Cannery Row (1982)
Novelist John Steinbeck's classic novel is brought to life with stellar performances. Oscar and Golden Globe-nominee Nick Nolte ("The Prince of Tides," "Affliction") portrays a former baseball player who falls for a Skid Row hooker, played by Oscar-nominee Debra Winger ("Terms of Endearment," "An Officer and a Gentleman"). Narrated by the great director John Huston ("The African Queen ," "The Treasure of the Sierra Madre") and directed by Oscar-winning writer David S. Ward ("The Sting," "Sleepless in Seattle").
Director-writer David S. Ward’s 1982 adaptation of John Steinbeck’s Cannery Row
(with material from another Steinbeck tale, Sweet Thursday
) has its charms, principally some top-drawer talent on both sides of the camera; the cast is headed by Nick Nolte and Debra Winger, Jack Nitzsche composed the music, and John Huston supplies the voice-over. In a previous life, Nolte’s Doc was known as Eddie "The Blur" Daniels, a star baseball pitcher in the 1920s who mysteriously gave up the game while still in his prime; now he’s a self-styled marine biologist with a predilection for octopi who makes his home on "The Row," a string of sardine fisheries in Monterey, California. There are a variety of colorful characters in this rundown ‘hood--a worldly-wise madam (Audra Lindley) and her charges, a bum (M. Emmet Walsh) and his buddies--but although it takes him a while to admit it, Doc only has eyes for Suzy (Winger), a newcomer to the scene who, by her own estimation, "ain’t got the class of a duck." The film relies mostly on these oddballs and their various idiosyncrasies and adventures, and Steinbeck clearly has considerable affection for them; it’s no surprise that some, including Doc, were based on real folks. But while Nolte and Winger have a certain squabbling rapport, the movie too often comes off as stagey (the dialogue), artificial (the sets), and glib. In the final analysis, Cannery Row
isn’t John Steinbeck’s greatest book (at the very least, it lacks the heft of East of Eden
or The Grapes of Wrath
), and this effort, despite its good points, will hardly be considered the best adaption of the author’s work to the screen or the stage. --Sam Graham