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H. Bruce Humberstone
I can understand that John English worked for Republic, and therefore may have had to take assignments whether or not they were his kind of movie. He may also have wanted to try another genre of movie than the westerns and serials that almost exclusively dominated his directing career. Faces in the Fog bears no resemblance to anything else I have seen from John English.
The story centers around two lovestruck teenagers whose troubles stem entirely from covering up the mistakes of family and friends. Mary Elliott and Joe Mason (Jane Withers and Eric Sinclair) are high school students who fall in love soon after meeting each other. Both of them are very fine people. It is Mary's father, her brother, and a friend of her brother that create tense situations that run afoul of the law. In trying to keep those situations hidden, Mary and Joe worsen their own situations. The more they try to help save the reputations of those around them, the more they damage their own, jeopardizing their futures in the process.
Faces in the Fog borders on schlockiness that would become a staple of drive-ins in years to come. Everyone is too well dressed. The good kids are too good. The bad kids are not too bad. The police are too willing to be nice. The adults are aloof of what the kids are doing. The doctor is too wise and understanding. The houses were too squeaky clean and spacious. Even an audience in 1944 had to find everyone a little too perfect. There were movies made at the time that had these elements and made them work, but in Faces in the Fog they just stand out.
I noticed more than one scene in which one character would have his or her back to the camera during an important conversation. I cannot recall seeing a scene like this in any John English western. The effect was lost on me. Rather than being an interesting shot, a viewer can hear Jane Withers' voice while watching her back for the whole scene.
The one thing that cannot be denied is that Faces in the Fog had an excellent cast. Everyone is good. Paul Kelly irritated me with his portrayal of Tom Elliott, Mary's father. Jane Withers was absolutely perfect, again maybe too perfect. Even though she was the same age as her character, Jane's mannerisms were more like someone in her late 20's. Even as a youngster her self confidence was apparent. As an 18 year old she was far more poised and mature than other kids her age. Miss Wither's acting ability was beyond her years.
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