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It's the mid-nineteenth century. The neighboring Shore and Crowninshield families of the American east coast have a long tradition of seafaring. Of Jeremiah Shore's four sons, the only one not at sea is the youngest, Joel Shore, solely because of his age. Joel has had a long friendship with the Crowninshield's daughter, Priscilla Crowninshield, that friendship which is now on the brink of romantic love as they become of age, although this new-found love is unspoken on both sides. Joel hopes that when his eldest brother, Mark Shore, captain of the Nathan Ross, returns home from his latest voyage, he will allow Joel to sail with him. Although Mark still sees Joel as the "youngin'" of the family, Joel, through slightly underhanded means, is able to convince Mark that he is man enough to become a sailor. Also on this layover at home, Mark notices that Priscilla has become a beautiful young woman, who he now wants to marry. Mark arranges the engagement with his father and Priscilla's ... Written by
Ramon Novarro (as Joel) is the youngest of the seafaring Shore family. While older brother Ernest Torrence (as Mark) is off on a long voyage, Mr. Novarro falls for fetching Joan Crawford (as Pricilla). Upon returning, Mr. Torrence is revealed to have also fallen for the bewitching Ms. Crawford - and, eventually, the brothers become rivals. Crawford prefers Novarro, but her father "betrothes" her to Torrence. Before their wedded bliss begins, however, the Shore brothers must make a trip to Singapore; it's Novarro's first voyage with older brothers, after proving himself in a barroom brawl. While sailing "Across to Singapore", a fierce storm blasts the Shore brothers' "Nathan Ross" ship - with tragic results
Actually, this is a version of "All the Brothers Were Valiant". Perhaps the title was changed because one brother clearly dominates (Novarro), and only one other figures prominently (Torrence). Although there are four Shore brothers, you won't see much of the others, valiant or otherwise. It's odd MGM re-made this story in 1928; it was seen relatively recently, in 1923, with Malcolm McGregor, Lon Chaney, and Billie Dove as Joel, Mark, and Pricilla. AND, there was no sound version until 1953, with Robert Taylor, Stewart Granger, and Ann Blyth in the principal roles.
Novarro performs very well, especially enjoy his scene with Crawford, when she boards the ship to bid farewell, before his maiden voyage. It's also one of Crawford's best scenes, and the lower "Nathan Ross" set is beautifully detailed. Anna May Wong also performs very well; though uncredited, she is the best supporting player. Note Ms. May Wong's excellent introduction (during the first trip to Singapore) - she relates her dissatisfaction with her man, and her desire for Mark, with a few simple gestures. May Wong is superb, and should have been included in the film's credits. James Mason (not the later actor) is fine as the villain.
There are some problems with the story. The whole "betrothed" issue is confusing to me, and may be to others. I also don't understand why an experienced sailor like Mark Shore immediately goes below and gets drunk; perhaps, he saw little brother with Crawford earlier on? I wondered how Mark Shore could order a certain character killed, and, seconds later reverse said order. Though a fine actor, I had some trouble accepting Torrence in this role - I expected him to be the villain, due to his other indelible portrayals.
A big MGM production, with a lot of excitement, and a fine cast. The voyages of the "Nathan Ross" are particularly exciting great storm, and great ending. This is a film that was "saved" in the nick of time, however, and some of the film is sadly deteriorated; happily, it is still enjoyable.
******** Across to Singapore (1928) William Nigh ~ Ramon Novarro, Joan Crawford, Ernest Torrence
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