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Brian Dennehy and a Quartet of Television Films … Part 2

For the next two films that I sat in on starring Brian Dennehy, I couldn’t help but recall another Brian, the great Brian Keith. I say this because the talented Keith could have played either role here that Dennehy enacts which only adds to the fact the Dennehy can take on a wide range of characters and do it well beyond his mean spirited villains that grab us by the throat. In this case a no nonsense WW2 General and then a lonely big hearted modern day cowboy on vacation in England who finds love late in life.

 

Day One (1989)

Easily the best of the four films I watched in a row with Mr. Dennehy, this tells the story of the race to create the atomic bomb during the second world war. Brian stars as General Leslie Groves who was in charge of the operation known as The Manhattan Project from it’s inception through to the bombings of Japan. Brian is excellent among a first rate cast that also sees David Strathairn’s wonderful performance as Robert Oppenheimer.

Semi-documentary style, the film from Joseph Sargent also sees the likes of Hume Cronyn, David Ogden Stiers, Richard Dysart, Hal Holbrook and Michael Tucker all up to the task enacting their parts in this historical drama that I think takes a decided slant towards the anti-war film. Dennehy is a stern task master among the scientists who wants results but can’t get around the fact that these men are non military and spend a good portion of their day mingling in front of chalk boards which represents little in the way of tangible progress.

I have no idea how true to fact the film is but suspect it follows the real life details as closely as possible which for me means that Denney’s General comes off as the gung ho military figure who wants his day even as the war is inevitably lost for the Japanese and German forces. He’ll have his pound of flesh and pushes full ahead for the bombs being dropped despite opposition from some politicians and many of the scientists themselves who believe they have created something that man should not have tampered with. It’s this part of the story led by Michael Tucker that for me turns this film into an anti-war statement with the moral questions that plague the men who have made it.

A fine TV movie and I suppose if I was a history teacher, I’d double check the facts and be sure to include it in one of my class courses. I’ll have to go back and have another look at Fat Man and Little Boy which was released theatrically the same year with Paul Newman in the role of General Groves. I don’t recall it being all that great of a film. Especially when compared to the many classics Newman is associated with.

Well cast with Dennehy and Strathairn as the central thrust of a film that won an Emmy for Outstanding Drama. Recommended and available on DVD.

Foreign Affairs (1993)

In an about face performance from the last one, Brian Dennehy stars here opposite Joanne Woodward in a story of two gentle, lonely people finding an unlikely love while in London.

At first meeting, the pair are a mismatch. He winds up seated next to her on the long flight overseas sporting his cowboy hat and bigger than life sized personality. She’s kind of mousey and makes it clear to that she intends to sleep as much as possible to avoid any idle chatter. Also appearing in the film as a couple of lovers are Eric Stoltz and Stephanie Beacham to give the film a more typical love affair for the younger set.

“This man is hardly literate and dresses like Roy Rogers.”

So says Woodward to Ian Richardson, an overseas friend when he discovers that Joanne has been accidently bumping into Dennehy about London. Brian seems to be tracing his family lineage and keeps showing up at Woodward’s residence hoping she’ll help him track down his ancestors. She’s got little patience for him but like a big old shaggy dog, he’s growing on her.

“At my age you don’t question miracles.”

This from Brian after the pair begin to fall in love unabashedly. It’s a Jim O’Brien film that gives viewers a carefree tale that offers little in the way of action and high wire drama. Just a nice feature meant for the Sunday Night Movie of the Week crowd starring two seasoned pros playing nice everyday people who surprisingly compliment each other on camera. Brian’s role here reminds me of a couple of people I’ve known and I’m sure you have to. The type that are a bit loud in the look at me look at me style. Maybe overweight and perhaps lonely deep down. Just hoping for a friend and wishing for romance. In the end he finds both.

Worthwhile for the Brian-Joanne factor in what could easily have come from a stage play. Might be harder to track this one down. I dusted off an old VHS copy I picked up recently to finally see it though I believe it is available thru the Warner Archive line.

In closing…………….

Hopefully I’ve sparked some interest in someone to check out more films that feature an actor who makes everything just “that” much better. Now maybe I’ll just sit back and watch what might be my favorite Brian Dennehy big screen film, Best Seller. 

5 Comments »

  1. I haven’t seen “Day One.” I have seen “Fat Man and Little Boy” several times. In addition to Newman as General Groves; Dwight Shultz (A Team) plays Oppenheimer. John Cussack is in it and a young beautiful Laura Dern as a Los Alamos nurse.

  2. Definitely be putting “Day One” on the viewing pile. Always been interested in the manhattan project and Oppenheimer’s story. I can see Brian Dennehy in the General Leslie Groves role so well. I was gutted when they canceled the TV series Manhattan, really enjoyed that :-/

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