Uncle Bardie’s Movie Spotlight: A man reaps what he sows

Once a week on Friday, Uncle Bardie celebrates the creativity in others by shining a Spotlight on a movie, a song or a creator. This week’s Movie Spotlight is “Home from the Hill” (1960):

“Home from the Hill” is a Greek tragedy of a movie. It’s Agamemnon all over again. Captain Wade Hunnicutt (Robert Mitchum) triumphs over everything, except his lusts, and eventually they destroy him.

He is the king of his domain. He owns half the county and more. He has the best of everything: whiskey, dogs, hunting rifles. He’s a proud man, his hubris filling any room he walks into.

Life, for Wade, has been good. He has lived it to the fullest. He has the trophies on his walls to prove it. The man has sown enough wild oats to fill a barn, and he is still sowing them.

But the chickens are beginning to come to roost. He’s sown more than his share of trouble. So much so that his marriage is in such a shambles, his wife (Eleanor Parker) is his greatest adversary. Now, in his mid-forties, the code he has breathed and lived by is turning on him. He’s created troubles enough for ten men.

The movie is also the story of Wade’s two sons. Theron (George Hamilton) is seventeen. He is a sensitive sort of man who has mostly been raised by his mother. Now Wade is ready to take over his education and make him into a man just like Wade.

Rafe (George Peppard) is a different sort of son. He is illegitimate, the son of one of Wade’s affairs. His mother died when he was young. And he has been on his own since. Wade has given him a place to live and work and taken care of him. He will not acknowledge Rafe as his son. In his eyes, Rafe will always be a bastard.

Yet Rafe is the man Wade could have been if he had not given in to his worst tendencies. Though an outsider, Rafe is the steady hand that holds things together. He brings a gentleness and a strength to all he touches.

Director Vincent Minnelli’s “Home from the Hill” was adapted from the novel by William Humphrey. By the time he took on the film, Minnelli had brought his steady hand to thirty films, including “Meet Me in St. Louis”, “Father of the Bride”, “Lust for Life”, “Gigi”, and “Some Came Running”.

Originally Wade Hunnicutt was supposed to be portrayed by Clark Gable. We can be thankful that the role went to Mitchum. Supported by a great cast, he delivered what may be one of his best performances.

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