Cinema: The New Pictures, Dec. 26, 1955

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The heroic theme gets severely heroic treatment. Director Otto Preminger has dulled the sociological backdrop that Author Algren daubed so brilliantly, has edged his major characters more starkly against the mass. As a result, the picture is no intellectual slumming party but a hard-eyed study of human character, and the actors serve this end with a well-directed will. Arnold Stang, as Sparrow the dog stealer, looks as woebegone and unhealthy as a tenement torn just starting his ninth life on the garbage-can circuit, but he seldom hides the human quality of his part behind his television false face. Kim Novak is the type of the neighborhood frill, and she gives her big scene all she's got. Frank Sinatra, in particular, does a hurting job. Weary, weak, bewildered, battered, Frank's dogged Frankie is a creature who comes bitterly to understand that fate is character, fate is the thing a man can't give up.

Kismet (MGM) on Broadway looked like a Hollywood camel opera; as a Hollywood camel opera, it looks and sounds like the late hours of a Shriners' convention, i.e., fun in an overloaded fashion. Howard Keel, as the poet who goes from verse to better at the Wazir's court, cuts a tolerable fine figure in Mesopotamian laundry, and he sings like a baritone bulbul. Ann Blyth (see MILESTONES) is the girl and Vic Damone the boy. The music is borrowed din from Borodin, and except for Stranger in Paradise, it sounds like routine Tin Pan Allah. The incidental decorations are eye-filling, though—particularly an albino peacock that holds his end up with more style than most of the chorus girls show.

The Court-Martial of Billy Mitchell (Warner). On July 21, 1921, nine clumsy biplanes crossed the Virginia coast and rumbled out to sea like tired June bugs. Eight of them were loaded to limit with a 2,000-lb. egg of destruction. Below, on the deck of the transport Henderson, a crowd of U.S. admirals, generals, Cabinet members and Congressmen milled for vantage with a score of newsmen and foreign diplomats. One by one the bombers buzzed past the target at about 2,500 ft. and laid their eggs. At the sixth pass, an aged officer put his head in his hands and wept, as the "unsinkable" German battleship Ostfriesland sank with a glug heard round the world—and echoed violently in military history from that day to this.

The sound, however, was effectively muffled for some time in the corridors of military bureaucracy; and the man who had so inconsiderately upset the steel-plated applecart of 19th century warfare, Brigadier General William Mitchell of the Army Air Service, soon found himself a chairborne colonel in Texas. The brass, as one recalcitrant officer put it, had decided "to ignore the airplane ... in the hope that if nobody mentioned it, it would go away."

The airplane did not go away, and neither did Mitchell. Topping a series of crashes, the Navy airship, the Shenandoah, was ripped apart in an Ohio line squall. Thirteen officers and men were killed. Two days later Mitchell dropped a journalistic blockbuster. "These accidents," he announced to the press, "are the result of the incompetency, the criminal negligence and the almost treasonable administration of our national defense by the Navy and War Departments."

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