It's a hot summer day in 1933 in South Philly, where 12-year old Gennaro lives with his widowed mom and his ailing grandpa, who sits outside holding tight to his last quarter, which he's ... See full summary »
Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio,
When Bobby Deerfield was marketed in the USA it was sold to the public as a racing picture like Grand Prix or Le Mans. I well remember the advertisements for it. The European racing scene however is only a background for an Erich Maria Remarque novel on which the film is based. It is a very typical Remarque story about doomed people.
Remarque was one of the most pessimistic of 20th century writers. His best known work however usually has a war background. He spent his entire life trying to out do his first great success All Quiet On The Western Front. Such other work as Three Comrades and Arch of Triumph which were also filmed had a war background or post or pre-war if you will.
The novel Bobby Deerfield is based on Heaven Has No Favorites and came out in 1961 and its protagonist was not an American. My guess is that in order to film it and insure box office the protagonist was changed to an American and a rising American star was cast. Al Pacino plays the title role, an American driver on the European circuit who is self involved in his career. In fact he goes visiting another injured driver, not out of any tremendous concern for him, but to find out information about the crash because he's driving the exact same type of car.
While at the hospital he meets Marthe Keller who leaves the hospital with him. She's a terminal tuberculosis patient and she wants to experience a little of life before it's too late. His kind of risk taking profession appeals to her. It takes a while, but the two develop a relationship.
Which was paralleled in real life between Al Pacino and Marthe Keller and that certainly helped the film a lot. Keller joins Ingrid Bergman from Arch of Triumph and Margaret Sullavan in Three Comrades as yet another of Remarque's doomed heroines. And like in war Pacino's in a job where his number can come up any time.
The film was shot on location in France. Sydney Pollack showed some of the style he did while making that other Oscar winning romantic film Out of Africa. The French countryside is captured beautifully.
Still I think it was bad for American audiences to expect another Grand Prix in Bobby Deerfield. There was enough racing scenes in the film to satisfy racing fans, maybe. But make no mistake, this is a tender romantic story and a good one.
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