All Fall Down (1962)




(director: John Frankenheimer; screenwriters: from the book by James Leo Herlihy/William Inge; cinematographer: Lionel Lindon; editor: Franz Steininger; music: Alex North; cast: Eva Marie Saint (Echo O’Brien), Warren Beatty (Berry-Berry Willart), Karl Malden (Ralph Willart), Angela Lansbury (Annabel Willan), Brandon de Wilde (Clinton Willart), Constance Ford (Mrs. Mandel), Barbara Baxley (Schoolteacher), Evans Evans (Hedy); Runtime: 111; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: John Houseman; MGM; 1962)


“Never adds up to much.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

John Frankenheimer (“The Manchurian Candidate”/”Grand Prix”/”Birdman of Alcatraz”) directs this uneven intense family melodrama, which came early on in his career. Playwright William Inge adapted James Leo Herlihy’s novel for the screen. It’s artfully produced and has a few poignant moments, but the mostly studio bound drama (location shots on the Florida Keys) falters in the end and never adds up to much. It did a poor box office, while receiving mixed reviews.

The 16-year-old Clinton Willart (Brandon de Wilde) arrives in the Florida Keys from his hometown of Cleveland by Greyhound to give his emotionally unhinged, ne’er-do-well, womanizing older brother, Berry-Berry (Warren Beatty), whom he idolizes, the $200 he requested to buy a shrimp boat but instead has to use the money to bail him out of jail for beating up a local prostitute. Berry-Berry gets a gigolo offer from a wealthy married lady (Constance Ford) to be her guest on a yacht cruise, and sends his kid brother back to Cleveland. At home, Clint sulks as he endures his overbearing mom (Angela Lansbury, in real-life only 5 years older than Beatty) and his agreeable but alcoholic father (Karl Malden) and their daily family feuds, all the while imagining his brother leading a glamorous life of adventure. Things perk up with the appearance of Echo O’Brien (Eva Marie Saint), the old maid pretty daughter of Annabel’s closest friend, as a boarder in his household. Clint becomes smitten with the older woman. Then Berry-Berry appears and Echo falls for him. When Echo is pregnant, Berry-Berry shows his true colors and deserts her. This leads to an anguished Echo committing suicide. Filled with rage, Clint wants to kill his older brother; but changes his mind when confronting him, as he recognizes that his sobbing brother is pathetic and he no longer wants to be like him.

It was hard to fathom that everyone could have been in love with such a callous, narcissistic and unlovable monster as the one Beatty portrayed. The film’s trappings are of the creaky Freudian grotesque; it’s shot in stark black and white photography, which might be its best feature.