Spencer Tracy spends a “Bad Day at Black Rock”

Spencer Tracy and Robert Ryan in 'Bad Day at Black Rock'While reading the names that make up the cast of “Bad Day at Black Rock,” one thought comes to mind…it would take a very bad director to screw this movie  up. Fortunately, John Sturges was always a fine director, and “Bad Day at Black  Rock” is a very good motion picture. Released in 1955, “Bad Day at Black Rock” airs Saturday, July 31st at 5 pm on Turner Classic Movies. Produced by Dore  Schary, the film’s incredible cast includes Spencer Tracy, Robert Ryan, Dean  Jagger, Walter Brennan, Anne Francis, Ernest Borgnine and Lee Marvin.

A handicapped war veteran, John J. Macreedy (Spencer Tracy) arrives by train  in the remote desert town of Black Rock, during the final days of World War II.  Macreedy is seeking a man named Komoko, but has no luck in locating him, as the  residents of Black Rock are uncooperative, and hostile. The town’s unofficial  authority figure, Reno Smith (Robert Ryan) tells Macreedy that Komoko, being of  Japanese descent, was interred shortly after the start of the war, and no longer  resides in Black Rock. Sensing that something is wrong, Macreedy seeks help from  the sheriff (Dean Jagger), who proves to be an alcoholic who is intimidated by  Smith. Investigating on his own, Macreedy concludes that Komoko is dead, and  that Smith, who has revealed himself to be an anti-Japanese racist, probably had  something to do with it. Unfortunately for Macreedy, Smith controls all  communication and transportation available in Black Rock, and Macreedy must deal  with Smith and his hooligans with no outside assistance.

It would be difficult to find a motion picture with a higher total of career  Academy Awards among its cast and crew than “Bad Day at Black Rock.” Including  the multi-Oscar wins by Spencer Tracy, Walter Brennan and music composer Andre  Previn, along with one time winners Ernest Borgnine, Lee Marvin and Dore Schary,  the total Oscar count is 12. “Bad Day at Black” itself received no Academy  Awards despite three nominations. Interestingly, Spencer Tracy originally turned  down the role of Macreedy, prompting producer Schary to make the character a  one-armed man. Schary guessed correctly that Tracy could not resist the  challenge of playing a man with such a handicap.

Note: After playing a heavy in “Bad Day at Black Rock,” Ernest Borgnine’s  career took off in another direction, as he was cast as the loveable butcher in  the film “Marty.” Released three months after “Bad Day at Black Rock,” “Marty” won the Academy Award for Best Picture, while Borgnine took home the Oscar for  Best Actor, beating out, among others, Spencer Tracy, who was nominated for his  work in “Bad Day at Black Rock.” Although Tracy’s Macreedy beats the heck out of  Borgnine’s character in “Black Rock,” Ernie got the last laugh.

Trivia: Ernest Borgnine (93) is the oldest living recipient of the Academy  Award for Best Actor.