Our review of Paul Newman: The Tribute Collection, published October 12th, 2009, is also available.
Love is a many splendid thing…sometimes.
By the beginning of 1960, Paul Newman had become a formidable force in Hollywood. Though he was yet to make such defining staples as The Hustler and Cool Hand Luke, Newman's star was already shining bright in classics like Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and Exodus. Starring in an adaptation of John O'Hara's From the Terrace, Newman and wife Joanna Woodward played opposite each other as cold lovers doomed to a failed marriage—a far cry from their 45 years of real life matrimony. Finally out on DVD, From the Terrace makes its debut care of Fox Home Entertainment.
Facts of the Case
Based on the novel by John O'Hara, From the Terrace follows Alfred Eaton (Newman) as he returns home from the war to his wealthy yet coldly distant father (Leon Ames)—shattered at the death of Alfred's much loved brother—and alcoholic mother (Myrna Loy). Never knowing unconditional love and respect from his father and shunning the family steel business, Alfred finds himself thrust into the working world with an attempt to prove that he has worth and can attain success. Along the way he meets and marries a seemingly perfect woman named Mary (Woodward) and begins to climb the ladder of success one rung at a time. As Alfred finds his way to prestige and fortune, he also discovers that his relationship is treading thin ice as he spends months at a time away from Mary and his home. As his professional life soars, his personal life comes crashing down, forcing Alfred to rethink his choices and priorities.
From the Terrace is a mighty warning of the dangers of working so hard that you sacrifice your personal life and lose yourself in the process. There are those in this life who work their fingers to the bone for the almighty dollar—these people often put monetary success far above their personal lives and family, leaving them with financial riches yet a poor and empty heart. In From the Terrace, Newman learns that in the end it's not about how much money you have, but how much love you have. I don't think I could have gotten any sappier if I tried.
As a truly deep film, From the Terrace falls short on many levels. I'm not familiar with O'Hara's book, though I've read that the film version butchered the story a bit, cutting out major plot points and character development. While it's always a pleasure seeing Newman, his character Alfred just somehow feels wrong—I think the part may have been suited better for someone a bit less handsome and brooding. Even so, it's great fun watching him swagger around on screen. Woodward is effectively subtle as Alfred's vacant wife, almost eclipsing his character with her ice block presence.
The story is one of those parables about the dangers of working too hard, though the characters never come across as overly sympathetic. Both Alfred and Mary don't seem to have much interest in fidelity, making sure to ogle at every hunk of meat that strolls on by. Why Alfred even puts up with Mary's friendship with an ex-lover seems to be the most baffling question in the film. Then again, these are rich people who seem to put money above all else in life, so what else would you expect? The supporting characters depicted in the film, especially Alfred's partners and business associates, are portrayed as one dimensional and cold—I don't know about you, but if a company regulated when and if my wife lived with me during month long business trips, I'd cut anchor and quit.
It doesn't feel like there's a lot to From the Terrace. The messages are clear as day (find love! Don't work your life away! Be faithful!) and the story straightforward and mild. It's a fun throwback to the Golden Age of movies, and it's got Paul Newman…and that's reason enough to see it.
From the Terrace is presented in a fine looking 2.35:1 widescreen transfer, enhanced for 16x9 TV sets. This is really a very attractive looking print—presented in a beautiful aspect ratio, the film was shot in beautiful tints and hues. The colors are all solid and dark with only a few minor imperfections showing up from time to time. Aside of a small amount of dirt and grain in the image (and a few washed out colors due to the age of the film), this transfer should please Newman fans everywhere.
The soundtrack is presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo in English, as well as Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono in Spanish. The 2.0 Stereo mix is fine, if nothing overly spectacular. The dialogue, music, and effects are all clear without any hiss or distortion marring the mix. Obviously directional effects and surround sounds are absent, though seeing as From the Terrace is a dialogue driven drama they weren't really required. Also available on this disc are English and Spanish subtitles.
Since From the Terrace wasn't a huge Newman hit, the extra features are floating at around the bare minimum. Fans will delight in seeing a very short newsreel titled "From the Terrance Star Mobbed" (depicting a crowd attempting to get a glimpse at one of the film's stars), as well as a theatrical trailer for the film and various other Paul Newman movies.
From the Terrace is far from Newman's best efforts. However, it is an interesting little movie that captures the essence and feel of the early 1960s. Promoting family values and relationships over personal monetary gain, the film has good ideals and fine performances by the cast. And it's humorous to watch Newman and Woodward spar even though we all know they're gaga for each other in real life.
Fox's work on this disc is better than average, though a lack of extra features may leave some fans feeling a tad bit chilly.
No one has aged as gracefully in Hollywood as Paul Newman. This is a decent rental for a weekend night with your main squeeze. Case dismissed!
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