gratis in order to repay Zanuck for helping Welles find the funds to complete the movie Othello (1952).[26]

Huston later said, "I still don't want to have to work with a producer again but if I had to, I'd certainly choose Darryl. He's been very good, co-operative and decent throughout."[10]

Huston later said he was "completely responsible... for the badness of The Roots of Heaven. I really wanted to make that one and Daryl Zanuck got me everything and everybody I wanted. But I had the screenplay done by someone who had never done one before, and it was bad. By then the cast, crew and me were in Africa; it was too late to turn back, we would have spent a fortune for nothing, so we went ahead and did the best we could."[27]

Post-production

The movie was edited in London, UK rather than Paris so that Zanuck could be near Gréco, who was making a movie there.[28]

Reception

Box office

The film earned rentals of $3 million in the United States and Canada[3] and recorded admissions of 1,266,452 in France.[29]

Critical

The Los Angeles Times thought that "John Huston may have bitten off more than he could chew in 'The Roots of Heaven', but much of it makes for thoughtful mastication... it sometimes seems too strange to be real."[30] Bosley Crowther wrote in the New York Times that "[t]he first two-thirds of 'The Roots of Heaven' … looks like a highly potential adventure film" but that "the final third of the film goes down the drain"—a conclusion "the more disappointing—and strangely surprising, indeed—because the elements, up to this point, have seemed so beautifully under control."[31]

See also

References

  1. ^ Solomon p251
  2. ^ a b A CorrespondentZ (16 Aug 1958). ""Never Again": Making a film in Equatorial Africa". The Manchester Guardian. p. 3.
  3. ^ a b Cohn, Lawrence (October 15, 1990). "All-Time Film Rental Champs". Variety. p. M182.
  4. ^ "The Innocent Bystander" Robinson, David. Sight and Sound; London Vol. 42, Iss. 1
  5. ^ Vagg, Stephen (December 15, 2019). "The Films of Errol Flynn: Part 6 – The Final Adventures". Filmink.
  6. ^ Thomas M. Pryor (Apr 29, 1957). "Tracy Will Star in 'Last Hurrah': Actor to Play Political Boss in Columbia Film, Which John Ford Is Directing 'Roots of Heaven' Planted". New York Times. p. 21.
  7. ^ Schallert, Edwin (May 8, 1957). "Magnani to Do Comedy; Zanuck Seeks Huston; Birdwell Deal Tripled". Los Angeles Times. p. B9.
  8. ^ "Of Local Origin". New York Times. Sep 17, 1957. p. 39.
  9. ^ a b c d Scheuer, Philip K. (Oct 12, 1958). "Zanuck's Subject: 'Roots of Heaven'". Los Angeles Times. p. F2.
  10. ^ a b c Grenier, Cynthia. "Huston at Fontainebleau". Sight and Sound (27.6 (Fall 1958)). p. 280.
  11. ^ Richard W. Nason (September 28, 1958). "Huston Hits High With 'Heaven' and 'Geisha'". New York Times. p. X9.
  12. ^ Dorothy Manners (Nov 5, 1957). "Tyrone Power Eyes Role of Wise Solomon". The Washington Post and Times Herald. p. B9.
  13. ^ Art Buchwald (Jan 24, 1958). "A Diplomat Cracks the Movies". Los Angeles Times. p. B5.
  14. ^ Scheuer, Philip K. (Feb 12, 1958). "Studio Opened to Preminger: 'Mardios Beach' First of Pair; Mason Up for Consul's 'Roots'". Los Angeles Times. p. B9.
  15. ^ Hopper, Hedda (Apr 6, 1958). "NEVER A BAD SHOW: Hollywood Producers Call Bill Holden the All-American Face". Chicago Daily Tribune. p. c20.
  16. ^ Thomas M. Pryor (Feb 20, 1958). "U. S. Vs. Al Capone to Be Film Theme: Story of Treasury Agents' War on Breweries Slated -Holden-Paramount Rift". New York Times. p. 29.
  17. ^ "Thomas p 219".
  18. ^ ""Lana, Yul Brynner in Faulkner Story" Hopper". Hedda. Los Angeles Times. Feb 22, 1958. p. B2.
  19. ^ Thomas M. Pryor (Feb 26, 1958). "Unproduced Play Bought for Film: Comedy Is by Samuel Taylor and Cornelia Otis Skinner -- Paramount Retrenches". New York Times. p. 23.
  20. ^ Dorothy Kilgallen (Mar 13, 1958). "Kim's Gunning for Harlow Biog". The Washington Post and Times Herald. p. D8.
  21. ^ Hopper, Hedda (Feb 14, 1958). "No Work Here, So Holden Is Off to Europe". Chicago Daily Tribune. p. 12.
  22. ^ "BEST SELLERS". Los Angeles Times. Apr 20, 1958. p. E6.
  23. ^ "The Roots of Heaven (1958) – Trailers, Reviews, Synopsis, Showtimes and Cast". AllMovie. Retrieved 2014-07-13.
  24. ^ Bacon, James (June 29, 1958). "Here's Switch: Flynn to Play a Teetotaler". Chicago Daily Tribune. p. 19.
  25. ^ "Juliette Greco, Actress, Ill". New York Times. June 9, 1958. p. 26.
  26. ^ Hopper, Hedda (June 11, 1958). "Hedda Visits Old Friends in Paris Studio". Chicago Daily Tribune. p. b11.
  27. ^ John Huston: As He Was, Is, and Probably Always Will Be By Brian St. Pierre. New York Times 25 Sep 1966: 121.
  28. ^ The (Aug 26, 1958). "Ava's Got a Crush on Her Costar". Washington Post and Times Herald. p. B8.
  29. ^ 1958 French box office figures at Box Office Story
  30. ^ Scheuer, Philip K. (Jan 1, 1959). "'Roots of Heaven' Exotic Adventure: But Its Hero's Cause Falters in Film of Romain Gary Novel". Los Angeles Times. p. B7.
  31. ^ Bosley Crowther (Oct 16, 1958). "Screen: 'Roots of Heaven'; Save the Elephants! Palace Film Theme". New York Times. p. 46.

Bibliography

  • Flynn, E. My Wicked, Wicked Ways. G.P. Putnam's Sons 1959, Pan Books 1961 in association with William Heinemann Ltd, 5th Printing 1979.
  • Norman, B. The Hollywood Greats. Arrow Books, 1988 edition.
  • Solomon, Aubrey. Twentieth Century Fox: A Corporate and Financial History (The Scarecrow Filmmakers Series). Lanham, Maryland: Scarecrow Press, 1989. ISBN 978-0-8108-4244-1.
  • Thomas, T. Behlmer, R. & McCarty, C. The Films of Errol Flynn. Citadel Press. 1969.

External links

This page was last edited on 27 May 2021, at 20:01
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