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|Index||27 reviews in total|
Here we have the 28 year-old Ida Lupino, looking more like 19 or 20, and already the veteran of more than thirty films, being a frail, charming, and vulnerable waif. She is thoroughly convincing, and we would all like to take her in and look after her. This duty falls to the gruff Jean Gabin, a hard-drinking waterfront drifter from port to port, who has at some point arrived in the States from France. In fact, Gabin in real life had fled the Nazi Occupation and this was one of two American films which he made in exile. The film was supposed to be directed by Fritz Lang, who would have made it a moodier and darker piece. However, he was replaced by the more cheerful Archie Mayo, so we get a film whose real value is not as cinema but as encounter between Lupino and Gabin. That keeps us watching. Claude Rains gives bemused support as a California waterfront bum (hardly his usual type of role!) and Thomas Mitchell is an unctuous, scheming villain who has conned Gabin into thinking he has 'something on him'. The film is rather sinister, and in many ways pointless. If it weren't for Lupino and Gabin being so fascinating, nobody would bother to watch this movie, as it falls between many stools. But Lupino is so entrancing in this role, that presumably no one really cares about the story anyway. And listening to Jean Gabin speak heavily accented English in California is so extraordinary that one wants to watch that too. Who gives a damn about the film, we've got Lupino and Gabin, and that's all that matters. They could read the telephone directory as far as I am concerned, and I would still watch.
After a three-year gap ,this was Gabin's return.It is hard to gauge it
accurately cause in the 1937-1939 years ,an era when French cinema was
arguably the best in the world ,he starred in at least five
masterpieces ("la Grande Illusion" and "la Bête Humaine" by Jean
Renoir,"Quai des Brumes" and (my favorite) "Le Jour se lève " by Marcel
Carné ,and finally Jean Gremillon's "remorques") .All that he would do
afterward would necessarily be a let-down.
"Moontide" is not in the same league as his previous French performances but it is nevertheless an interesting work for any Gabin fan.The actor integrates well in an American cast (and the cast includes earnest thespians such as Ida Lupino,Claude Rains and Thomas Mitchell)and his English is quite good (don't forget that Gabin was essentially an autodidact ,which is much to his credit;His contemporary equivalent for that matter is Gerard Depardieu) The screenplay may not be very exciting -and it's full of holes at that- but the atmosphere -which recalls sometimes "quai des brumes" - and Gabin's character -who,like Lantier in "la Bete Humaine" ,has an ominous past:wasn't his father a criminal brute?- are all that matters .
For his second (and last) American movie,Gabin was directed by his compatriot (who put him on the map with "la Bandera" ) Julien Duvivier .
Director Fritz Lang was replaced by Archie Mayo as director of the 1942
"Moontide," and one wonders if the film would have been any better with
Lang at the helm. With a script by John O'Hara, it's all dry ice, cheap
sets, night shots and little action. The great French film star,
perhaps the greatest, Jean Gabin, plays Bobo, a dockworker who enjoys
being a free spirit. He suffers from blackouts when he's drunk, which
is used to advantage by a so-called friend of his, Tiny (Thomas
Mitchell), who gets money out of Bobo by hinting that he strangled a
man in another town. When a waitress (Ida Lupiho) is rescued from the
ocean after trying to commit suicide, Bobo covers for her so she won't
be arrested. Eventually they fall in love. This doesn't fit in with the
threatening Tiny's plans, as he wants Bobo to seek work elsewhere.
The movie drags along, and it's easy to see the cheapness of the production throughout. It has a certain atmosphere, but it grows tired.
It's a shame that Hollywood had no clue what to do with Jean Gabin, but seeing "Moontide," it's easy to figure out why. With his thick build, weathered face, unruly hair and large nose, he wasn't the leading man material Hollywood was used to, and he was too much a star to be a character actor. Few actors possessed his raw sexuality and charisma, seen much more clearly in Pepe LeMoko and as his signature role, Maigret. It's not for nothing that Marlene Dietrich chased him all across Europe during World War II. He only stayed in Hollywood until 1943 and worked in France as a national institution until his death in 1976. Lupino is very young, frail and pretty here and does a good job. Claude Rains as Nutsy, Bobo's friend, is good but wasted. Thomas Mitchell has the best role among the supporting players. It's a departure from his usual thick nice guys.
If you're interested in Gabin, you'll want to see this. Otherwise, skip it.
Jean Gabin didn't star in many American films, and Moontide was the
only one I could find from my local library. Maybe it was for the best;
his presence on screen is very (and I mean this as a compliment) French
in tone and inflection and even in style of speak. In English he fares
reasonably well, and gives a solid performance as the "gypsy turned
peasant" Bobo who saddles up with ex-suicide-attemptee Ida Lupino on a
tiny bay community. This being said it's a kind of character that works
for Gabin's limitations in the language. Because Bobo is a Gypsy it
works that Gabin's English is only so fluent and has the kind of facial
expressions that reflect that (as opposed to say Grand Illusion where
he was so natural that it was staggering). Lupino, thankfully, is a
great match, and the two have some very nice scenes together as a
married couple who face trouble when one of Bobo's prior troubles comes
back to haunt him, even as it wasn't his fault.
The direction is competent and the writing has some moments of cleverness or tenderness or even insight. And as the drama ratchets up one gets involved if only on a perfunctory, conventional level. But the director Archie Mayo (replacing, of all directors, Fritz Lang) some moments that really stand out for me. One that I might never forget, and should stand up among some of the quintessential early 40s noir films, is when Bobo has his drunken binge the first night at port and after causing a ruckus in the bar with punching out the guy and making the girl upset goes from bar to bar. In a montage that provides a drunken angle to the camera and editing tricks, we see Bobo going further and further, hearing characters repeat things like "drink, drink" or whatever and it is purely intoxicating to see this. It's the kind of sequence, which lasts a good long 5 minutes, that almost promises this to be a great film.
It isn't, but it was worth a shot, and for those who are curious or just big Gabin or Lupino (or Claude Rains) fans, it's worth a shot.
This film may not be a masterpiece when paralleled with other films by
Fritz Lang, as well as other projects starring Jean Gabin, and also
films in which Ida Lupino excels. ( "Road House", with Richard Widmark
and Celeste Holm). As well as the wonderfully sinister "Ladies in
Retirement", in my opinion one of Ms. Lupino's most brilliant
performances. But give this film a chance, it has a few redeeming
performances and interesting scenarios.
Ida Lupino is believable as Anna, a down on her luck waitress who attempts suicide. Apparently in the 1940's police used to arrest suicides, rather than help them. Gabin helps Lupino out of the problem, and she helps him decorate his ramshackle cabin on the docks of San Pablo, California. They eventually marry.
Claude Rains has a rather odd role as "Nutsy", a barfly and friend, and Tom Mitchell is "Tiny", the requisite villain.
While the theme is a bit sketchy, the sets are interesting, if a bit improvised, and the film is an oddity worth seeing for Lupino. Of course, I may be a bit biased. 8/10.
and a good one at that. Gabin plays a rough drifter along California's fishery coast who rescues a girl (Ida Lupino) from a suicide attempt. He takes her to his floating bait shack and the two fall in love. Unlikely storyline takes a back seat to the acting of Gabin and Lupino as well as Claude Rains as the local "failed intellectual." Great waterfront sets certainly help this moody tale. Only Thomas Mitchell seems to overplay his hand as the treacherous friend. Jean Gabin was a European favorite for 45 years, and it's easy to see why in this film. Too bad he didn't stay in Hollywood a little longer, but the war was on. Also in the film as Jerome Cowan (in a subplot that seems to have been trimmed), Tully Marshall, Vera Lewis, Helene Reynolds, and Victor Sen Yung.
Unlike many Europeans in the entertainment world who were displaced by
the Nazis and came to America (such as Fritz Lang and Billy Wilder),
Jean Gabin was handicapped as he was a leading man whose English was
obviously poor. As for directors, the public would never know and with
some other foreign actors, they were able to suppress their accents
better. But, with his performance in "Moontide", you can see why the
very talented Gabin made very few films during his exile from
Nazi-occupied France. His English isn't terrible--but it isn't as good
as an actor like, say, Charles Boyer. It's a shame, as his pre- and
post-war films are often amazingly good.
Bobo (Gabin) is a barge operator who likes to drink and fight--and you see him doing this when the film begins. After waking up from a binge, he rescues a woman, Anna, who is trying to kill herself (Ida Lupino) he takes it upon himself to be responsible for her--which is quite touching. However, the nasty character Tiny (Thomas Mitchell) is always nearby--because he's holding some secret about Bobo--and Bobo has to put up with Tiny--even though there isn't much to like about Tiny. And, when Bobo and Anna marry, Tiny is sure to let his malevolence boil over and tragedy ensues.
This film is very much unlike a Hollywood film as far as the plot goes. It bears more similarity to some of Gabin's French-language films like "Port of Shadows" and "La Bête Humaine"--very dark films about madness and murder. So, while it's a bit like an early American example of film noir, it is more like a hybrid of this and the films than helped to make Gabin famous. Dark, brooding, very adult for the time and genuinely odd--this film is worth seeing--especially for its wonderful cinematography.
By the way, who came up with the names for the characters in this film?! You've got Bobo, Tiny and Nutsy--an interesting assortment to say the least!
Also, on the DVD is a documentary about the making of the film. It talks about the odd circumstances surrounding the film and its star. It turns out that the book on which the movie was based was MUCH more adult and never could have been brought to the screen at that time--though quite a bit of the book still made it to the film but was more implied than explicitly stated. It's well worth seeing.
What a surprise, and with some well known actors in little known roles. And one little known actor in the U.S., the great French star Jean Gabin. All put together in an elegant, fast, and sympathetic way.
The story is rather sweet, a love story between two unlikely loners, the charming and volatile hard drinking Bobo, played by Gabin, and the young and troubled Anna, played by Ida Lupino. Each of their pasts looms and interferes in the romance, mainly through the maliciousness of Bobo's old friend, another violent man played by Thomas Mitchell. And then there is the incomparable Claude Rains (you won't recognize him in the first scenes with his beard), who plays a truly good friend. All of this takes place in a little fishing shack at a big stone breakwater on the California Coast somewhere, and most of it takes place at night.
Archie Mayo, who made a lot of really good films and few if any masterpieces ("Petrified Forest" is his most famous, from 1936), really does show mastery of storytelling here. And with cinematography by Charles Clarke good enough to get an Oscar nomination (with some help by the more famous Lucien Ballard), you can see why this is better than most. Fritz Lang is shown as a co-director behind the scenes, and you get suspicious that the visual strength of all this is partly his doing.
But it is the story itself that might be the achilles heel here--it progresses with some twists that are suggested in the first few minutes, and that don't turn and surprise us later. The end is the end you expect, all neatly packaged.
Not that you don't mind so much--the leading characters are, if nothing else, very likable. But along those same lines, I think every scene is filmed by-the-book. Very likable, and competent, and rather beautiful all along, but lacking the edges of uncertainty, of emotional depths you would expect from these kinds of characters, even of drama in the few scenes of violence. "Moontide," with its poetic title, insists somehow that it is a just a performance and an entertainment, a light romance, even though it's just an inch from tipping into something much bigger.
This interesting and surprisingly effective 1941 movie was one of the
first films noir. Partly directed by Fritz Lang -- who quit after a few
weeks due to a conflict with Jean Gabin, who was romancing Lang's
ex-girlfriend Marlene Dietrich -- and featuring an international cast
with creative input by Salvador Dali (!), the movie is a seminal work
that helped establish some of the stylistic elements of classic film
The lovely 28 year-old British actress Ida Lupino delivers a convincing performance as a suicidal teenage runaway, aimlessly passing through a Californian fishing village on her journey to nowhere.
French actor Jean Gabin exudes charm and star quality as a womanizing drifter with an insane capacity for hard liquor, who gets into drunken fights that he doesn't remember.
Claude Rains and Thomas Mitchell round out the main characters with solid performances as Gabin's drinking buddies -- Rains as a failed British intellectual and Mitchell as a scheming Irish villain who is blackmailing Gabin.
Dali's contribution to the movie is a startling scene where the drunken Gabin is conversing with a pretty prostitute whose head suddenly vanishes into thin air -- transforming her into a talking torso with surrealist images of spinning clocks.
The direction is generally good. The cinematography is classic noir, especially the final scenes, which deliver an abundance of dark, haunting images as Gabin menacingly pursues Mitchell along the pier to his death. The Fox Film Noir DVD consists of a flawless high-quality print plus special features.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
John O'Hara (1905 - 1970) was the finest American Short Story writer of
the 20th century and one of the finest novelists. Virtually all of his
novels were best-sellers but of the four (Butterfield 8, A Rage To
Live, From The Terrace, Ten North Frederick) adapted for the screen
only the latter - which won the National Book Award - was anything like
satisfactory, whilst Pal Joey - adapted initially by O'Hara himself
into the Book of a Broadway Musical with words and music by Rodgers and
Hart, from his collection of stories written for The New Yorker - which
appeared in an emasculated version of the Broadway musical in 1957 was
a major hit mainly due to Frank Sinatra as the eponymous Joey Evans.
Like most writers who came to prominence in the thirties O'Hara had
several spells in Hollywood and though he only received a sole
screenplay credit twice - this film and The Best Things In Life Are
Free - he drew on his time there for some of his finest short stories,
one Novella, Hope Of Heaven, and one novel, The Big Laugh. Fox paid him
$1,250 a week to adapt Willard Robertson's novel for the screen and he
worked on it from May through July of 1941.
What emerged was a mixture of several elements; San Pablo an inlet in Southern California is Steinbeck country and its denizens are akin to those inhabiting Cannery Row but without the humour; top-billed French star Jean Gabin enjoyed one of his biggest successes in the Carne-Prevert Quai des Brumes, also set in a foggy port and involving violent death, and there's also something of Irwin Shaw's The Gentle People about it (After O'Hara Shaw was the second finest American short story writer of the 20th century but he wrote The Gentle People as a stage play).
Lawyer-turned-actor Robertson appeared in more than 100 movies but put pen to paper only three times and Moontide was his only novel. It's a simple premise; gentle giant Bobo (Gabin), a drifter, is prone to getting drunk and blacking out and relies on 'minder' Thomas Mitchell, to keep him out of trouble and find him work (shades of Lennie and George in Steinbeck's Of Mice And Men). In the past he had strangled a man (a nod to La Bete Humaine, another Gabin movie) and Mitchell was privy to this and uses it as a lever to live off Gabin's labour. In the first reel a minor character, Pop Kelly, is strangled whilst Bobo is drunk and Mitchell allows him to fear the worst. The fly in the ointment is Anna (Ida Lupino) who Bobo rescues when she tries to drown herself. They fall in love, marry, and Mitchell attempts to destroy them. Robertson wrote a realistically tragic ending but Fox weren't buying that for birdseed in 1941 so it's a case of all's well that ends well as two dysfunctional people find hope in the haven of a bait-shack on the California coast. All O'Hara fans will want to see it but probably not all of them will enjoy it.
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