Crystal Kalyana is back and In the Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood is hosting a blogathon tribute to the uniquely talented Anne Bancroft. The 90th birthdate celebration runs from September 17th to the 19th. Click HERE for the blogathon contributions.
The Raid, 1954 is a historical drama released by Twentieth Century Fox. The screenplay by Sidney Boehm (The Big Heat) is based on the story treatment of Francis M. Cockrell (Inferno) of the Herbert Ravenel Sass novel Affair at St. Albans. Hugo Fregonese (Saddle Tramp, Man in the Attic) directed. The Raid is based on a true incident that occurred during the American Civil War, the details of which are recounted here.
A group of Confederate prisoners led by Captain Benton played by Van Heflin escape their captors in New York State. There were eight altogether and six will make it across the border to Montreal in Canada. One of the soldiers refuses to go as he cannot condone their plans should the escape prove successful and another was killed. You win no prize for assuming that Lee Marvin as Lt. Keating is cast as the hothead. His character will bring trouble. Peter Graves as Capt. Dwyer is as dedicated and steady as their leader Benton.
When next we see Captain Benton he is posing as a Montreal businessman by the name of Neal Swayze. He has come to St. Albans on a reconnaissance mission. The Confederacy plans to bring the war to what they think of as the complacent North, to disrupt the flow of troops to the South, and to steal much-needed funds. St. Albans is planned to be the first of many such raids.
Benton/Swayze: "I didn't mean to stare at you but I had been told about Widow Bishop. I had expected an older lady."
Katy Bishop: "The war makes young widows."
One of the local bankers played by Will Wright advises the boarding house run by the Widow Bishop for good vittles and a clean atmosphere. It is here that Captain Benton will find more than he was looking for.
In honour of Anne Bancroft's 90th birthdate, we will focus on her role in The Raid. At this point in her burgeoning career, she was generally cast as "the woman," in the picture. Nonetheless, Anne Bancroft brought depth and interest to her characters that were not always apparent in the scripts as written. The character of Katy Bishop has clearly taken control of her life in the midst of tumultuous times providing a haven for her guests and friends and raising her young son played by Tommy Rettig.
The relationship between Katy and the Confederate raider is not one of those great movie romances, but a subtle meeting of compatible personalities that begins when the Montreal businessman, as he is known, inquires about land that may be available for purchase. The attraction is noted with chagrin by Captain Foster played by Richard Boone. He is a longtime friend of Katy's and the recruiting officer for the district having lost his left hand early in the conflict.
Benton, like most of the men under his command, has difficulty suppressing his hatred of the Yankees among whom he is living. However, as time wears on and plans for the raid are constantly being changed due to unforeseen challenges from Union Forces and from the explosive Lt. Keating, Captain Benton forges feelings for Katy, Tommy, and the town. His allegiance to the Confederacy has not lessened but he is beginning to appreciate the two sides to the conflict and he no longer fanatically craves the destruction of the entire town.
Van Heflin, Anne Bancroft
A violent incident precipitated by the desperate and irrational Lt. Keating places Captain Benton in a position where doing his duty for the Confederacy, he becomes a hero to the citizens of St. Albans. The look of pride and affection bestowed by Katy is perilously close to the love her friend Captain Foster fears she is feeling.
There is no stopping the raid, and there is no stopping Katy and Tommy from discovering the truth about the man they have let into their hearts. Captain Benton promises they will be safe and he practically begs for understanding as we hear the shouts and screams from the town square when the looting and arson begin.
The destruction around them is a time for Katy and for Captain Foster to display their courage. It is an opportunity for Captain Benton to do the same; can he stay true to his mission and not sink to barbarism? His personal letter left for Katy asks much of her.