John Sturges’ brilliant 1955 Western/suspense film, dealing with themes of bigotry, mob mentality and redemption, is one of my favourites. The story of a one-armed stranger (Spencer Tracy) ready to give up on life, taking on a town of thugs and scoundrels (a mostly male cast that includes Ernest Borgnine, Robert Ryan and Lee Marvin) when that life is threatened, never fails to inspire. And how much more inspirational will it be with Dame Judi Dench as the one-armed stranger who unwittingly uncovers a hate crime, and Emma Stone, Angelina Jolie and Rachel McAdams among the criminals eager to keep their involvement in that hate crime hidden?
I just have a feeling that David Lean’s work of pure genius, a film many would say should never be touched, would benefit immensely from some feminine mystique. All the more so as there are no female speaking roles in it, unless you count ululating. Imagine the unforgettable “we want two large glasses of lemonade” scene with Meryl Streep as the charismatic Lawrence, Keira Knightley as the boy and Catherine Deneuve as Colonel Brighton; picture Marion Cotillard uttering Anthony Quinn’s darkly humorous line, “Ah, it was written then.” Anyone who believed Lean’s classic could not be made even more classic would have to eat their arrogant words.
Another great movie with no female speaking roles, but oh, the possibilities with an all-female remake: Viola Davis as Bartlett; Helen Mirren as The Forger; Megan Fox as The Scrounger; Anne Hathaway in Charles Bronson’s role as the claustrophobic Tunnel King; and the bittersweet final scene with Drew Barrymore as the cocky Hilts and Diane Kruger – a German actress who has said she doesn’t like to play Nazis – as von Luger, a Nazi about to be sent to the Eastern front, admitting that Hilts will see Berlin before she does.
Who says women can’t do action flicks? The World War II story of a bunch of anti-social psychopaths – described during the film as “one religious maniac, one malignant dwarf, two near idiots and the rest I don’t even want to think about” – saved from the gallows in order that they might help the Allies kill Nazis would look so much prettier with Sandra Bullock as Jefferson, Lucy Liu as Franko, Nia Vardalos as Maggott, and Julianne Moore and Kristen Stewart reprising the roles made famous by Lee Marvin and Charles Bronson. And how about the entire female Dirty Dozen reciting the rhyming chant that helps each member of the group remember their part in the mission? Worth the price of a ticket and a large container of popcorn in and of itself.
If there is any worry that an all-female cast wouldn’t bring in the gentlemen, wait till audiences see Monica Bellucci and her large breasts wearing a skimpy dress and trudging sweatily and desperately through the hot streets of Rome with her adorable daughter trying to find her stolen bicycle so she can work because she’s really, really poor and it’s after the war and everyone in Italy is miserable even though they get to live in Italy. Vittorio De Sica’s masterpiece of neo-realism and human suffering never looked this voluptuous.