Director William A. Wellman adds another to his long line of salutes-to-aviation films in this bio of an aviation pioneer, John Montgomery (Glenn Ford.) In 1883 he built a practical glider ... See full summary »
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One of over 700 Paramount Productions, filmed between 1929 and 1949, which were sold to MCA/Universal in 1958 for television distribution, and have been owned and controlled by Universal ever since. See more »
How many remarkable veterans can you have in one movie? well, this picture seems to have them all...laid on in every vital department of cinematic craftsmanship. Where do you start introducing this abundance of special talent?
For anyone new to this vintage it might be best to start with a brief overview of the Director: William Wellman. His early life is as fascinating as his Hollywood years. During WW1 he was an Ambulance Driver...then joined the French Foreign Legion, became the first American to fly with the Les Chats Noir (Black Cat Group). He survived being shot down by the Germans, leaving him with a lifelong limp. Back in America, acrobatic star Douglass Fairbanks Sn. notices some amazing moves made by Wellman while he was playing professional Ice Hockey. Fairbanks invited him to Hollywood to test for a possible screen career. Starting with youthful acting roles that he disliked, Wellman would eventually go on to direct the first motion picture to win the Academy Award, "Wings" '27. He has since directed no less than seven actors to each win an Academy Award. Add to this, winning the Oscar for his own story in the self directed "A Star is Born" '37. Was married five times, with his last wife being his lifelong soul-mate (saving him from himself he admits!). His list of striking film achievements include: Beau Geste '39 ~ Ox Bow Incident '43 ~ Story of G.I. Joe '45 (a few among many!). For his Paramount film "Reaching for the Sun" he also takes on the role of producer.
This interesting oddity has been in limbo since Universal/MCA purchased the rights to a great many Paramount features from this era (the acclaimed "Alias Nick Beal" '49 is another). Sadly, Universal have not been known for their interest in DVD releases for these acquisitions....so we miss out. My existing old film print, while the image and sound are clear is unfortunately falling victim to 'Vinegar Syndrome' - so will soon be no more. Today, it seems not much is known about this curious movie which just about offers something for everyone! Comedy, Human Interest, Social Drama, with a surprisingly spectacular sequence involving a clash using gigantic industrial machines!
Veteran all rounder the very likable Joel McCrea, is perfect as the nature loving small scale North Woods Clam Fisherman, who ventures to Detroit, to earn money for a much needed outboard motor for his rowboat. His problems have just began, with an easy going nature, he is no match for the hardened big city types he not only encounters but must also compete with for work in a massive automobile factory. He teams up with fellow job seeker Eddie Bracken --veteran of the Our Gang series who, with his owl type facial features looks curiously not unlike today's Sean Penn!-- Next he is picked on by the plant bully, energetically played by another veteran, Albert Dekker (Dekker was adept at playing jovial or sinister characters - he was somewhat chilling as the heavy in the Hemingway based classic "The Killers" '46).
While employed on a fast paced assembly line McCrea, through a series of circumstances, is drawn to a kiosk girl played with gusto by delightful Ellen Drew, but she too is a sassy city wise battler and is suspicious of his naivety. In a small but highly effective role as Drew's mother, veteran, Bodil Ann Rosing shines in several scene stealing moments (sadly this lovable actress would die soon after the film's release). Nine years later McCrea and Drew would work together again in "Stars in my Crown" '50. The smouldering animosity between easy going McCrea and bully Dekker, builds to an eventual all out conflict - this occurs while both are operating gigantic, 25ton red-hot steel handling machinery. The result is a surprisingly spectacular and very dangerous stunt where these two enemies engage in an out of control battle. With the absence of anything like CGI, Wellman would have had to hire/take over the super heavy duty steel plant. I wonder if he told the owners what he intended to do? IE: actually tip one of their gigantic rigs over in battle! It's to be hoped no-one lost life or limb in a huge scene that could only be performed once...no rehearsals are possible when staging expensive, dangerous scenes as these!
Other veterans, each with 100s of movies to their credit include: Regis Toomey as a Dr, Nella Walker as a baby care class instructor, and John Kelly, very funny as a diminutive fellow baby class member with a big gruff voice. On the production side, another wealth of veterans were busy giving this underrated film a terrific look. Oscar wining Cinematographer of 100s of movies: William C. Mellor, known for classics like "The Great MacGinty" '40 ~ "A Place in the Sun" '51 ~ "Bad Day at Black Rock" '55. The Camera operator (2nd unit) was out-door cinematographer: Dewey Wrigley (My Friend Flicker '43). Working on Special Visual effects was guru: Farciot Edouart (Sunset Blvd '50 and Rosemary's Baby '68). Two top Art Directors were employed: German born Hans Dreier known for: "The Lost Weekend" '45 ~ Sunset Boulavard" '50, and A. Earl Hedrick (Sullivans Travels" '41 ~ "Ace in the Hole" '51. All combine to create a professional finish. Finally, the Music is scored by Oscar winner: Victor Young.
There's not a great deal more you could ask for in an entertaining 40's movie and it's a pity this film is now so rare. If you get the opportunity to see this 'little gem', treat yourself. My sister ordered a DVD copy from one of those Public Domain suppliers, but the print it was taken from was little short of appalling, multiple scratches, tracking flaws, poor image focus, you name it. Sadly quite unwatchable. It's quite criminal that MCA buried this gem (and many others!) somewhere in a dark void where it remains forever Reaching for the Sun!------- KenR.
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