The Iceman Cometh is one great film to go out on for not one, but two of the best players ever. This turned out to be the last performances for both Fredric March and Robert Ryan. In the case of Ryan he knew he was terminal and his performance has real poignancy.<br/><br/>Of course you can't beat the material that was given to them and the rest of the cast. It's been argued that The Iceman Cometh is the greatest work from the pen of America's greatest playwright Eugene O'Neill and I'm not going to argue the point.<br/><br/>Some would give the honor of O'Neill's greatest play to Long Day's Journey Into Night. That particular play was Eugene O'Neill's remembrance of his childhood and family. The Iceman Cometh is also about a family of sorts, the community that's been established around Harry Hope's waterfront bar and SRO flophouse. It's owner Harry Hope played by Fredric March, is a former Tammany politician who's not set foot outside his establishment because he's in mourning over his late wife Bessie.<br/><br/>The whole usual crowd of boarder/drinkers is awaiting the arrival of one of the regulars who apparently likes to go slumming there. It's Hickey, a gladhanding traveling salesman Lee Marvin who spends like a Diamond Jim Brady and is generally the life of the party. But it's a new and somber Hickey that comes to bar that day.<br/><br/>A stranger arrives that day also, Jeff Bridges a young anarchist is on the run he says from the Pacific Coast where his mother among others has been picked up. He's looking for an older leader of the movement Larry Slade who is played by Robert Ryan. Ryan is a beaten and tired man and of all the people in the bar he's the one with the most realistic assessment. It's the last stop for this crowd before the Grim Reaper.<br/><br/>But the somber Marvin, still full of salesman's guile gets them all to reassess themselves and their 'pipe dreams' even for a little while. He also reveals a terrible secret about himself and Jeff Bridges has even bigger cross to bear and Bridges can't bear it.<br/><br/>I was blown away by the performances of everyone in the cast. Marvin came in for some criticism at the time, attempting to serious a part and one that Jason Robards, Jr. was given acclaim for as his career role. But there was nothing wrong in Lee Marvin's performance that I could find. Young Jeff Bridges more than held his own with the veteran cast. My favorite among the supporting parts is Bradford Dillman who plays a lawyer who graduated from Harvard Law and for whatever reason, broke down and is now here.<br/><br/>One member of the cast in this production was in the original Broadway cast when The Iceman Cometh premiered on Broadway in 1946. That was Tom Pedi who played the bartender Rocky Pioggi who also doubled as a pimp for some prostitutes who hang out there. Next to Ryan, the women who we don't learn anything about really, seem to have the most realistic ideas about the patrons there. Pedi's performance in a part he grew to own is pretty special also.<br/><br/>Bridges is the outsider, he had a cause, a revolutionary cause and O'Neill in his youth hung around with that crowd as we learned in Warren Beatty's Reds. We also learned that while O'Neill liked the people he was less than optimistic about the beliefs they had. If Bridges is a failed John Reed, O'Neill in Ryan's character of Larry Slade is looking back over the years when he drank in such places as Harry Hope's. The rest of the cast is no doubt modeled after people he knew back in the day.<br/><br/>In his own way, O'Neill loved these people a whole lot more than he did his own family. And it's to them and for them he wrote The Iceman Cometh. And it's for us to see a small part of New York in 1912, some folks who might have passed unnoticed by time, but for the fact that a literary genius passed among them.
The Iceman Cometh
The Iceman Cometh
It's 1912 and the patrons of 'The Last Chance Saloon' have gathered for their evening of whiskey to contemplate their lost faith and dreams, when Hickey (Lee Marvin) arrives. Hickey is out to convince everyone that he can help them all find peace of mind by ridding them of the foolish dreams and by bringing them back to reality. Hickey is working especially hard on Larry Slade (Robert Ryan) a former anarchist who has lost his will for life and is awaiting the eventuality of death. Larry is not affected by the cajolings of Hickey but his young companion Parritt (Jeff Bridges) is strangely affected and this leads to revelations about his own mother and feelings of betrayal and loss. As the night wears on the mood changes as everyone has the their faith and dreams slowly destroyed by Hickey. As the anger builds everyone turns on Hickey about his wife and the iceman. This leads to more revelations and with Hickey having the faint questioning of his own new found convictions.
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