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In Harm's Way (1965)
Rock Goes to War
Preminger's 1965 `In Harms Way' is one of the best of the WWII soaps, laden with terrific moments and solid character actors. The action is set in the Pacific, as the US Navy begins to confront their Japanese counterparts. The story concerns a Navy captain, played by Wayne, who gets into trouble by doing the right thing, but later is exonerated and even promoted. Wayne's performance as Captain Rock Torrey is deft, with only moments of Duke-ishness. Patricia Neal, Dana Andrews, and Henry Fonda are also fine. Brandon de Wilde was a ridiculous choice as Wayne's stranger-son, at least physically, but does well with his snottier lines. Stanley Holloway, Slim Pickens, and Burgess Meredith are campy in a nice way. Poor Patrick O'Neal once again plays a cowardly villain, and must withstand being bitch-slapped by a carnivorous Kirk Douglas.
There are no insights into human nature here, no character development, no examination of moral dilemmas. There are simply portrayals of characters who are strong and fit, and their efforts to resist or overcome those who are not.
Warning: the naval battles are decidedly unrealistic. The ships look little and model-like. The viewer hungry for `special effects' should look elsewhere. This is a film that is focused on humans, not machines.
There are grand, small moments, though. The scene on the balcony where Neal and Wayne toss their fruit over the side is very nice. The husband-wife diversion in San Fran with Tryon and Prentiss has a good feel to it and the right chest - of the two - is bared. The Navy party opening the film with Barbara Bouchet drunkenly going solo to wild music is a delight, and was obviously prepared and rendered with much more care than the story had a right to demand. A short scene with Fonda hosting a promotion party, though a trifle, could have hardly been done better.
And of course a few wonderful lines (that I may not be remembering perfectly) find their way into the product, despite being overpowered by a mass of less memorable dialogue more fitting for Winds of War. For example, Wayne to Meredith: `see that ensign over there? He's my son.' Meredith to Wayne: `bring him over, Rock. I'd like to meet him.' Wayne to Meredith: `no you wouldn't.' And before that, de Wilde to Wayne, scolding his father for abandoning him until the present moment: `why did you come anyway?' Wayne, defeated, in response: `well, let's just say I did, and leave it at that.'
Wild in the Country (1961)
Soap with Hope
"Wild in the Country" presents the following credible scenario: a) the King is a loser, but with an untapped talent for writing; b) Hope Lange checks him out as he comes before community elders, deciding how to deal with his delinquencies; c) Tuesday Weld is something like an unwed-mother cousin, who hangs around waiting for a guy to make her whole (and no one, no one, shows up); d) Gary Lockwood is a jerk with a weak heart who dies after Elvis punches him once; e) John Ireland is Gary's dad, loves Hope, and is hanging around waiting for a gal to make him whole; f) given the choices (Millie Perkins, Hope, and Tuesday), Mr. Presley goes "wild in the country" for Ms. Lange ("ma'am"); and, gee) given that Elvis loves her, Hope decides to...SPOILER.
4.5 stars is about right; there's a nice scene where the porch is hosed, while the youngsters fake insobriety.