Out of the Fog

Gasser

Out of the Fog (1941)

     Is it possible Ida Lupino was once a young woman? Her mature, cynical roles suggest that the dame skipped over any vulnerable portion of life and went straight for adulthood. In Out of the Fog, however, Lupino seems to shift between her usual tough gal and a girl on the verge of adulthood.

     As 21-year-old Stella Goodwin, we first meet Lupino as she erupts at her boyfriend for playing around with card tricks and allowing other men to mock him. She rushes out the doors of the Sheepshead Bay restaurant and stands by the water where she next confesses to boyfriend George (Eddie Albert) that she is not content with plans to marry him and live in a three-room flat while continuing her miserable existence as a telephone operator. She seems like an adult until she goes home to the flat above her father’s shop where she tries to quietly enter her room without alerting her parents. Here I got an entirely different feel for the character whose long curls suggest youth but dark makeup says otherwise.

     Stella is only part of the plot, however. The antagonist is John Garfield‘s Howard Goff, a racketeer who makes his living selling “protection” to boat owners along the pier. That protection means he will not beat them or set their vessels aflame. His newest target is Jonah (Thomas Mitchell), Stella’s father, and Olaf (John Qualen), who share a small motor boat that provides their only pleasure in life: four nights a week of fishing. Goff is charging $5 a week, saying the duo are getting a discount because Jonah has a pretty daughter, which sparks even deeper worries for the working-class man.

     At first blush, Stella is unimpressed by the mysterious gent, but is quickly thrilled by the exciting life he leads. She starts hitting the town with him instead of George and refuses to let Goff’s business dealings with her father scare her off. When Stella reveals her father has $190 saved up with which he offered to send her to Cuba (to get away from the new beau), Goff sees the dough as an opportunity to demand it from his clients. He also plans to have Stella run away with him to Cuba, so Jonah naturally feels the need to take matters into his own hands.

     Besides Lupino’s mixed maturity in Out of the Fog, I also noticed the almost Jekyll and Hyde way of Garfield’s persona. The man has a sweet face whose round, smiling cheeks make him adorable, but he often played brutes like in this flick. It is almost like casting against type in that he could play an attractive villain capable of violence as easily as someone with the mug of Edward G. Robinson.

     Out of the Fog is no crown in either Lupino or Garfield’s crowns. The plot of a girl nearly corrupted by the intrigue of a criminal is nothing new. Ordinary people considering knocking off their aggressors is also not a novel concept. This movie has standard elements composed with somewhat unique surroundings. I would not say avoid it, but don’t go rushing to rent it.

Destination Tokyo

Ring a Ding Ding

Destination Tokyo (1944)

      I have never been particularly drawn to war pictures or those that pair Cary Grant opposite a bunch of men, rather than wooing a woman, but Grant made some great war pictures, and Destination Tokyo is certainly one of those (I need to revisit Operation Petticoat, which put me to sleep 7+ years ago when I bought it and has been collecting dust since).

     Grant plays the skipper of a WWII submarine that has been sent on a mission the day before Xmas to what the crew later learns is Tokyo –a city that has yet to be touched by American Navy or Air Force artillery. The crew picks up another soldier/meteorologist on the way who is fluent in Japanese and is the subject of the mission: the sub must deposit Officer Raymond (John Ridgely) on the shores of Tokyo where he and a couple crew members will assess the weather, military vessel formation and any other protections the area has so that the Air Force may move in well prepared to bomb the city.

     The mission is not as simple as that, however. When surfacing on their way to Japan, the submarine is attacked by two Japanese aircrafts who manage to lodge an explosive in the shell of the vessel. When attempting to ensnare one of the pilots after shooting down his plane, a member of the crew is stabbed in the back and killed before the youngest member of the crew fires upon the enemy. That crew member, Tommy (Robert Hutton) later needs an appendectomy just as the sub moves into the Tokyo harbor. The crew’s location is also discovered by the enemy after taking out an aircraft carrier and must escape the harbor amidst a barrage of bombs.

     Based on his other work, which essentially act to develop a general persona, Grant seems to me like the type of guy you would want to lead you into battle. Grant plays a totally relaxed, understanding and caring captain and never really asserts any power or engages in any arguments with his men, who after five patrols together seem to have the utmost respect for the man. Grant never went to war, being told he was too old to join the British Navy by the time WWII came about, but he has played a decent warrior in a number of films featuring a variety of conflicts (He also contributed some of his salary to American and British war efforts).

     The film is also fairly emotional. The submariners talk about their family, wives and children back home, and one cannot help but feel the mild, tearful twinge the characters convey. The audience also engages in true dread as Tommy must undergo surgery conducted by a pharmacist using a textbook as his guide. The way all crew members really support each other is touching and could not have been conveyed without the fine acting of a great cast.

     The film also does a great job of focusing in on the actual mechanics of running a submarine. The action was apparently so accurate that the U.S. Navy used parts of the film in its training during WWII.

  • Destination Tokyo is set for 10 p.m. ET May 27 on TCM.

Source: TCM.com, Cary Grant: A Class Apart

Humoresque

Gasser

Humoresque (1947)

     Today’s review is an example of the power Joan Crawford wielded in the 1940s and, I think, to the limitations of the actress’ talents. Although speculation swirled that Crawford could get an Oscar nomination for Humoresque, the only reason it does not get the lower rating of Dullsville is because the music and performance of that music is really striking.

     Demanding top billing even though her role is secondary to that of John Garfield and she does not make her appearance until 30 minutes in, Crawford expected great things from the picture that featured Cinematographer Ernest Haller and Producer Jerry Wald, both of whom were involved with her award-winning turn in Mildred Pierce. Humoresque, however did not manage to be nominated for any Academy Award outside of Best Score, and frankly I find it surprising Crawford and others thought the woman could claim her own.

     It does not seem as though Crawford managed to make any enemies on this picture, however, even turning one cast member to a friend. The story goes that upon first meeting Crawford on the set, Garfield ignored the outstretched hand and greeting the star offered and instead said, “So you’re Joan Crawford, the big movie star. Glad to meet ya,” before pinching her breast. That riled Crawford only for a moment before she asserted the two would get along fine. And the duo did after Crawford insisted certain scenes be reshot to provide Garfield with more favorable lighting.

     Garfield does put on a nice performance as Paul Boray, a highly talented violinist. The story –based on the Fannie Hurst best seller of the same name with leftover inspiration from Wald’s previous Rhapsody in Blue biopic on George Gershwin– flashes back on Paul’s pursuit of music since a child. The son of Italian-American grocery owners (changed from Jewish in the book), Paul is not wholeheartedly supported by his family in his musical studies, especially during the depression when he is being formally trained. Paul’s friend and trainer, pianist Sid (Oscar Levant) introduces the young genius to a wealthy couple and patrons of the arts, the Wrights. Joan comes in as wife Helen Wright, an alcoholic whom Crawford once described as having too much time on her hands and love in her heart. That certainly softens the motivation of a character who generally has little appeal to me. Helen sets up/pays for Paul’s debut, which sets his career moving and he continues to play larger and more prestigious venues.

     The conflict arises in that 1. Helen is married; 2. Paul’s mother disapproves of his relationship with Helen; 3. Paul is too devoted to his violin to properly love Helen. When things wind down to the point that Helen’s husband is prepared to give her a divorce, the woman is conflicted because Paul proves he will not drop everything for her. Nevertheless it looks like the two will be getting married, which prompts Paul’s mother to converse with Helen. She thinks Helen is bad for her good boy and it seems Helen is dissuaded from some how disrupting Paul’s life by marrying him. SPOILER ALERT So, distraught by her love for Paul and the gallons of alcohol she has been drinking, Helen drowns herself in the ocean. This self-sacrificing-type move is not uncommon in stories where one party is bad for the other who happens to be hopelessly in love with the first. In Humoresque, however, it seems as though Paul would be more of a detriment to Helen’s life (because she will always come second) and less like Helen’s posh society standing would bring down his career or morality or something. It is difficult to sympathise with Helen because she is not the protagonist and her alcoholism makes her a less-than-endearing character.

     What does redeem this picture, however, is the magnificent musical performances therein. Strictly classical tunes make up Paul’s repertoire, and his fast and nimble playing seem to be the work of Garfield himself. Cleverly, however, the performances were shot close enough to Garfield to hide that fact that Musical Director Isaac Stern is crouched uncomfortably below the star while lending both his arms to the bowing and fingering. Levant, on the other hand, was an accomplished pianist and composer, on top of being the sole source of the film’s wisecracks and humor.

Source: Bette & Joan: The Divine Feud by Shaun Considine; Turner Classic Movies

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