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After 9 years in the making, "The Man Who Came Back" finally hit the big screen at a star-studded premiere at the Aero Theatre in Santa Monica last night. The film marks actor Eric Braeden's production debut and the turnout of colleagues, friends, fans and media was so overwhelming, that a second screening was announced.
Eric Braeden is probably best known for his Emmy-winning role as Victor Newman in the popular CBS daytime drama "The Young and the Restless". In his new film, directed by Glen Pitre, Braeden is surrounded by many talented and well-known actors whose performances will stay with you long after leaving the movie theatre.
The film tells a story of murder, conspiracy, racism and one man's revenge. It takes place in the South, after the Civil War during the 1870s, and is based on one of the bloodiest labor strikes in U.S. history. Slavery had served as a focus for the differences and tensions separating the North from the South, both sections being completely different societies. The North was industrial, urban, and democratic; the South was mainly agricultural, rural, and dominated by a planter aristocracy. Unfortunately, there was no solution except war, but with the North's victory and passage of the 13th Amendment, slavery was abolished. However, for blacks the struggle was not over.
Reese Paxton, impressively played by Eric Braeden, is a well-respected Confederate war hero and plantation overseer, admired by slaves whose rights he supports and defends. But his mingling with blacks gets him into hot water with the white folks in town, in particular the plantation owner's son. A conspiracy is formed against him and he is falsely accused of killing a man. While being hunted and incarcerated, Paxton is forced to witness the brutal killing of his beloved wife and young son. A (heart)broken man, he later returns to seek revenge.
Braeden's performance is intense and there are moments in the film, where it was difficult for me to watch him. I felt, that I was witnessing true moments of pain and agony as he fearlessly bares his soul on screen. There might be some truth to this because Eric Braeden was only 12 when he witnessed the horror of WWII in Germany and lost his beloved father to a heart attack. As a result, his family was plunged into poverty. The suffering from such traumatic events never really ends and makes his performance even more powerful and authentic.
The recent writers strike and the frenzy over an African-American presidential candidate somehow made it easier for me to relate to the picture's theme and message. I was horrified to learn about the cruelty and brutality of that time and the filmmakers did not shy away from showing racism and abuse of power in all its nastiness. It made me take a good look at today's society and how we have (or have not) changed since then.
The film's cast also includes Oscar-winner George Kennedy (Cool Hand Luke), Armand Assante (American Gangster), Billy Zane (Titanic), Sean Young (No Way Out), Jennifer O'Dell (The Lost World), Carol Alt (Private Parts), Peter Jason (Deadwood), Richard Jackson (No Country for Old Men), former boxing heavyweight champion Ken Norton, and a brilliant James Patrick Stuart (C.S.I.) as the plantation owner's sadistic son.
Photographer was on assignment for "German World Magazine" - Photos taken with small compact camera
Jennifer O'Dell and Eric Braeden from "The Man Who Came Back" (Gudegast Braeden Productions)
Eric Braeden poses with his son Christian Gudegast and Former Heavyweight Champion Ken Norton.
At midnight it was time to celebrate Christian's Birthday!
Always in the spotlight: Kenny Norton and Eric Braeden patiently pose for the cameras
Happy Reunion: Josh Dempsey (grandson of famous boxer Jack Dempsey) sneaks up on Kenny and Eric
Josh Dempsey is the grandson of famous boxer Jack Dempsey. During Josh's fight against Kuai "The Hawaiian Assassin" Kupihiea, both guys really wanted a win for the 7 minutes they fought and it turned into a seesaw battle. It was said that Dempsey had very good hands and it looked as if he did. Kupihiea got the takedown, but after being on his back for a minute or so, Dempsey reversed it. Both had the full mount at one time in this fight and it went the distance. The split decision for Kupihiea could have gone either way.
Infos generously provided by Henry Hascup (Boxing Historian), Donald E. Hennessey Jr. (Ken Norton Enterprises, Inc.) and my dear friend Alex Ramos (Retired Boxers Foundation)
Everyone enjoyed the great party, the delicious food and
the romantic setting in Eric and Dale's beautiful garden.
A big "Thank you" to Eric and his family and Charles Sherman!
Actor Armand Assante signs autographs for his many fans
Always at work: Eric Braeden talks to the media
But also proudly oversees his party and the ca. 500 guests in his backyard!
Remember "Private Eye Mike Hammer"?
Actor Stacy Keach and wife Malgosia Tomassi attend the premiere
People gather outside the Aero Theater after the screening. Seen here: Actor James Patrick Stuart, Armand Assante and Peter Jason (?)