If this film doesn’t make you feel something– check your pulse.  You’re probably dead.  It’s a feast for the eyes, ears and soul.  Beautifully sad, haunting, yearning.  It pokes at that hole inside that we all have. The music weaves through the film magically– a part of the story.  Like when Sonny tunes in the radio…

And the cornerstone is a crusty old codger who dies halfway through the flick.  Sam the Lion is The Last Picture Show.

When I was a boy, all I wanted to be was James Dean.  The smoldering, misunderstood, angst-filled rebel badass– always on the outside lookin’ in.  Now that I’m older, and hopefully wiser– all I want to be is Sam the Lion. The strong, salty, cowboy sage.  Mellowed with age– but straight-out speaks his mind. See, he’s got no time for puttin’ up with trashy behavior, and won’t hesitate to call a spade a spade.

Maybe if you’re twenty and don’t want to be James Dean– you don’t have a heart. And maybe if you’re forty and don’t want to be Sam the Lion– you don’t have a brain. Maybe that’s all just a bunch of bullshit.

Find your true skin and learn to be comfortable in it– the rest ‘ll take care of itself.


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“You may be a one eyed jack around here– but I’ve seen the other side of your face.”

1958– Marlon Brando in his 1961 film directorial debut– One Eyed Jacks.  Image by Sam and Larry Shaw.  What makes One-Eyed Jacks a phenomenon big enough to live in — along with the presence of actors like Ben Johnson as that “scum-suckin’ pig” Bob Emory, Slim Pickens as Dad’s terminally despicable deputy Lon, Katy Jurado as his stalwart wife, and Pina Pellicier as his virginal stepdaughter Luisa (until Rio deflowers her) — is the way one of the most charismatic turns of Brando’s career plays off the darkest and most ambitious characterization of Malden’s. Ultimately, in spite of Brando’s excesses and misadventures (he looked through the wrong end of a view finder when framing his first shot) as an actor-director engaged in an inspirational creative enterprise, he enjoyed himself and the film reflects it. In Songs My Mother Taught Me, he writes, “We shot most of it at Big Sur and on the Monterey peninsula, where I slept with many pretty women and had a lot of laughs,” adding that “Maybe I liked the picture so much because it left me with a lot of pleasant memories about the people in it … especially Karl Malden.”  –Stuart Mitchner


In the years since it was first released in 1961, One-Eyed Jacks has been called everything from Marlon Brando’s Citizen Kane, to “…a jangle of artistic ambivalence”and unbelievably it was his only stint as director.  Being a huge Brando fan, I may be  a bit biased, but I love the film.  Marlon’s silent, smoldering intensity underscores the epic Western tale about one man’s quest for revenge and romance that run parallel– and at odds with each other.  There’s something there we all can relate to– deep friendships that have tragically gone bad over money or success… love born out of misunderstood, or less than noble origins, that ultimately overcomes all odds… the longing to leave the sorted past behind and start over again…  you get the picture.  It’s all in there– and beautifully set against the rugged, pounding, surf of Monterey and Big Sur.

Marlon Brando seen here directing on the set. — Image by © Underwood & Underwood/CORBIS.

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