Sometimes a Great Notion (1971)
This saga of a stubborn family of loggers pitted against the local union and on going strike offers us the first film that Paul Newman not only starred in but directed as well.
There’s plenty to enjoy here from this Newman effort that was originally a novel from Ken Kesey of “cuckoo nest” fame. We get a first rate cast alongside Newman including Henry Fonda as the head of the family, a career role for Richard Jaeckel and as the black sheep Michael Sarrazin. The underrated Lee Remick turns up as well as Newman’s long suffering wife.
Fonda and family are independent loggers in a unionized town. They have always been outsiders and don’t exactly have many friends in the community. Even the home they live in sits on a small island off shore from town. This fits in well with the Newman persona as we know he made a career out of characters that stood just outside of the main stream society. Once again he has found a character that captures us and keeps us interested in the outcome of his future.
The family motto is “Never give an inch” which also served as the title that this film was given for it’s network television release and played under that name for years on late night airings. Aside from Newman, the actors that have been cast are well suited to their roles. Fonda does well playing opposite Newman and they share a nice chemistry together, especially in the early scenes. Sarrazin was the young actor of the moment and is fine here opposite some long time pros( it would have been really interesting to see Peter Fonda in this role). A favorite character star Jaeckel has the most memorable role of his long career that started back in 1943’s Guadalcanal Diary. He received an Oscar Nomination here and looks like he could have gone on playing Newman’s brother in future film projects.
As for our female lead, Lee Remick does fine work here and Newman spotlights her in a couple of scenes where she really shines. One opposite Sarrazin and the other opposite himself.
While this is no Newman classic, it deserves a better fate than it’s been given. Perhaps understandable when it has to compete with a rather large number of top flight films Newman starred in as we look back. Other than a few shaky camera moments his direction is fine here behind the camera as well with some helicopter shots and logging scenes done over some beautiful scenery.
While the music over the soundtrack at times seems a little too much it generally has a nice folksy feel and it doesn’t hurt to have country music icon Charley Pride singing over the opening credits.
After years of being out of sight, the film turned up on blu ray from Shout Factory giving Newman fans a second chance to see this and hopefully others to discover it.