Original release: May 22nd, 1958
Running time: 102 minutes
Director: Philip Dunne
Writers: Philip Dunne, John O’Hara (novel)
Cast: Gary Cooper, Geraldine Fitzgerald, Diane Varsi
With his forever good looks and charming personality that seeped through any of the roles he played, it’s hard not to like Gary Cooper. With his tall frame and sometimes quiet delivery of lines, he made an immediate impression on me when I first saw him in Mr. Deeds Goes to Town (1936), playing the titular character who suddenly comes into money and is hounded by the city vultures.
After that it was only a matter of time before I soaked up his other classics such as Morocco (1930), Peter Ibbetson (1935), Meet John Doe (1941) and High Noon (1952), but in the mid-90s I stumbled onto Ten North Frederick late one night and for the next hour and a half I sat more enthralled than ever with a Gary Cooper movie.
Set in 1945 it begins with a radio reporter describing the funeral of distinguished attorney Joseph Chapin (Cooper) while his wife Edith (Geraldine Fitzgerald) delivers his eulogy. Meanwhile we see his daughter Anne (Diane Varsi) thinking back to her father’s 50th birthday a few years earlier. This is where the story takes us back in time to reveal the troubled lives of the Chapin family.
With her son Joby (Ray Stricklyn) expelled from boarding school, Edith fears his decision to become a jazz musician might harm the well-standing family’s reputation. What Edith doesn’t know is that Anne’s secretly married Charley Bongiorno (Stuart Whitman), a trumpet player who’s also gotten her pregnant. However, her father’s instructed his lawyers to offer Charley a deal; have the marriage annulled or he’ll be charged with statutory rape.
The discovery her father was the reason why Charley left her causes Anne to run away to New York City, and the news of this harms Joe’s chances of election, which Edith has worked so hard to secure. Angry with him over the way he handled Anne’s problem, Edith confesses to having an affair with the district attorney and calling her husband a failure.
It’s no surprise then that all of this results in Joe becoming a very depressed man and he starts to drink heavily, but when he goes away on a business trip, something unexpected happens – he meets a young woman. Kate Drummond (Suzy Parker) is a model who lives in New York City, and she’s also Anne’s roommate.
This little piece of happiness in Joe’s life is soon threatened when he’s mistaken for Kate’s father by her friends. Realising how foolish he’s been he decides to end the affair and goes back to drinking in such a way that that it puts his health in jeopardy. The news of this brings Anne back home and father and daughter finally get a chance to talk to each other again.
It’s a bittersweet movie, heartbreaking at times as we see how Edith puts aside the happiness of others so that her expectations are met – when they’re not, she punishes them cruelly for it. These final scenes before Joe dies are so beautifully written, performed and filmed that I remember not being able to move once the film ended. It just filled me with such a sadness when I thought about how we can let our lives waste away because of the cruel and vengeful actions of others.
It’s something I’ve seen in my own family over the years and at the time of watching Ten North Frederick we were really in the thick of it. But, time, as the say, heals all wounds and it’s with that in mind I look back so fondly on this film.
The founder of Static Mass Emporium and one of its Editors in Chief is a composer and music producer with a philosophy degree. Static Mass is where he lives his passion for film and writing about it. A fan of film classics, documentaries and World Cinema, Patrick prefers films with an impeccable way of storytelling that reflect on the human condition.
You can find his music on Soundcloud .