Fred Zinnemann’s “A Hatful of Rain,” based on the stage play by Michael V. Gazzo, is a gruesome, well acted melodrama about the debilitating and devastating effects of narcotics addiction on one young person and his loving family.
The handsome and likeable Don Murray (Oscar nominated for “Bust Stop” in 1955) plays Johnny Pope, a young, Korean War vet, who keeps his addiction as secret from his pregnant wife Celia (Eva Marie Saint, Oscar-winner for “On the Waterfront”) and his boorish but doting father (Lloyd Nolan).
At first, Celia thinks that he rhubby’s strange and eccentric behavior is a result of having “another woman in his life. Murray’s brother Polo (Anthony Franciosa) is the only one who knows the truth, and Johnny takes adavantage of it, constantly asking his elder, more resonsible sibling for money to support his nasty habit.
As the addiction gets increasingly worse, Murray becomes dependent on and victimized by a vicious pusher (Henry Silva). Unable to cope with his secretive private life, he confesses to his wife and father that he’s a junkie.
The movie, shot in black-and-white, goes for realism and emotional intensity, without being overly graphic and exploitative.
In its good moments, the film presents a harrowing portrait of what it means for a dope addict, what it costs in money and other ways, in emotional anguish, and in hurt to those around.
In trying to outdo Preminer’s graphic portrayal of drug addiction in his 1955 “Man with the Golden Arm,” starring Frank Sinatra, “A Hatful of Rain” benefited from the more relaxed strictures of the Production Code.
Columbia’s marketing campaign was built around the fact that the picture dealt with still a “tabboo” issue, but “Hatful of Rain” is too theatrical and thus not one of strongest pictures of Fred Zinnemann, who in the same decade made the 1953 superlative Oscar-winning “From Here to Eternity,” and the 1959 well acted drama, “The Nun’s Story.”
Anthony Franciosa was nominated for the Best Actor Oscar, but the winner was Alec Guinness for David Lean’s epic adventure “The Bridge on the River Kwai.”
The other contenders were Marlon Brando in the interracial romance “Sayonara,” Charles Laughton in the court drama, “Witness for the Prosecution,” and Anthony Quinn in George Cukor’s melodrama, “Wild Is the Wind” (which also co-starred Anthony Franciosa).
Running time: 109 Minutes.
Directed by Fred Zinnemann
Released: July 17, 1957.
Eva Marie Saint as Celia Pope
Don Murray as Johnny Pope
Anthony Franciosa as Polo Pope
Lloyd Nolan as John Pope Sr.
Henry Silva as Mother
William Hickey as Apples