Roistering sea captain Jonathan Clark, who poaches seal pelts from Russian Alaska, meets and woos Russian countess Marina in 1850 San Francisco. Events separate them, but after an exciting ... See full summary »
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Roistering sea captain Jonathan Clark, who poaches seal pelts from Russian Alaska, meets and woos Russian countess Marina in 1850 San Francisco. Events separate them, but after an exciting sea race to the Pribilof Islands they meet again; now, both are in danger from the schemes of villainous Prince Semyon. Written by
Rod Crawford <firstname.lastname@example.org>
The flogging of Capt. Clark (Gregory Peck) ranks 96th in the book, "Lash! The 100 Great Scenes of Men Being Whipped in the Movies." However, no such flogging occurs in the Rex Beach novel on which this movie is based. See more »
THE WORLD IN HIS ARMS is the sort of film Hollywood made in the 1930s and early 40s and might have starred John Wayne, Errol Flynn, James Cagney or Edward G. Robinson--it's very easy to imagine any of these men in such a formulaic programmer. By the 1950s, such adventure films were practically gone--replaced with more realistic films about more contemporary topics. Now I am NOT complaining about this film--I happen to like these old fashioned films. Sure, the characters and situations were unrealistic, but this sort of escapism is something many will enjoy.
As for the choice of Gregory Peck, he wasn't bad--even though he isn't generally the "type" to play this sort of macho role. Now this isn't to say that Peck wasn't manly enough, but seeing him as a guy who loves loose women, fighting and chaos is certainly a departure from his typical film! Even such seafaring films as CAPTAIN HORATIO HORNBLOWER and MOBY DICK feature Peck in a much more somber, intellectual and dependable sort of man than the slightly crazy Captain Clark in THE WORLD IN HIS ARMS. Again, I am not complaining--just pointing out that this role is a departure for Peck.
Peck's love interest in the film is Ann Blyth, who is quite lovely but also appears too young for Peck. This is due to Blyth looking much younger than she was (24) and because the height difference between them (more than a foot) tended to make her look even younger. She wasn't bad--just an unusual choice.
The film begins in San Francisco. Peck and his crew have just arrived with a ship filled with seal furs. They are rich and in a mood to celebrate. However, an envoy from a Russian Princess (Blyth) tries to engage the ship to take her to safety (she is running from an arranged marriage). Peck refuses outright--he just wants to unwind and have fun. In an odd move, Blyth herself meets Peck and doesn't identify who she is. Peck is taken with her and makes plans to marry her--at which point the Russian husband she is supposed to marry shows up to claim his bride--leaving Peck disappointed and furious. Will Peck catch up to this Princess? Will she be able to avoid a loveless marriage? Well, tune in for yourself and see.
The film has a lot of pluses. First, the color print and cinematography are just lovely. It's the sort of 1950s color that is bold and prettier than real life but not as bold and garish as early Technicolor. Combined with a rousing musical score, the film has lovely aesthetics. The film also features some excellent actors. In addition to Peck and Blyth, Anthony Quinn in on hand in a not particularly subtle but enjoyable role as Peck's nemesis as is John McIntire--an under-appreciated but excellent supporting actor (who, in parts of this film, looks like the spitting image of General Sherman).
Now the film is not without its faults. There is a rather poor use of rear projection in the seal hunting scenes--even by 1950s standards. Also, the story, at times, seems more like comic book or dime novel due to characters who are not exactly believable. It's the sort of film, however, with no pretensions--it's not high art or an Oscar contender and never seemed like it was intended as this.
Overall, a great adventure film for you to just turn off your brain and enjoy. Great old time fun.
By the way, much of the film revolves around seal hunting, which wasn't considered such a big deal in 1952. Starting in the 1960s, worldwide opposition to seal harvesting became an issue and so today some might hate this movie. Try to keep it in historical context and enjoy the film for what it is.
By the way, considering how evil and stupid the Russians are generally shown to be in this film, I wonder if perhaps it was all meant as a metaphor for US-Soviet relations at the time?
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