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Boys of Sunset Ridge


Thanks to Anne for this synopsis:

"The Boys of Sunset Ridge" traces the lives of four friends who grow up together and bond through golf. The film is split into three parts, showing rounds of golf with the four main characters as early teens in 1936, as 30-somethings in 1956 and as elderly men in 1976.

Lee appears in the 1956 part and plays Ben Thorpe at age 33. He has a stutter, which gets pronounced when he's angry or upset -- and he gets that way a lot.

When the 1956 segment opens up, all the members of the foursome are lighting up cigars. They're celebrating Ben's engagement to Sarah. 

One of the friends, John, has grown up to be a priest. John and Ben are paired together for a while and chat about what the future holds for Ben. This is my favorite scene.

Priest: Are you nervous?
Ben/Lee: No.
Priest: Excited?
Ben/Lee: Sort of.

Not exactly an enthusiastic response. Ben is worried that he will not be able to support his new family properly. John and Ben talk some more about the future and investments and then Ben asks if the priest can perform a baptism as well as the wedding and a house blessing. The priest smiles and says, "Wouldn't that be great? Have you and Sarah talked about children?"

Ben tells him that Sarah's pregnant and the priest is shocked. This is 1956 after all. Ben admits that she's already four months along and then the priest gets angry and sanctimonious. Then Ben drops a bigger bomb: He and Sarah are not going to keep the baby. "Adoption?" the priest asks. Ben doesn't answer, just gives him an anguished look. It looks so good on Lee.

John grows even more upset and starts lecturing Ben on the sanctity of life. "You and Sarah made a poor decision. Don't compound it."

Ben laughs bitterly and says it's not how he wanted his life to be and then complains that his future father-in-law forced Sarah to get her master's degree and do mission work to keep the two of them apart. The whole time he's talking, he goes from angry to sad to anguished and he does it beautifully. 

Lee has another chance to display his range in a scene a bit later. Boozing, boisterous Hank (John Ventimiglia from "The Sopranos") tries to get Ben to invest in a restaurant deal. Ben is hesitant because he knows about Hank and his crazy schemes. Hank gets mad. They argue. Lee looks golden in the sunlight. Hank finally wears Ben down and persuades him to look at the business plan. Exasperation and affection mingle in the pair's hug and handshake.

Movie Gallery

Golden boy

Many moods

Angry // Handsome

Tongue // Cigar 


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Available on DVD

The actors who get top billing in this movie are Ronny Cox, Burt Young, John Heard and Pat Morita. This foursome appears in the final third of the movie, as the characters advance in years. (Cox plays Lee's character, Ben Thorpe.) Despite the "bigger name" actors, this is the point when the movie is at its weakest -- with the humor becoming slapstick and drama becoming maudlin.

The movie was written and directed by Doug McKeon, who probably is best remembered as Billy, the teenager who bonds with with Henry Fonda and Katharine Hepburn in "On Golden Pond."