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The Olive Trees Of Justice (1962)/A not quite lost film

October 15th, 2012 by Anne Richardson · 3 Comments · 1960's, Lost film, Oregon director, Oregon film, Oregon film new definition, Secretly French

The first person to tell me about Oregon filmmaker James Blue was James Ivory.

Then Penny Allen told me that James Blue was the first Oregonian to take a film to Cannes. Blue was awarded the Critics Prize at Cannes  in 1962 for his first feature length film, The Olive Trees Of Justice.

I don’t know much about Blue! He grew up in Portland and graduated from University of Oregon in 1953.

Richard Engeman did a little sleuthing:

The Oregonian reported on February 1, 1953, that James Blue was starring in “Death of a Salesman” at U. of O, where he was a senior in speech. Earlier, on October 14, 1951, he was noted as the chief carpenter for a U. of O. production of “The Madwoman of Chaillot. He also won the Oregon State Broadcasters outstanding performance award, give at the U. of O. May 14, 1953 (Oregonian, May 15). There are a number of Oregonian pieces about, or mentioning him, 1962-1980. He’s buried in Willamette National Cemetery.

The Olive Trees Of Justice, Blue’s only narrative film, was based on the novel of the same name by Algerian novelist Jean Pelegri. It was shot in Algiers, with Pelegri playing a leading role in a cast of non-professional actors. The score is by Maurice Jarre.

Here’s a description from TCM.

Jean, a young Frenchman born and reared in Algiers, returns to his native land from Paris to be with his dying father. It is during the Algerian war of independence, and as Jean sits at his father’s bedside, he recalls his happy childhood in the family vineyards, where he played with French and Arab friends. Later he walks through the strife-torn Algerian streets and feels the terrible presence of war. One day his father dies peacefully in his sleep, and relatives and friends, both French and Arab, come to pay their respects. Jean has a long discussion with an Arab friend and attempts to explain why he must return to the peaceful life he has made for himself in Paris. After his father’s funeral Jean sees his normally chauvinistic aunt hasten to help an Arab boy who has been struck by a passing truck. Moved by this genuine expression of human concern regardless of nationality, Jean decides to remain in Algeria.

James Blue was born in 1930 in Tulsa, Oklahoma. He arrived with his family in Portland in 1942. He was nominated for an Oscar in 1969. He died in 1980.

I hereby claim  The Olive Trees Of Justice as an Oregon film, on the basis of James Blue’s contribution as director.

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