TENDER IS THE NIGHT
Color, 146 min.
Released: February 1, 1962 (20th Century Fox)
Cast: Jennifer Jones (as Nicole Diver), Jason Robards, Jr., Joan Fontaine, Tom Ewell, Jill St. John, Cesare Danova, Paul Lukas, Charles Fredericks, Bea Benaderet
Director: Henry King
Producer: Henry T. Weinstein
Complete Credits at IMDB
F. Scott Fitzgerald's celebrated novel tells the story of wealthy psychologist Dick Diver and his mentally unstable wife, Nicole. In the opening, the Divers are giving a Fourth of July party for their friends at their home on the French Riviera. Nicole becomes upset when Dick's attention is diverted by a young American actress. She retreats to their room upstairs where she has a fit of hysterics. Dick sedates her and puts her to bed. In a flashbck, he remembers how he first met and fell in love with Nicole when she was his patient in Zurich. Several years later, they marry and begin traveling throughout Europe in a whirlwind lifestyle full of drinking and parties. Nicole's condition improves but Dick, however, begins to lose confidence in himself and his professional life suffers. Nicole, unable to regain her husbands faith in himself, succumbs to the charms of another man and divorces Dick. Nicole Diver was modeled after F. Scott Fitzgerald's wife Zelda and for years Jennifer wanted to play the role. After the critical lambasting from A Farewell To Arms, however, David and Jennifer remained inactive for a while and it would be almost four years before Jennifer appeared in another film. The plans for Tender Is The Night had been drawn up early, but the executives at Twentieth Century Fox were not too keen on another Selznick/Jones collaboration and the project kept being put aside. Finally Selznick gave up producing the film because he was afraid that Fox might try to recast Jennifer.
The cast was eventually assembled and filming began in Switzerland in the spring of 1961. Jason Robards Jr. (at the time his work had been only on Broadway) was chosen for the role of Dick Diver. Jennifer had initially requested William Holden because of their success with Love Is A Many Splendored Thing but he was unavailable. The supporting parts went to Joan Fontaine, Jill St. John, Tom Ewell and Cesare Danova. Henry King (who had directed Jennifer in two of her Oscar nominated performances - The Song of Bernadette and Love Is A Many Splendored Thing) was hired as the director. The filming went smoothly and finished on time and the opening date was set for January of 1962.
The critical response to the film was mixed. Jennifer received very good notices (some of the best she had received in the past ten years) but then some critics thought that she was too old for the role. Seen today, she gives a very commendable performance here and outshines everyone else in the film. The supporting players and Jason Robards Jr. fare worst. The chemistry between Robards and Jones was lacking and he gives a very wooden performance. The supporting actors, with the exception of Joan Fontaine (who has a delicious turn as Nicole's sister, Baby) were not well cast and many, especially Ewell and St. John, were downright bad.
If Jennifer's acting was criticized, her looks were definitely not. Before filming began, Selznick and Jones became acquainted with George Masters, a beauty expert who would soon become Jennifer's personal stylist. He researched the hairstyles and make-up of the 1920s extensively before filming began and his work paid off. Jennifer is absolutely stunning in this film. (For a fascinating look into her personal grooming habits, look for Masters' book The Masters Way To Beauty, E.P. Dutton, 1977. He devotes an extensive chapter on his relationship with Selznick and Jennifer.) Also notable were the period costumes designed by Marjorie Best.
As a film, Tender Is The Night is very beautiful to look at. The location photography (especially in Zurich and on the French Riviera) is exceptional. There is one long sweeping shot that sweeps down the cliffs along the beautiful homes on the Riviera that is breathtaking. This helps because, on the whole, the film is leisurely paced and very long. This was to be Jennifer Jones last high budget film in which she had a starring role.
Interesting Tidbit - Bernard Herrmann did the score and you can detect shades of the Psycho theme here! The song "Tender Is The Night", however, won the Oscar.
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