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Clipper ships taking the shortest route between the Mississippi and the Atlantic often end up on the shoals of Key West in the 1840s. Salvaging the ships' cargos has become a lucrative business for two companies -- one headed by a feisty young woman. Then she falls in love with the captain of a wrecked ship while he recuperates at her home. She travels to Charleston and is charming to the man most likely to be head of the captain's company, thinking she will be able to get the captain the position he wants on the company's first steam ship. Written by
Dale O'Connor <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Engrossing seafaring epic, sparked by standout performances and spectacular effects
Here's a lavish, exuberant tale of the high seas, produced and directed by Cecil B. DeMille, and presented with all the excess and spectacle the great showman built his career on. It involves shipwrecks, deep-sea diving, and giant squids, among other things. It's that rare kind of movie that's genuinely fun to watch, where you find yourself smiling because you're so engrossed in the story and the characters, often in spite of yourself. It's of the Saturday-afternoon-at-the-movies genre, where you leave plausibility at the door and put yourself in the hands of people who know how to entertain.
`Reap the Wild Wind' is the story of a sea captain (John Wayne) whose cargo ships are repeatedly sunk and plundered by a vicious crew of salvagers. When one of his ships is struck down, Wayne is rescued by a spirited southern belle (Paulette Goddard), with whom he falls in love. In order to help Wayne get the command he dreams of, Goddard becomes friendly with an influential lawyer (Ray Milland), and a love triangle develops. Through various turns of events, the two men find themselves on opposite sides of the fight against the raiders, with Goddard caught in between them. The story builds up to a spectacular battle with the squid, which single-handedly won the film an Oscar for its special effects.
The movie is well acted straight across the board. Wayne, having just achieved stardom, has the least colorful role but still registers strongly. Goddard plays her tempestuous role to the hilt, and is a joy to behold throughout. Her character is a welcome variation from the frail, straitlaced heroines of her time she enjoys salty sea ballads, throws frequent tantrums and is not afraid to get her hands dirty something of a toned-down Scarlett O'Hara. Raymond Massey is rightly villainous as the chief pillager. The highest acting honors go to Milland, however. His performance as the shrewd but foppish attorney is delightful, stealing scene after scene and providing priceless moments of comic relief, then turning noble toward the end.
In addition, the movie is beautiful to look at. At the time the film was made, color photography was still relatively new and quite costly, so it was generally reserved for epics. You can see every penny of it on the screen here. The direction is brisk and vigorous, and the visual effects are fantastic for that era or any other.
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