Friday, September 3, 2021

John Garfield reaches “The Breaking Point”

The Breaking Point (1950) is an American crime drama directed by Michael Curtiz and starring John Garfield and Patricia Neal. The excellent supporting cast includes Phyllis Thaxter and Juano Hernandez.

John Garfield plays Harry Morgan, a sports-fishing boat captain whose business is not going very well. In an effort to keep his business afloat (no pun intended) and to support his wife and two young daughters, he hooks up with a shady lawyer named Duncan (Wallace Ford). Duncan gets him involved with human smuggling and before he knows it, he’s involved with more criminal activity.

Harry’s life Lucy, (Phyllis Thaxter) begs him to give up the boat and start over with a new job with her father and move away from California. Harry refuses his wife’s plea and instead, risks losing his family, and the respect of his partner Wesley Park (Juano Hernandez).

Will Harry come to his senses or will his fear of failure distort his judgment and destroy his chance at happiness.

To watch the film on YouTube, click the link below.


To join our discussion on September 6, 2021, at 6 p.m. Central Time, click here. Once you RSVP, you will receive an email with an invitation to the meetup and a link to the meeting on Zoom.

The Breaking Point trivia

  • Michael Curtiz directed three films in 1950, two of them starred Patricia Neal. The other film was Bright Leaf which also starred Gary Cooper and Lauren Bacall.
  • Actress Phyllis Thaxter dyed her hair blond for the film, opting not to wear a wing.
  • Wallace Ford (Duncan) had a long career in Hollywood going back to the days of the silents and working as late as 1965 in A Patch of Blue.
  • Juano Hernandez made this film after starring in Intruder in the Dust at M-G-M.

Why watch this film?

  • This was John Garfield’s second-to-last film role and the one he was most proud of.
  • It’s a much grittier version of Howard Hawks’s To Have and Have Not (1944) starring Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall.
  • The film features some great supporting performances including those by Phyllis Thaxter (a standout) and Juano Hernandez.
  • The film features the Warner Bros. A-Team with director Michael Curtiz, cinematographer Ted D. McCord, music by Max Steiner, and producer Jerry Wald.
  • New York Times curmudgeon Bosley Crowther said the film had “All of the character, color and cynicism of Mr. Hemingway’s lean and hungry tale are wrapped up in this realistic picture, and John Garfield is tops in the principal role...”

John Garfield and Phyllis Thaxter

Discussion questions:

  1. Noir or not? Does this film fit with your understanding of what makes a movie a film noir?
  2. What did you think of the on-screen relationship between John Garfield and Phyllis Thaxter and Garfield and Patricia Neal?
  3. Was Patricia Neal’s role necessary? What did her characterization add to the plot?
  4. Did the friendship/business partnership between Garfield and Juano Hernandez surprise you?
  5. Was the film title fitting?
  6. The film had a brutal ending; was it the ending you expected?


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