Always, the second film of Spielberg’s 1989 double salvo, is his first remake of a theatrical film.
While working together on Jaws (1975), Steven Spielberg and Richard Dreyfuss shared their affection for the 1943 melodrama A Guy Named Joe. Years later, they decide to do a remake. However, audiences and critics do not seem to find a connection to their enthusiasm for the dated story. Even film critic Roger Ebert, one of Spielberg’s most loyal patrons, rates Always as “Spielberg’s weakest film since 1941.”
Spielberg concludes: “Some movies don’t take off and there’s a thousand reasons why.”
In the original, WWII bomber pilot Pete, played by Spencer Tracy, dies in combat and returns as an invisible “angel” to find a new man for his love, Dorinda (Irene Dunne).
In Spielberg’s version, Pete (Richard Dreyfuss) is a reckless firefighting pilot who cannot confess his love for Dorinda (Holly Hunter) before he dies in his crashing plane. Other notable cast members include John Goodman as Pete’s friend Al and Audrey Hepburn (in her last film) as Hap.
In Spielberg’s childhood, A Guy Named Joe was “one of the films that inspired him to become a movie director”. It created an emotional connection to his father’s war experiences as a communications chief of a WWII bomb squadron. On another level, Always gives Spielberg an opportunity to deal with the divorce from his wife Amy Irving and the loss that he feels.
Spielberg chooses Mikael Salomon as his director of photography after watching some of his footage from James Cameron’s The Abyss (1989).
Always is considered only a modest financial success, though it grosses about $74 million worldwide.