In this retelling of Gunga Din (1939) transplanted to the 1870's American West, three cavalry officers and a bugler work together to thwart a Native American chief intent on uniting local tribes against the white man.
Sammy Davis Jr.
After her banishment from Rome, Jewish Princess Salome returns to her Roman-ruled native land of Galilee where prophet John the Baptist preaches against Salome's parents, King Herod and Queen Herodias.
A boy haunted by nightmares about the night his entire family was murdered is brought up by a neighboring family in the 1880s. He falls for his lovely adoptive sister but his nasty adoptive brother and mysterious uncle want him dead.
Three convicts enroute to Tahiti are put to work at a children's leper hospital when their plane makes an unexpected stop on another island. There, Father Perreau is to get off and replace Father Doonan, who's been relieved of his duties by the cardinal. Once on the island, things get out of control when the volcano decides to erupt, and the Governor orders an evacuation. The convicts, priests and leper children are all on top of the island and have no sure way to get down and off to safety. All must work together if any are to survive. Written by
I've always been of the firm belief that it is not possible to do a bad film in the South Pacific. Just the cinematography alone is a guarantee for me to enjoy it and you will enjoy The Devil at 4 O'Clock for that reason alone if nothing else.
It's entirely possible that Spencer Tracy and Frank Sinatra agreed to do the film for a vacation to Hawaii and who could blame them. But in fact with Mervyn Leroy directing, the two of them starred in a very nice story about a priest losing and regaining his faith.
Spencer Tracy is in his fourth and final film as a priest. He was sent many years ago to this tropical paradise under French colonial administration. It's a lush green place with a very large volcano.
Tracy also saw a need for a children's hospital for lepers which was still prevalent among the population. The other islanders didn't share his vision to put it mildly. Their own callousness drove him from his faith and started him drinking and doing other sins.
Anyway he's being recalled and a new priest, Kerwin Matthews, is being sent to replace him on the island and in the hospital which is located halfway up the volcano slope. Arriving on the same plane for layover are three convicts, Frank Sinatra, Bernie Hamilton, and Gregoire Aslan, who are bound for prison in Tahiti.
Wouldn't you know it, the volcano erupts and the only men who are able to help Tracy with the hospital patients and staff getting them down the mountain and evacuated are the three convicts.
It's quite a journey, all of the people involved discover hidden wellsprings of character.
Of course the two stars have great roles. There's enough of the hipster Sinatra there to recognize, but he too is transformed by the experience. This maybe the only film where he plays someone who is actually from where old Blue Eyes was born in real life, Hudson County, New Jersey.
Spencer Tracy had stopped playing traditional leading men long before this. He had an aversion to make up in general and was the least vain of leading male stars about growing old. Tracy's face and the sincerity with which he speaks his lines keep his performance from becoming maudlin. He has a powerful moving scene comforting the dying Bernie Hamilton and renewing his own lapsed Catholicism.
The only thing I fault The Devil at 4 O'Clock for is that Humphrey Bogart did not live long enough to do the part Sinatra did. Tracy and Bogey were a great mutual admiration society and way back in 1931 they did a film for John Ford, Up the River, which was Tracy's screen debut and Bogey's second film. They never got to work together again, but became great friends and Tracy was a frequent visitor along with Katharine Hepburn to Bogart when he was dying.
As good as Sinatra was, this part was made for Humphrey Bogart. I have a feeling had he lived with a bit of rewriting, this could have been their joint co-starring vehicle.
What a classic that would have been.
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