Joe Smith is an average American citizen, working in an aircraft factory. He has access to the plans for a new bomb-sight and is kidnapped by enemy agents who unsuccessfully torture him to ... See full summary »
Joe Smith is an average American citizen, working in an aircraft factory. He has access to the plans for a new bomb-sight and is kidnapped by enemy agents who unsuccessfully torture him to get him to betray his country. He escapes and leads the FBI to his captors. Written by
Herman Seifer <email@example.com>
Joe Smith, American is a bit more than flag waving film, typical of the times back in 1942. It's quite the sociological treatise of its time and rates quite a bit more than most propaganda film, B film that it was.
Robert Young's character of Joe Smith is your average American who probably got some help from the New Deal and now that America is mobilizing for war has landed himself a nice job in the defense industry. Which makes him of interest to enemy agents as we shall see.
One of the things that really got me was that one of the questions that was asked of him as he's being grilled by security people is his religious views. Young replies that he doesn't go to church regularly, but hastens to assure these people that he does send his kid young Darryl Hickman to Sunday School and he does believe in God. The security people beam their approval at him. The idea that someone who is of atheist or agnostic or even freethinking views is a security risk is something we'd see later on in full force during the McCarthy era.
Anyway he gets cleared to work on installing a new kind of bombsight into the planes and then one night some enemy agents kidnap and force him under torture to tell about the bombsight. When the agents go to kill him they make the bad mistake of not killing him in the hideout, but take him by car to wherever they're planning dispose of him. Young makes a daring escape and the police get involved in a hunt for the perpetrators.
The out and out flag waving is kept to a minimum, but when young Darryl Hickman tells Young about Nathan Hale whom he learned about in school it's clear that the message of the film is that there might come a day when we could be called on to make a sacrifice like Nathan Hale, even your average Joe Smith, American.
The film was released in February of 1942 and must have been rushed into production after Pearl Harbor. Marsha Hunt plays Young's wife and if you look carefully you will spot Ava Gardner in an unbilled non-speaking part.
Young who played the ultimate average man in Father Knows Best a decade later on television is perfectly suited for the role of Joe Smith, American. He could be any one of us.
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