Top grade performances, some unusual film sequences and expert production highlight Wild is the Wind, a story of earthy passion. It may earn most of its attention from distaff audiences, to whom its problem of a second wife desperately seeking love will appeal strongly. In addition to its moisture content, the Hal Wallis production has some added marquee stature in the persons of Anna Magnani and Anthony Quinn, a pair of former Oscar winners who look like nominees again this year on the strength of these performances. Overall box-office prospect is good.
Screenplay by Arnold Schulman, from a story by Vittorio Nino Novarese, is a good one, particularly in its delineation of the characters. It’s an unusual switch in that it starts off on a comedy level before abruptly switching to the dramatic problem and long early portions of it are almost entirely in Italian. The device, which sounds odd, effectively sets the mood of the overall family relationships involved in the story.
Quinn is a wealthy sheep rancher in Nevada and goes back to the old country to wed the sister of his long-dead wife. He brings her home to a promise of happiness, but the shadow of the first wife is constantly between them. Even when he proposes a birthday toast to his bride, he calls her by her sister’s name. Her urgent need to be loved makes her mistake the growing attraction between herself and Anthony Franciosa, young Basque sheepherder who had been raised by Quinn. When their affair is discovered, Franciosa turns away from her and she’s ready to return to Italy when Quinn, finally conscious of his own need for her and discovering that romance has blossomed, convinces her to try again.
George Cukor has directed with taste and imagination and his skillful handling is evident. Under his direction, Miss Magnani turns in another notable performance, slimming expertly the problem of the seemingly unloved second wife. Characterization is particularly expert in initial scenes where, despite an almost total use of Italian, she vividly conveys her reactions.
Quinn also does a top job capturing the domineering quality of the rancher determined to run people’s lives as he does his ranch. And Franciosa also shines as the younger corner of the triangle, giving the part considerable depth. In lesser roles, Joseph Calleia does a highly effective job as Quinn‘s elder brother, Lili Valenty is good as Calleia‘s wife and Dolores Hart shows promise as Quinn‘s daughter whose marriage to Franciosa is taken as a foregone conclusion by the family.
Wallis has given the production top quality throughout and there are good technical credits including fine lensing by Charles Lang Jr., good art direction by Hal Pereira and Tambi Larsen, smooth editing by Warren Low and a fine underscore by Dimitri Tiomkin. Sound by Gene Marritt failed to measure up in some of the outdoor scenes. Tiomkin and Ned Washington turned out a title tune that will have some exploitation value and the Italian song Scapricciatello, by Fernando Albano and Pacifico Vento, sung by Miss Magnani, should also generate some interest as a noveltune entry.