I disagree with the person who said the story line of "That Hagen Girl" is "totally improbable." Scandals involving premarital and extramarital sex and illegitimate children were prevalent in small towns in the 1940s and still are. Also, in the 1940-1960s many small towns (including the one where I grew up) still had an influential white collar class of people who acted and dressed exactly like the characters in "That Hagen Girl." As for the Ken Freneau character being a spineless Mama's boy, there are people of this sort in every generation and in every community. I grew up in a small town in Indiana where my ancestors were the founders, and I moved back here after living in a big city for a few years. "That Hagen Girl" does an excellent job of depicting the nature and the populace of small towns in the Midwest.
I believe the film was not appreciated initially because it was ahead of its time, for all that it presented social issues in a very tasteful and diplomatic way. No one has mentioned the mental illness of Grace (the high school girl friend of Tom Bates) or the reason for her condition. I believe the film implied that Grace's parents had pressured her to avoid scandal by having an abortion in Chicago and that afterward Grace was treated for a mental and emotional breakdown during the months she was absent from home. The Tom Bates character also hinted to Mary Hagen that Grace's "going away" and subsequent months in a psychiatric facility were the "reason" Mary could not be the illegitimate child he and Grace were suspected of conceiving.
"That Hagen Girl" is very much like "Peyton Place," another film that shows the dark side of a small town. I believe "That Hagen Girl" is an equally well-written and well-acted film that deals with serious social problems. The film's tasteful approach to moral problems is what I would like to see in today's films. -- Mrs. Barney Beers
This is Mrs. Sheila Beers, writing with the permission of Barney Beers. I saw this movie on a black and white television as a child about 45-50 years ago, and I only can imagine how much better it is in color. However, through missionaries I had heard of the fierce Jivaro Indians, and I found "Jivaro" a compelling story. I still believe the film is much more than an adventure-romance story and that it has more to offer than viewers of the 1950s realized. Now that there is so much interest in saving the Brazilian rain forest, I believe "Jivaro" is even more relevant today. The theme is timeless, being the clash between primitive cultures and the modern world. Since New World exploration in the 1500s, the Jivaro Indians of South America were known as headhunters and cannibals, but a lesser known fact is that South America's richest gold deposits were (and still are) located in Jivaro territory. Although Brazil was settled by the Portuguese, the Spanish who settled Peru, Ecuador, and other countries that border Brazil, soon learned of the Jivaro's treasure and wanted the gold to defeat Protestantism in Europe. In spite of their primitive nature, the Jivaros (like other primitive tribes of South America) knew how to mine gold and refine it. Through their reputation as fierce headhunters and cannibals, the Jivaros protected their wealth. In the late 1500s the Spanish dared to build the city of Logrono, population 25,000, on the border of Brazil. The city provided housing for miners, settler families, and administrators who wanted to send the gold to Spain. Wanting to deflect the invaders, the Jivaros, armed only with spears and possibly blow guns and clubs, wiped out the city in 1599. They killed everyone but the young women they could assimilate into their tribe for breeding. The city, built mostly of wood, was burned to the ground and mostly absorbed by the jungle. For centuries afterward the Jivaros killed any Europeans or Americans who encroached on their territory. When the Jivaros eventually were Christianized in the late 20th century, missionaries noted some members of the tribe had lighter complexions and more body hair, attesting to their descent from the Spanish women taken from Logrono. Because of this fascinating piece of Brazilian history, I would like to see "Jivaro" made available on DVD. By seeing the movie, people could learn more about South Americam cultures and relate the story to current issues about the rain forest.
I liked "Track of the Cat" as a "psychological western" and also thought it could be produced as a stage play. The term "painter" is the way pioneers pronounced the word "panther," as I learned in my Indiana History class. The characters in the story view the cat itself as a supernatural and eternal creature that brings evil, death, and sorrow to the innocence of the valley.
I found Joe Sam, the 100-year-old Indian portrayed by Alfalfa Switzer, interesting, mysterious, and downright spooky. Drawing on Native American wisdom and folklore, Joe Sam said the panther always came with the first snow, and he implied the panther was an evil spirit or creature that could not die. As the story progresses, the viewer develops mixed feelings about the old Indian's beliefs, as do the members of the Bridge family. Actually, there is a rational explanation for the panther's arrival in the valley: the cattle, deer, and other game had moved into the valley to search for food and water when the snowfall began. Then the panther, which preyed on such animals, followed them. The old Indian, however, expressed his belief in the panther's immortality when he claimed the "same" panther had killed his wife and daughter during a first snow many years ago.
I believe the Indian himself symbolizes the conflicts between (1) life and death (2) the eternal and the temporal, (3) the spiritual world and the physical world, and (4) superstition and rational thought. The Bridge brothers stated the old Indian had been a survivor of a battle between settlers and Indians at least 60 years earlier and that all of the Indian's grown sons had been killed in the battle. They estimated the old Indian was at least 40 when his sons died, so that he had to be over 100 years of age. The old Indian's spryness and ability to lift bodies and heavy objects lead the viewer to believe the Indian himself is eternal.
The tragic loss of the old Indian's family foreshadows the likelihood the Bridge family also will die out. Mrs. Bridge, the overly controlling mother, has run off all the marriage prospects her grown children have had, and the brothers fear their generation will not marry and have children. The last marriage prospect is the neighbor Gwen, in whom all the brothers have some interest. However, Mrs. Bridge has met her match as Gwen is determined to marry Harold. In the end, life and love triumph over death when Gwen and Harold decide to leave the ranch, get married, and move to Aspen, the symbol of civilization.
Mr. Bridge, the alcoholic father, is a sympathetic and comical character throughout the film, retrieving his whiskey bottles from assorted hiding places throughout the house. From his accent I judge him to be an Irish immigrant from a large city in the U.S. Toward the end of the film, Mrs. Bridge finally admits she had persuaded her husband to move to the isolated ranch where he had felt like a "fish out of water" and had taken to drinking. In the end she does admit to being a catalyst for the dysfunction in the family and accepts Harold's wanting to get married and leave the ranch for Aspen.
In the scene where Curt (Robert Mitchum) has the fire go out, I am reminded of "To Build a Fire" by Jack London. There is a sort of naturalism in this scene and throughout the film with its man vs. nature theme. I would recommend this film as a very different sort of western.