Sometimes a Great Notion (1971)

GP | 113-115 mins | Drama | November 1971

Writer:

John Gay

Cinematographer:

Richard Moore

Editor:

Robert Wyman

Production Designer:

Philip Jefferies

Production Companies:

Newman-Foreman Co., Inc., Universal Pictures
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HISTORY

Filmfacts and the ^Var review mistakenly list the character of "Joe Ben" as "Henry Stamper's" son. In 1977, the film was released on television under the title Never Give an Inch . It was subsequently re-released theatrically under its original title, which was the title of the print viewed. Sometimes a Great Notion was based on the Ken Kesey novel of the same name, the first of his books to be adapted into a film. The LAT review stated that Sam Peckinpah and Budd Boetticher had both expressed interest in directing an adaptation of Kesey’s book. In Feb 1969, DV announced that Paul Newman planned to direct Sometimes a Great Notion the following summer. An Apr 1969 DV news item stated that the film might be shot in Canada. By May 1970, DV noted that Richard A. Colla had been set to direct the film, which would be a Jennings Lang presentation. Lang, the then-vice-president of Universal Films, was not listed in the onscreen credits.
       The incidents in the film were generally faithful to those in the book; however, many aspects of the book were not included in the film. As noted in the LAHExam review, “Henry Stamper” is portrayed in the novel as fierce, self-reliant and tyrannical, while the movie depicts him as a lovable eccentric. In addition, although in the novel “Leeland Stamper,” an urban sophisticate, wants to destroy “Hank Stamper,” a rugged individualist, and comes to learn that Hank’s ways have value, in the film the brothers’ issues are restricted to personal ones.
       After five weeks of ... More Less

Filmfacts and the ^Var review mistakenly list the character of "Joe Ben" as "Henry Stamper's" son. In 1977, the film was released on television under the title Never Give an Inch . It was subsequently re-released theatrically under its original title, which was the title of the print viewed. Sometimes a Great Notion was based on the Ken Kesey novel of the same name, the first of his books to be adapted into a film. The LAT review stated that Sam Peckinpah and Budd Boetticher had both expressed interest in directing an adaptation of Kesey’s book. In Feb 1969, DV announced that Paul Newman planned to direct Sometimes a Great Notion the following summer. An Apr 1969 DV news item stated that the film might be shot in Canada. By May 1970, DV noted that Richard A. Colla had been set to direct the film, which would be a Jennings Lang presentation. Lang, the then-vice-president of Universal Films, was not listed in the onscreen credits.
       The incidents in the film were generally faithful to those in the book; however, many aspects of the book were not included in the film. As noted in the LAHExam review, “Henry Stamper” is portrayed in the novel as fierce, self-reliant and tyrannical, while the movie depicts him as a lovable eccentric. In addition, although in the novel “Leeland Stamper,” an urban sophisticate, wants to destroy “Hank Stamper,” a rugged individualist, and comes to learn that Hank’s ways have value, in the film the brothers’ issues are restricted to personal ones.
       After five weeks of filming, as noted in a 23 Jul 1970 DV article, Colla left the production because of “artistic differences over photographic concept” as well as an upcoming throat operation. Around that time, star-producer Paul Newman broke his ankle, necessitating a temporary shutdown of the production beginning 29 Jul 1970. As noted in a 7 Aug 1970 HR news item, filming resumed two weeks later with Newman as director. Although the Jul 1970 DV article stated that the change might be temporary and that Stuart Rosenberg was being considered as a permanent replacement, Newman retained directorial duties and received sole onscreen credit as director. A modern source stated that Newman considered George Roy Hill to take over direction, and although Hill declined, he helped to edit Newman’s footage.
       The production, which was shot entirely on location in and around Newport, OR, continued into Oct 1970, after which, according to Filmfacts , Newman encountered difficulties with editing the footage. Filmfacts stated that several scenes were deleted in the editing process, including a sequence in which Lee has an affair with “Viv Stamper,” prompting Hank to beat his brother savagely. Due to the production overruns and editing issues, as noted in the Var review, the film’s final cost was considerably higher than its original budget of $3.66 million.
       Reviews, which were mixed, pointed out that Henry Stamper marked the first mostly unsympathetic character that Henry Fonda had ever played. Richard Jaeckel was nominated for a Best Supporting Actor Academy Award, and “All His Children” was nominated for Best Song. In Jun 1987, as noted in a LAT article, Newman sued Universal and MCA, Inc. for $3 million, contending that they owed him profits from the film and three others. The disposition of the suit has not been determined. More Less

GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
25 Feb 1969.
---
Daily Variety
22 Apr 1969.
---
Daily Variety
11 May 1970.
---
Daily Variety
21 Jul 1970.
---
Daily Variety
23 Jul 1970.
---
Daily Variety
15 Nov 1970.
---
Filmfacts
1972
pp. 77-80.
Hollywood Reporter
11 May 1970.
---
Hollywood Reporter
19 Jun 1970
p. 11.
Hollywood Reporter
6 Jul 1970.
---
Hollywood Reporter
7 Aug 1970.
---
Hollywood Reporter
2 Oct 1970
p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter
15 Nov 1971.
---
Los Angeles Herald Examiner
17 Dec 1971.
---
Los Angeles Herald Examiner
15 Jun 1985.
---
Los Angeles Times
17 Dec 1971.
---
Los Angeles Times
3 Jun 1987.
---
New York Times
2 Mar 1972
p. 34.
Variety
17 Nov 1971
p. 14.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
Asst dir
2d unit dir
2d asst dir trainee
PRODUCERS
Assoc prod
WRITER
Scr
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
1st asst cam
Gaffer
Key grip
ART DIRECTOR
FILM EDITOR
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Prop master
Asst prop master
COSTUMES
Cost des
Cost
Cost
MUSIC
VISUAL EFFECTS
Titles and optical eff
Spec eff
Spec eff
MAKEUP
Cosmetics
Men's hair des
Hairstylist
PRODUCTION MISC
Unit prod mgr
Tech adv
Tech adv
Scr supv
Transportation capt
STAND INS
Stunt coord
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel Sometimes a Great Notion by Ken Kesey (New York, 1964).
AUTHOR
SONGS
"All His Children," music by Henry Mancini, lyrics by Marilyn and Alan Bergman, sung by Charley Pride.
PERFORMER
DETAILS
Alternate Title:
Never Give an Inch
Release Date:
November 1971
Production Date:
22 June 1970--29 July 1970
11 August--early October 1970 in Oregon
Copyright Claimant:
Universal Pictures and Newman-Foreman Co., Inc.
Copyright Date:
17 December 1971
Copyright Number:
LP41090
Physical Properties:
Sound
RCA Sound System
Color
Technicolor
Widescreen/ratio
Panavision
Duration(in mins):
113-115
MPAA Rating:
GP
Country:
United States
Language:
English
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

The logging town of Wakonda, Oregon has been thrown in economic despair because of the local union’s strike against a large lumber combine. When the Stamper family, who own an independent logging business, refuse to join the strikers, they are considered traitors by the locals. One day, union president Jonathan Draeger arrives to speak to Henry, the family patriarch who wears an arm cast due to a recent accident, and his son Hank. Draeger appeals to their sense of community, asking them to hold their logs from the combine and sell them later to another company. In response, Henry declares that, as the family has “worked for dogs for generations,” no one can tell them how to run their business. Despite Draeger’s appeals and veiled threats, the Stamper men remain cold and steadfast, further infuriating their neighbors. Soon after, Leeland Stamper, Henry’s other son and Hank’s half-brother, appears at the house after years of absence. Henry’s nephew, Joe Ben, who lives at the Stamper house with his wife Jan and their daughters along with Henry and Hank and his wife Viv, at first fails to recognize Lee, but soon welcomes him warmly. Lee, who unlike his rural family has attended college, lived in cities and sports the long hair of a modern youth, gives no reason for his sudden return and is uncomfortable with his family. At night, Lee drinks too much and raves that after Henry left him and his mother, who was Henry's second wife, without a word, only Hank helped support them. Despite Lee’s assertion that he has come back to help Hank with the business, he bitterly informs his half-brother that his mother committed suicide, ... +


The logging town of Wakonda, Oregon has been thrown in economic despair because of the local union’s strike against a large lumber combine. When the Stamper family, who own an independent logging business, refuse to join the strikers, they are considered traitors by the locals. One day, union president Jonathan Draeger arrives to speak to Henry, the family patriarch who wears an arm cast due to a recent accident, and his son Hank. Draeger appeals to their sense of community, asking them to hold their logs from the combine and sell them later to another company. In response, Henry declares that, as the family has “worked for dogs for generations,” no one can tell them how to run their business. Despite Draeger’s appeals and veiled threats, the Stamper men remain cold and steadfast, further infuriating their neighbors. Soon after, Leeland Stamper, Henry’s other son and Hank’s half-brother, appears at the house after years of absence. Henry’s nephew, Joe Ben, who lives at the Stamper house with his wife Jan and their daughters along with Henry and Hank and his wife Viv, at first fails to recognize Lee, but soon welcomes him warmly. Lee, who unlike his rural family has attended college, lived in cities and sports the long hair of a modern youth, gives no reason for his sudden return and is uncomfortable with his family. At night, Lee drinks too much and raves that after Henry left him and his mother, who was Henry's second wife, without a word, only Hank helped support them. Despite Lee’s assertion that he has come back to help Hank with the business, he bitterly informs his half-brother that his mother committed suicide, after which there was no one to help him or even attend her funeral. At 4:00 a.m., Henry noisily rouses the family. The women serve breakfast while the men banter, Henry voicing aloud his doubts that Lee can “make it” at the worksite. After Joe Ben, a born-again Christian, attempts to entice Lee to attend church, Lee points out that Viv and Jan refrain from speaking at meals. After a brief pause, Hank admonishes Henry to be kinder to Lee, but Henry calls the boy “a sissy.” At the worksite, a few other Stamper cousins join the friendly work crew. They stop to give a ride to Les Gibbons, a union man who informs them that at the upcoming Lumberman’s Field Day picnic, the locals plan to beat up Hank. The work is dangerous and grueling, but as Lee struggles to learn from and keep up with the other men, he earns grudging respect from Hank, who is met with silence when he asks his brother why he really came back. Later, the family enters town to buy supplies. While some of the townsmen attempt to appeal to Hank and Henry’s decency, pleading with them to join the strike because the town will die while it drags on, others must be restrained from assaulting the Stamper men. At work the following day, a log rolls loose and nearly hits Lee. Although Henry blames Lee, Lee informs them at dinner that the rope had been tampered with. The men appear disbelieving, prompting Lee to condemn them for “never giving an inch.” When Henry and Hank go hunting with the dogs, Lee stays home, where he watches Viv and Jan doing all the domestic labor. Lee reveals to Viv that he decided to come home after a suicide attempt and a subsequent year of loneliness and depression. He asks Viv for her opinion about the strike, but she responds that she does not think because no one asks her opinion. Viv then recalls meeting Hank, who rode his motorcycle through her small town, causing trouble and winning her heart. Trying to explain why she stays with him, Viv declares that after losing a baby in childbirth, she resigned herself to having her garden and her canary, and never asking for more. Soon after, the family attends the Field Day picnic on the beach. Although the townspeople mostly ostracize them, the men are invited to play football. The game soon turns rough, and after union man Biggy Newton informs Lee that Hank used to sleep with Lee’s mother, a brawl breaks out, with Lee and Hank holding strong against the others. The men return home that night drunk and raucous. When Hank unintentionally pushes Viv down and walks away, Lee helps her up and tells her to let him know if she wants to leave. The next day at work, Hank apologizes to Lee for having an affair with his mother, and Lee reveals that when he was ten years old, he witnessed the two of them together. By the next morning, the work crew all call in sick, and the Stamper cousins inform Hank that their children are shunned at school and they all would like to join the strike. Upon driving to the site, they find their equipment burned. Furious, Hank goes to the union hall and uses a chainsaw to cut the desk in two. Outside, Willard Eggleston, who runs the local theater, pleads to an unresponsive Hank that he supports an illegitimate child and will be forced to kill himself if the economic hardships continue. That night, Howie, Elwood, Les and Biggy go to the river to tamper with the Stampers’ logs. In their drunken revelry, Les is swept out in the tide, and when Biggy attempts to help, he is pulled along. With no other choice, Howie and Elwood call Hank, whose house sits downriver, to ask him to rescue the men as they are swept down the river. Although he knows the men are vandalizing him, Hank does not hesitate to help. A storm arises soon after, and when Willard tries to erect a movie marquee in the rain, he falls to his death. Though the Stampers’ trucks have been burned, Hank hatches a plan to float the logs downriver. However, certain that Willard committed suicide, Viv begs Hank not to go to work, kissing him seductively, but as soon as Henry appears with his cast sawn off, declaring his eagerness to get to work, Hank joins him. Viv, sorely disappointed, asks Henry why they bother, and Henry replies, “We work, sleep, eat, screw, drink and keep on going, and that’s all there is.” Henry, Hank, Joe Ben and Lee go out to the woods to work alone. At one point during the long day, Hank saws a tree but it splits and falls the wrong way, landing on Henry’s arm, which is severed. As he attends to his father, Lee sees that the huge tree trunk has rolled into the water and trapped Joe Ben beneath it. Joe Ben, insisting he is fine, tells Lee to take Henry to the hospital, while Hank stays behind to free Joe Ben. As Henry pleads with Lee to promise to save his arm, Hank tries to drag Joe Ben out from under the log and upon failing, tries to saw the trunk apart, but the water disables the chainsaw. Joe Ben remains cheerful, expecting the tide to move the trunk, but when the trunk begins to move, it rolls farther over him. Slowly sinking under the water, Joe Ben jokes with Hank, who is growing ever more desperate. When Joe Ben’s head disappears underwater, Hank breathes into his mouth until Joe Ben slips away. Later, Lee returns home to inform Jan that Joe Ben has drowned, while Hank sits with Henry in the hospital. Upon awakening, Henry informs Hank that he does not mind having lost his arm and refuses to die. After exhorting Hank to fulfill their contract, Henry declares that Lee “really cut it today.” Soon after, Henry dies. Hank returns home, only to discover that Viv has left along with Jan and the kids. Hank appears unconcerned, prompting Lee to proclaim his hatred for Hank and his desire that Hank kill himself, as Lee’s mother did. Hank finally explodes, stating that Lee’s mother seduced him when he was only fourteen, then quietly revealing that Henry had praised Lee before dying. Chastened and unsure, Lee spends the night sitting across the river watching the house while Hank sits inside drinking. When Biggy calls Hank to gloat about the accident and subsequent destruction of the business, Hank decides single-handedly to “run the logs,” or transport the four huge floating rafts of logs down the river. As soon as Lee sees his brother leave the house, he joins him, and when Hank goads him to leave, Lee replies that he now owns half the logs. The townsmen soon hear that Hank has rented a tugboat and, realizing his crazy plan, line the banks of the river in hopes of seeing him fail. To everyone’s surprise, Lee manages to direct the rafts around the river bends without incident, with Hank bringing up the rear in a motorboat. The townsmen curse the Stampers while Hank joins Lee in the tug, taking something from a sack and attaching it to the tug’s prow. As the two brothers sail on together, the townsmen can see what Hank has erected: his father’s severed arm, with the middle finger sticking up in salute. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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