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Weather Wizards (1939)
*** (out of 4)
One of Bob Dylan's most famous lines is "you don't need a weather man to know which way the wind blows" but I'm sure the family in this Pete Smith short would be happy to have that weather man. This short from the future director of FROM HERE TO ETERNITY talks about what happens when a cold front hits an orchard and farmers must fight to protect their crops from the frost. We see how the family works their magic as scientist and weather men try to determine how long the cold will be with them. Here's a perfect example of why I love shorts so much and why I feel they are so important and sadly not shown that often anymore. Here is a subject that I certainly wouldn't want to spend days reading a book on but for a nine-minute short it made for some great entertainment. Zinnemann handles the subject matter just right but the real credit goes to Smith and his perfect narration, which really adds some nice, tense moments.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
It was hard to tell why this Pete Smith Specialty film short was called "Weather Wizards" as most of the story told the plight of the southern California Morgan Family trying to protect their orange grove from freezing temperatures moving in on a cold front from Alaska. To be fair, there was a decent amount of footage chronicling the work of meteorologists and on-air weather reporters, but it was almost comical to hear them referred to as heroes as if their lives were somehow on the line. A stronger case was made for the farmers who faced real life disaster if they couldn't save their crops with oil heaters spaced at one per every two trees approximating some fifty to an acre. It's a cinch the global warming crowd would have preferred to put these folks out of their misery rather than have them create the smoke and smog that filled the valley, impeding the very trucks the farmers relied on to bring in the oil in the first place. It reminded me of the plight of the California fruit growers today who can't bring in water to irrigate their land because it might subject a small species of fish to harm. Have we made more or less progress over the past seventy years?
BY JETTISONING ANY and all vestiges of humor, this is one PETE SMITH
SPECIALITY which has deadly serious objectives as well as a very
important story to tell. You will not find even one on-screen physical
sight gag, nor any of that verbal jujitsu that is practiced in just
about all of the series entries by "a Smith named Pete!"
QUITE TO THE contrary, in this edition, we have a little picture that today's PBS Series NOVA or NATURE would be proud to number among their own product. The picture's sincerity and excellent use of its limited one reel of screen time. If there is a fault in it as viewed today, it would be that so much of the technology exhibited is quite outdated; which is obvious, inasmuch as the movie predated World War II (being released in 1939).
THE SHORT SUBJECT was directed by a young Fred Zinnemann; whose future successes would include HIGH NOON, FROM GERE TO ETERNITY, THE SUNDOWNERS and so many more. It was no doubt his idea to dramatize THE WEATHER WIZARDS with the story revolving around the plight of a Northern California family of fruit farmers to save their crop from ruination via a sudden cold snap and sudden frost.
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