January 22, 2021

All Fall Down (1962)
Grade: 63/100

Director: John Frankenheimer
Stars: Brandon De Wilde, Warren Beatty, Eva Marie Saint

What it's about. Ever-drinking Karl Malden and mettlesome Angela Lansbury are a mismatched married couple in a Cleveland neighborhood. They have two sons. Brandon De Wilde is 16 and living at home. Warren Beatty is a few years older, and lives a nomadic existence, sometimes spending time in jail for beating girlfriends. Naive De Wilde admires his absent older brother. Lansbury and Malden are also fond of Beatty, despite his dark side.

A family friend of Lansbury, thirty-ish blonde bombshell Eva Marie Saint, pays an extended visit. De Wilde becomes infatuated with her, which she encourages as long as it remains platonic. In a surprise, Beatty also returns home for a Christmas visit. Beatty meets Saint, and they become a hot item. De Wilde is only briefly disappointed, since he sees Saint as out of his league.

We wonder how long Beatty can remain on good behavior. When will his inner demons surface again? Of course they do, bringing the love triangle of Beatty, Saint, and De Wilde into crisis.

How others will see it. All Fall Down was a financial flop for MGM. It was not a critical favorite, either. New York Times critic Bosley Crowther called the film implausible because "everyone in the story is madly in love with a disgusting young man who is virtually a cretin." Another problem is that Beatty's antagonistic character is named Berry-Berry. As he is ever the topic of conversation within the film, viewers are assaulted with his name. "Berry-Berry ... Berry-Berry ... Berry-Berry." It should be a drinking game.

Today at imdb.com, the movie has 1,769 user votes, which pales compared to the 71K user votes for a more famous 1962 film by director Frankenheimer, The Manchurian Candidate.. All Fall Down also has a lower user rating, 6.8 out of ten, versus 7.9 for the mesmerizing Manchurian Candidate. The good news, for All Fall Down, is that women over 45, the most independent demographic, grade the film highest at 7.2.

At least the user reviews are predominantly favorable. The cast is praised, as is the splendid black and white cinematography. Frankenheimer, whose legendary status is assured due to The Manchurian Candidate, is also generally lauded for his work here.

How I felt about it. It is fortunate for All Fall Down that it reached theaters before Hud (1963), so it could not be accused of copying the later release. Hud, one of the best movies of the 1960s, has a similar love triangle, with Brandon De Wilde even reprising his role as the doe-eyed younger brother.

All Fall Down also has something in common with Splendor in the Grass; screenwriter William Inge and actor Warren Beatty. In that film, Beatty breaks the heart of his lovesick girlfriend, sending her spiraling into a deep depression. Throughout his acting career, Beatty played misguided and none-too-bright leads whose bad decisions got them into trouble.

There is much odd about All Fall Down. De Wilde is miscast, clearly older than 16. Even so, Saint should hardly be encouraging his romantic interest. His character's tendency to spy on his family, and record their conversations in notebooks, would be creepy if his face hadn't remained as innocent as it was in his Shane (1953) childhood days.

It is also odd that Saint would fall for Beatty, given that he has no job, no money, no future, and a checkered past. Plus, he is twitchy as hell. If she has a romantic interest, that can be fulfilled without pretending that he would ever be worthy husband material.

While the loose ends don't quite come together, the film has a fine cast and a quality script. The Frankenheimer magic is less potent here than in The Manchurian Candidate, but it is a memorable movie nonetheless.