This excellent adaptation of Steinbeck's novel features Tracy and Tamiroff as two ne'er-do-wells constantly in search of a free meal in their home of Monterey, California. Garfield is an eager young man who considers himself to be wealthy after inheriting two houses located on Tortilla
Flat. Proud of his new status, Garfield allows Tracy and his friends to move into one of the homes, keeping the other for himself. But Garfield's newfound wealth--not to mention his attraction to local cannery worker Lamarr--soon threatens come between the pals.
TORTILLA FLAT is an affectionate tale, told with sensitivity and a wonderfully offbeat sense of humor. Steinbeck's engaging characters are well treated by the talents of this ensemble and by Fleming's caring direction. Lamarr is excellent (she considered this the best of all her roles) as the
level-headed, spunky woman who refuses to settle for anything she doesn't want. Her relationship with Garfield, a mixture of attraction and suspicion, is realistic and honest, a rarity for a screen romance. Garfield puts his heart into his portrayal of the earnest Danny, contributing a memorable
characterization that complements Lamarr's wonderful work. Tracy's lovable rogue and Morgan's holy roller add to the film's cast of colorful characters. Indeed, Morgan received a well-deserved Oscar nomination as Best Supporting Actor, though he lost that year to Van Heflin in JOHNNY EAGER.
Fleming captures the nuances and ambience of life in this small town, a sincere effort that guides the performers with care through the material. MGM built an entire village over three acres of land for the film that Garfield dearly wanted to do, though he had to wait some time before Warner Bros.
agreed to loan him to MGM. Louis B. Mayer, MGM's head, also liked the idea of Garfield in the role, and, reportedly, the powerful mogul was not above some unorthodox pressuring to get his man. Mayer is said to have threatened to expose Warner Bros. for not making good on their pledges to certain
charitable groups unless Garfield was allowed to make the film.
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