29 August 2016 | bkoganbing
Add a dysfunctional tutor
Five Finger Exercise ran on Broadway for the 1959-60 season for 337 performances and starred Roland Culver and Jessica Tandy. As it was produced by Fredrick Brisson on Broadway you knew that it would be for Rosalind Russell his wife if she wanted to do it. And apparently she did.
Of course having a British story with one of the leads American you had to make even more adjustments than normally to transfer a one set play to the screen. Instead of a nice English country estate the setting is the Pacific coast. Hawkins is an orphan immigrant who from the United Kingdom and became a millionaire. Part of the problem though is that he's not only British but a total Philistine who sneers at all the culture is wife tries to provide son Richard Beymer and daughter Annette Gorman. A Harvard education for Beymer and a tutor for Gorman so she can go to a nice finishing school. They've taken on a tutor in Maximilian Schell.
Russell came from a family where the father was a learned professor who was also a compulsive gambler and the family was on the edge of poverty.
Essentially Russell and Hawkins come from two different places with entirely different sets of values. There is an permanent conflict in their relationship and Schell boarding with the family with his issues about having an unreconstructed Nazi for a father and a totally submissive mother just brings everything to a boil.
I think the work should have been either all British or all American. The worst scene in the film was Hawkins listening to an American baseball game between Cincinnati and San Francisco. I listened and heard no familiar names in the commentary of the game. You'd think the authors would have used real Reds and Giants player names of the time. Hawkins looked like he didn't know what was happening. He probably would have been right at home listening to an English cricket or soccer match.
Imagine if Jessica Tandy had done the film. That would have had her co-starring with her former husband. Well it worked for Robert Taylor and Barbara Stanwyck in Night Walker.
This study of a dysfunctional family and its dysfunctional tutor would have worked better in its original British setting.