Ice Palace (film)
Ice Palace is a 1960 Technicolor historical drama adventure film directed by Vincent Sherman starring Richard Burton, Robert Ryan, Carolyn Jones and Martha Hyer. It dramatized the debate over Alaska statehood. Alaska had become a state in 1959.
|Directed by||Vincent Sherman|
|Produced by||Henry Blanke and Harry Kleiner|
|Written by||Harry Kleiner|
|Based on||Ice Palace|
by Edna Ferber
|Music by||Max Steiner|
|Cinematography||Joseph F. Biroc|
|Edited by||William H. Ziegler|
|Distributed by||Warner Bros.|
|Box office||$1,650,000 (US/ Canada)|
The film follows the Edna Ferber novel in telling the story of Zeb Kennedy (Richard Burton) and Thor Storm (Robert Ryan), Alaska settlers in the period following World War I. Kennedy works his way up through the Alaskan fish cannery business, befriending Wang, a Chinese worker (George Takei), and Storm, an idealistic fishing boat captain. Kennedy and Storm begin to plan a cannery together in the fictional Alaskan town of Baranof, when Kennedy falls for Bridie Ballantyne, Storm's fiancée (Carolyn Jones). The feeling is reciprocated, but Kennedy chooses money over love, marrying Seattle heiress Dorothy Wendt (Martha Hyer). When Storm discovers his disappointed fiancée's infidelity, he punches out Kennedy and flees into the wilderness on a dog sled.
Kennedy launches a packing company in Baranof, hiring Wang as well as his old friend, Dave Husack (Jim Backus). His persistent feelings for Ballantyne, now abandoned by her fiancé, are no secret to his wife. The Kennedys give birth to a daughter, Grace. Storm returns to Baranof with an infant son, Christopher, born to an Eskimo wife who died after labor. Over the following years, Storm comes to resent Kennedy for his cannery's use of salmon traps, which are depleting the salmon population and putting fishermen out of business. Meanwhile, their children, Christopher (Steve Harris) and Grace (Shirley Knight), begin a romance. Kennedy tells Storm to keep his "half-breed kid" away from his daughter. Storm, drawing on the support of fishermen and Alaska natives, becomes a candidate for the Alaska Territorial Legislature on a platform advocating statehood and opposing the excesses of business mogul "Czar" Kennedy. Christopher and Grace elope to live among Christopher's maternal relations in the fictional village of Anavak. Grace's mother, Dorothy Kennedy dies.
Grace becomes pregnant, and the young couple decides to make a journey to Baranof so that the child is born there. They set off by dog sled, but Grace begins labor en route, and Christopher is waylaid by a bear and killed. Grace's father, Zeb, along with Thor and "Aunt" Bridie, intercept and shoot the bear. Grace gives birth to a baby girl, Christine, but dies. Christine grows up between the houses of Ballantyne and her feuding grandfathers, Kennedy and Storm. Kennedy grooms Dave Husack's son, Bay (Ray Danton), to be his champion in the territorial legislature. He encourages the young lawyer to marry Christine for political advantage. Ballantyne discovers and exposes the plot, and the engagement is broken.
Storm, on a flight to Juneau, is forced by a snowstorm to make a crash landing on a glacier. Ballantyne prevails on Kennedy to make a risky flight to save Storm and his pilot, an Eskimo named Ross Guildenstern (Sheridan Comerate). Storm survives, and his speeches before Congress are decisive in winning approval for Alaska's statehood. Victorious, Storm gives a conciliatory radio address, thanking erstwhile statehood opponent Kennedy.
- Richard Burton as Zeb Kennedy
- Robert Ryan as Thor Storm
- Carolyn Jones as Bridie Ballantyne
- Martha Hyer as Dorothy Wendt Kennedy
- Jim Backus as Dave Husack
- Ray Danton as Bay Husack
- Diane McBain as Christine Storm
- Karl Swenson as Scotty Ballantyne
- Shirley Knight as Grace Kennedy
- Barry Kelley as Einer Wendt
- Sheridan Comerate as Ross Guildenstern
- George Takei as Wang
- Steve Harris as Christopher Storm
Ice Palace was Edna Ferber's first novel in five years. Ferber spent four years researching and writing it, beginning the project in 1954. She visited Alaska several times over the following years, often with the assistance of Ernest Gruening. The character of Kennedy was based on Austin Lathrop; the Bridie Ballantyne was based on Eva McGown. The Ice Palace itself was a composite of actual buildings in Alaska. Baranof, the novel’s main fictional setting, was based on the Alaskan town of Fairbanks.
Ferber later said she felt as though she finished the novel "a month too early" because of her ill health. She had suffered a car accident and a recurrence of neuralgia and decided to sent it for publication instead of doing another draft. "I felt if I didn't finish the book I would never be able to write again," she later said.
The novel was published in March 1958. The Los Angeles Times said it was "not one of her better works". However it became a best seller, and is thought to have contributed to Alaska becoming a state in 1959.
In December 1957, Warner Bros bought the film rights to the novel for $350,000 plus 15% of the profits. Warners had already had a success with a 1956 adaptation of another Edna Ferber novel, Giant. One person associated with the film later called Ice Palace "Giant-on-the-rocks".
Ice Palace was a commercial and critical failure. A Ferber biography described it as "glacial at the box office." The New York Times reviewer called it "as false and synthetic a screen saga as has rolled out of a color camera" and "no more authentic than cornstarch snow on a studio set."
Sheila Toomey of the Anchorage Daily News, writing in 1996 about the Northward Building in downtown Fairbanks and its lore relative to the film, wrote "But in 1958 the Northward, a hulking steel-sided apartment complex, was immortalized in a bad novel, followed by an even worse movie, both called The Ice Palace".
- FOCUS ON THE FORTY-NINTH STATE By BILL BECKERJUNEAU New York Times 27 Sep 1959: X7.
- "Rental Potentials of 1960", Variety, 4 January 1961 p 47. Please note figures are rentals as opposed to total gross.
- Coen, Ross (June 4, 2011), "Edna Ferber's 'Ice Palace' played a role in Alaska statehood", Fairbanks Daily News-Miner
- As I Was Saying--: Edna Ferber Keeps on Writing Despite Painful Illness at 70 Chase, Ilka. Chicago Daily Tribune 10 Aug 1958: e1.
- Books and Authors New York Times 3 Jan 1958: 21.
- Latest Ferber Tale Not One of Best Warren, Geoffrey M. Los Angeles Times 6 Apr 1958: E6.
- BEST SELLERS Los Angeles Times 4 May 1958: E7.
- Edna Ferber and Her Circle, a Biography Julie Goldsmith Gilbert Hal Leonard Corporation, 1999 ISBN 1-55783-332-X pp 137
- Looking at Hollywood: Van Johnson Sets Musical for Broadway Next Fall Hopper, Hedda. Chicago Daily Tribune 13 Dec 1957: b16.
- "WARNERS ACQUIRE $500,000 STORIES: Studio Purchases 'Ice Palace' and 'A Summer Place'-- Barbizon Buys Novel Hunter Novel Sold". New York Times. 12 December 1957. p. 35.
- PARAMOUNT PLANS INCREASE IN FILMS: Studio to Expand Production of Quality Movies -- Irish Revolt Novel Acquired By THOMAS M. PRYOR New York Times 1 Apr 1958: 35.
- 2 FILM FIRMS WIN CHAPLIN CASE: Roy Export and Lopert Get U. S. Injunction Barring 'Pirated' Showings By RICHARD NASON. New York Times 24 July 1959: 14.
- FILM TROUPE MAKES JOURNEY TO ALASKA Special to The New York Times.. New York Times 8 Aug 1959: 25.
- New Ferber Epic Shaping in 'Snow': 'Ice Palace' Second 'Giant' About Struggle for Statehood Scheuer, Philip K. Los Angeles Times27 Nov 1959: C11.
- Edna Ferber and Her Circle, a Biography Julie Goldsmith Gilbert Hal Leonard Corporation, 1999 ISBN 1-55783-332-X pp 135
- Ice Palace: Adaptation of Ferber Book Bows at Palace The New York Times June 30, 1960 Bosley Crowther
- Toomey, Sheila (August 20, 1996). "New buyer has tall plans for Fairbanks tower". Anchorage Daily News. p. B1.