Untamed (1955) - Susan Hayward, Tyrone Power Adventure

Scarlett O'Hara takes South Africa. This is perhaps the best way to describe the film adaptation of Helga Moray's novel, Untamed.

Susan Hayward stars as Katie O'Neil, a spoiled young woman who must have everything her heart desires, regardless of the consequences to self or others. After the potato famine in Ireland, Katie leaves her destitute estate and marries one man (John Justin) to move to South Africa where she pursues another man (Tyrone Power) that she met once back home. As with Scarlett, a green dress plays a strong role in seducing men.

The first man dies and Katie - as with Margaret Mitchell's heroine in Gone With the Wind - practically dances on his grave. She's free now to continue her quest for the impossible - to get rugged Paul (Power) to forget about establishing the Dutch Free State and concentrate on her. (Katie even tells Paul "I'll never let you go,"  which, coming from her, sounds less like poignant longing and more like a threat.)

In the meantime, she manipulates a third man (Richard Egan) who's not quite as clueless as everyone else, but is instantly in love with her in spite of his sense of self-preservation. He and Power are each a combination of Ashley Wilkes and Rhett Butler.

Power is barely in the film; he's the MacGuffin, the plot device which keeps Katie's adventure going. And going it does. Katie loses more than one fortune, becomes a shady gold and diamond trader, has several shoot-'em-outs and two babies.

The movie celebrates the character for her resilience and strong-will, but Katie is really an anti-hero. She runs roughshod over everyone and ultimately learns nothing.

Although the protagonist is a mild disappointment, Hayward's performance of her is not. The actress plays Katie with relish, chewing up the screen. She was born to play this kind of fiery woman. Brava!

This film is also impressive for its breathtaking landscapes. Though the copy of the film that I watched was kind of murky, the location shots are still majestic. There is a battle scene where hundreds of Zulu warriors line up in a circle on a hillside and chant. It must have looked great in CinemaScope.

Watch for a brief performance by Rita Moreno as Julia - the "other woman" who waits in the wings for one of Katie's leftover men.

I usually enjoy studying the posters of the film, just to see how close the ad comes to the finished film in terms of tone.

The English language posters mostly show a Zulu warrior standing over Katie and Paul who are embracing on the ground. They do embrace on the ground a lot, but the battle scene is just one episode in Katie's life.

There doesn't seem to be a poster that truly captures the film. This Spanish poster or lobby card comes close. The warrior is to one side and there are several scenes. This better captures how the film feels - busy, action-packed, one episode after another.

Beyond the film itself,  one of Power's costumes in the final 20 minutes of the film intrigued me. I'd seen it before. Then it hit me. It's the same one which can be seen on the cover of his daughter's book - Searching for My Father by Romina Power. 


 His family visited the set while on location.

Tyrone and Romina Power . Source.
Although Untamed seems to be inspired by Gone With the Wind, there is plenty to be said of its casting and impressive location shots. Unlike the other film -which is pretty long at nearly 4 hours- Untamed packs in plenty of action into a re-watchable hour and a half.


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"Java's Journey: A really fun, informative well-written blog that explores all of the things - and I mean all - I love about classic films."-- Flick Chick of A Person In The Dark Email: java-rush@hotmail.com


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