Heaven with a Barbed Wire Fence (1939)

Approved   |    |  Drama

Heaven with a Barbed Wire Fence (1939) Poster

New York store clerk (Ford) joins a hobo (Conte) and an illegal immigrant (Rogers) heading for his newly bought land in Arizona.


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25 June 2007 | alonzoiii-1
| Hell With That Barton Fink Feeling
Glenn Ford, a New York boy who has been saving his cash, thumbs and hobos his way to the Arizona ranch he has bought, where he hopes to find HEAVEN WITH A BARBED WIRE FENCE.

A film with a Dalton Trumbo script and story, directed by villain extraordinaire Ricardo Cortez, and starring the frequently twitchy Glenn Ford and the restless Richard Conte just shouldn't be so bloody nice. Though the system -- mostly seen as mean cops and railroad bulls and real estate con men -- is as awful as one might expect from the leftish Mr. Trumbo, every single proletarian is just so sweet and nice and salt of the earth that one feels nausea. It doesn't help that the heroine -- a sweet blonde thing who is an illegal alien refugee fleeing Franco's Spain -- is annoying for reasons of both scripting and acting.

So why watch? Richard Conte, in his first role, already has his persona and a pretty good part. And there are some moments of 30s leftist camp that are pretty astonishing. (Did Dalton absolutely have to set a major portion of the movie in the Russian Worker's mission? All that was missing was a portrait of a beaming Joe Stalin!) Also, this is Glenn Ford's first substantive role (though his performance isn't good).

Why not watch? Essentially, the movie offers an unconvincing vision, is wedded to a political viewpoint that is risible, and the two leads have made much better movies. Also, the strengths of Dalton Trumbo as a screenwriter are nowhere in evidence. Instead, we get a film that the Coen Brothers Barton Fink could have written in a flash (and avoided that hellish bout with writer's block).

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