GRAND CANARY by A.J. Cronin suffers from the misfortune of being produced during the changeover to the Hollywood Code imposed by the infamous Hays office which the studio producers meekly accepted, fearing a governmental censorship if they refused. It's a shame, for this might have been a better movie.
In 1932,before the code, it was possible to tell a story of two people meeting and falling in love even if one of them was getting a divorce from an earlier marriage. In 1934, William Hays, under the guidance of the Catholic Church's Legion Of Decency, forbid any script involving divorce on the grounds that such action was immoral. Reality went underground for almost thirty years in stories dealing with the relations between men and women. Needlees to say, the censor's blackout fell on the script for GRAND CANARY which dealt with a disgraced doctor who meets and falls in love with a beautiful but married woman while on a voyage. She loves him too, but can their love be consummated. Not with Mr. Hays. This is 1934.
Another critic on these pages, Mr. MacIntyre, has already described the end of the film. I can only assume that he may have seen a print made for foreign distribution since the domestic print has a totally different ending. The ending he describes is faithful to the book but is not the one seen in the United States. Indeed, the American version is so jarring that one wonders if the director and producer just washed their hands at the end and walked away from the whole thing. I would have rated this two points higher if the ending were faithful to the book.
It's a shame because the cast is very good in this film. This is one of Madge Evans' few outside films during her tenure at MGM. It offers her a sympathetic and touching role as the unhappy wife whose fate, after she has been struck by yellow fever, lies in the hands of the very doctor she has fallen in love with. Madge is beautifully photographed in this film and carries her "privileged class" role with an air of authority.
Warner Baxter does seem a little stiff, but when wasn't he? It's his style of acting. He never seems to be able to become really angry... not just upset, but angry. Even so, his scenes with Madge are tender and touching, as they play two troubled people who fate brings together.
H.B. Warner has a very minor role and Marjorie Rambeau is somewhat off key but Zita Johann performs admirably as the jealous nurse who is also enamored of the good doctor.
If you can find a good print, and I haven't, I recommend watching this simply to see the romance develop between Baxter and Evans... but be ready for the censor at the end.
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