Caftan Woman

Caftan Woman

Friday, October 9, 2015

They Remade What?! blogathon: One Way Passage (1932) and 'Til We Meet Again (1940)


From time to time I like to spend time on what I call "Remake Alley" and this trip is part of the "They Remade What?!" blogathon hosted by Phyllis Loves Classic Movies which runs from October 9th to 11th.  Check it out HERE.  

Movie:  One Way Passage
Genre:  Romance, Drama, Comedy

Robert Lord (Black Legion, Heroes for Sale) was awarded an Oscar in 1934 for the Best Original Story for One Way Passage.  The screenplay is by Wilson Mizner (Frisco Jenny) and Joseph Jackson (The Mouthpiece), and Tay Garnett (Bataan, The Valley of Decision) directed.  One Way Passage was the final screen pairing of Kay Francis and William Powell.  Between 1930 and 1932 they also starred in For the Defense, Street of Chance, Ladies' Man and Jewel Robbery.

SAILING TODAY

3 P.M.

S.S. MALOA

TO

SAN FRANCISCO

STOPOVER IN HONOLULU

Dan and Joan meet by chance in a bar in Hong Kong.  They share a toast, a smile and a longing goodbye, not expecting to meet again.  Dan and Joan will meet again on board the S.S. Maloa and spend 24 days in love and in lies on their One Way Passage.

Joan is a dying woman.  She appears to be dealing with heart trouble as the ship's doctor is adamant Joan avoid excitement and get plenty of rest.  Joan is resigned to following doctor's orders until she sees Dan on deck and he is looking for her.

Joan:  "I want to crowd all the intense, beautiful happiness possible into what life I've got left.  That's all living is for.  If it's only for a few hours I want to have it and I'm going to have it.  All I can get my hands on."

Dan is a dying man.  A convicted murder, the long arm of the law in the form of Police Detective Steve Burke (Warren Hymer) has tracked Dan to Hong Kong and is taking him back to San Quentin and the hangman.  Under the mistaken impression that Dan altruistically saved him from drowning, and had nothing to do with contriving the incident, Burke is giving Dan the run of the ship.  After all, it isn't as if he can escape.

Dan and Joan pursue their romantic dream under the watchful eye of a couple of old pals.  Skippy (Frank McHugh) is a bit of a drunk and a bit of a pickpocket.  He is on board to escape the Hong Kong authorities.  Also on board is a Countess who is actually a con artist known as Barrel House Betty (Aline MacMahon).  She owes Dan a good turn and keeps an infatuated Burke occupied, while she and Skippy smooth the way for Dan and Joan to be together, and possibly for Dan's escape.

Betty to Skippy as they watch the lovers from a distance:  "Look.  He's got everything; strength, youth, courage.  Everything that makes life fit to live.  He's just a ghost.  If things ain't tough enough, he's gotta fall in love."


Aline MacMahon is a special treat as the cynic with a heart of gold, who starts to fall for her copper.  Frank McHugh is his usual scene-stealing self scamming bartenders and heisting empty wallets.  Kay Francis wears one gorgeous Orry-Kelly gown after another, and the fashions could be a distraction from the story if she wasn't so genuine in her eagerness to live.  William Powell's Dan is as admirable as his compatriots say when they explain they guy he knocked off back in the States was a rat of the first order.  There is a lot of emotion jammed into the brief 67 minute running time which leaves die-hard romantics awash in tears.  

Dan and Joan live their love, which is genuine, and their lies, which are their sacrifice for each other. 




Movie:  'Til We Meet Again
Genre:  Romance, Drama

In 1940, a scant eight years after One Way Passage, Warner Bros. remade the property with a screenplay by Warren Duff (Angels With Dirty Faces, Each Dawn I Die) and directed by Edmund Goulding (Grand Hotel, Nightmare Alley).  Travel seems to have improved in the intervening years as this time the voyage from Hong Kong to San Francisco, with the Honolulu stopover, is a mere 15 days as opposed to the 24 in the earlier film.  The running time of this film is longer at 99 minutes, allowing for new characters and more time to explore them.

Our doomed lovers, Dan and Joan, are played in 'Til We Meet Again by George Brent and Merle Oberon.  Brent's Dan is equally as brave and resourceful as Powell's, but shows even more desperation at his plight.  Merle Oberon's Joan is a younger, less experienced character than Kay Francis' character.  Joan of One Way Passage was resignedly on her way to a sanitarium.  Joan of 'Til We Meet Again is fleeing a sanitarium in search of life.

The policeman Steve Burke is played by Pat O'Brien (The Front Page) and he is always more than a mug, which was Hymer's stock-in-trade.  The "Countess" is played by Binnie Barnes (The Last of the Mohicans) who keeps a torch burning for Dan.  Her "mark" on this voyage is played by Eric Blore (Top Hat).  Scamming barkeeps and heisting wallets is Frank McHugh (again), whose moniker has been upgraded from "Skippy" to "Rocky".  In this version of the story Dan is the mastermind behind his own escape efforts with assist from the "Countess" and Rocky.  

Geraldine Fitzgerald (Wuthering Heights) is on board as part of a honeymoon couple who befriends Joan.  George Reeves (TVs Superman) plays her better half.  Joan also has a concerned maid played by Doris Lloyd (Molly and Me).  Like Kay Francis, Merle Oberon wears one gorgeous Orry-Kelly gown after another.  Joan may be suffering, but she looks beautiful the whole time.

Adding to the ache in our hearts for Dan and Joan this time around is the use in the score of sentimental strains such as Aloha Oe, Auf Wiedersehen, My Dear, It Had to Be You, If I Had My Way (a holdover from One Way Passage) and, their private love theme Where Was I?.

  
I admire the quick pacing and the sense of the outdoors that accompanies the first version.  I enjoy the lushness of the production values of the second.  The "Countess" and "Skippy" seem more raw and real in the 1932 film,  I prefer Aline MacMahon's touches in 1932, although Frank McHugh's more subdued "Rocky" in 1940 has a nice melancholy maturity.

'Til We Meet Again came first in my movie viewing history.  I saw it on the late show in my early teens and it broke my heart.  I did not realize at the time that it was a remake.  'Til We Meet Again stood alone as a lovely, romantic film that moved me to tears in the midnight hour.  It wasn't until sometime in my 30s that I saw One Way Passage and recalled the Brent-Oberon film.  I thoroughly enjoy each feature.   Both films turn me into a sobbing mess, with the Pavlovian response a little skewered toward 'Til We Meet Again.  My inner 14-year-old never got over it.

29 comments:

  1. Great review! You've made me want to see both films ASAP.

    I liked that you shared the qualities of each version that make it special. If a person can be (almost) equally fond of both versions, then filmmakers have done a good job.

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    1. Thanks. Both films are a nice representative of their era. It is a solid story and they recognized that when going for the remake. The new director and screenwriter brought their own touches, but seemed to instinctively know how far they could go.

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  2. I still think my favorite version is Carol Burnett's parody on her show "One Way Ticket." She is the dying woman. Harvey Korman the cop with the heart of gold, James Coco is the guy she falls in love with. Vicki Lawrence is a scream not playing Aline McMahan so much as she is channeling McMahan/Maria Ouspenskaya/Gertrude Berg. She diagnoses Carol with The Movie Disease -- that incurable malady that has bumped off so many doomed stars.

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    1. All their parodies were priceless. A sick/dying Carol/movie heroine is not to be missed. "One Way Ticket" - could it be more perfect?

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  3. So wait, Frank McHugh played the same character in both movies?

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    1. He did. Can you imagine the production meeting?
      So, who will we get for the pickpocket guy?
      Who we got?
      Well, it's the kinda thing McHugh can do in his sleep?
      Didn't he do it last time?
      Well then, he can do it again.

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  4. I haven't seen either film, essentially because I've never been impressed by Merle Oberon or Kay Francis. But I do enjoy romantic melodramas... Maybe I'll give them a chance next time they pop up on TCM. Good post!

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    1. Thanks. Sometimes it just takes that one movie to see a performer in a different light.

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  5. Now I know what I'll look for when I need a good cry! Powell's pre-Codes are a bit hard to find, and I've been meaning to see both One Way Passage and Jewel Robbery someday. I think I'll do a double-feature with 'Til We Meet Again - so I'll spend all my tears at once!
    Don't forget to read my contribution to the blogathon! :)
    Kisses!
    Le
    http://www.criticaretro.blogspot.com

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    1. Yes indeed. It is time for the extra-strength tissue - if they do it right - and these folks handled both versions very well.

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  6. Wonderful reviews of these two versions of the story, neither of which I have seen. I can imagine the impression they would make seeing one or the other when young. Great actors in both versions, I'll look for both.

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    1. I think you'll find a lot to enjoy in both versions. When you start with a solid story and are confident in what changes the years can bring, it is the viewer who wins.

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  7. I'm a huge William Powell fan and really enjoyed One Way Passage. For some reason I don't really like George Brent so I don't see myself going out of my way to see the remake. That's funny how McHugh plays the same character!! I guess that's what happens when you remake a film too soon after the first one haha.

    Thanks so much for participating!!! I'm enjoying reading everyone's posts!

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    1. "One Way Passage" truly as the feel of a classic, with the team of Powell and Francis. Maybe one day you'll come across "Til We Meet Again" and curiosity will get the better of you.

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  8. Good choice for this blogathon. So all I have to decide is whether I want to bawl my eyes out in the 30's or in the 40's. I prefer the original one just a little bit more, ( Kay Francis Kay Francis Kay Fwancis )... but there's no question this is one of the great love stories of classic film. Nicely done, Paddy!

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    1. Thanks. Both wistfully doomed ladies are romantic movie heroines deep in their bones. Do they make 'em like this anymore?

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    2. No ma'am...sadly, they don't. Whaddya say? "Love Story" - "The Notebook"???

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  9. CW, your personal touches are always a highlight of your reviews. In the case of these two films, I have seen the original and not the remake. I like Til We Meet Again, so I will need to look out for One Way Passge on TCM.

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    1. I'm sure our pals at TCM will oblige. After all, that's what they are there for. Don't let anybody catch you getting a little verklempt. At the end of "Random Harvest" my husband makes all sorts of terrible coughing noises, stamps his feet and leaves the room.

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  10. CW, I saw One Way Passage first, and loved it. Kay Francis and her long, sad eyes, William Powell with his suave nature difficult to maintain considering his fate ... Til We Meet Again I saw too, but it's been so many years I don't remember it well. I guess I preferred One Way, because I've never forgotten that! Very interesting piece!

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    1. I think I appreciate Powell more in the film, the more often I watch it. Usually I just take him for granted. Shame on me!

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  11. Wow, I must see both of these - you make both versions sound great, they both have fine casts, and I'd love to see Frank McHugh playing the same role twice! Will definitely look out for them.

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    1. The lovable Frank McHugh in a lovable Frank McHugh double bill. As long as there is a full box of tissue handy, that would be quite a night of movie watching.

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  12. I think I've seen both of these, Pat. Ages ago on local television movie channels. Ah, those were the days. Every afternoon and evening, some terrific movie was broadcast and all we had to do was put up with a few commercials. Call me crazy, but I always remember Kay Francis for her eyebrows.

    I'm not a big fan of George Brent, but I seem to remember that I sat still for him in this particular movie. :)

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    1. I often joke to my kids about "movies late at night with commercials" - the way they were meant to be seen.

      I find it is that way with actors that aren't my particular favourites as well. If the story is good enough, I will watch them.

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  13. William Powell is my all-time favorite actor, and if he had never met Myrna Loy I'm certain Kay Francis would be hie best-known partner; their on-screen chemistry is exemplary. Amazing to think they did this in the same calendar year as the saucy "Jewel Robbery," sort of Warners' answer to Lubitsch's "Trouble in Paradise" (although I can't imagine Ernst letting one of his characters disarm his foes with wacky tobacky -- for that reason alone, not to mention Kay showing off plenty of pre-Code skin, "Jewel Robbery" would've been a midnight-movie campus fave had it been reissued in the '60s).

    Not long ago, I heard the "Lux Radio Theater" version of "One-Way Passage," and though Powell was to have teamed up with Norma Shearer for this adaptation, she fell ill and Kay stepped in to reprise her own cinematic role. William Gargan played the Hymer role, IIRC. Paradise cocktails to all!

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    1. Interesting point about Kay and Bill's screen partnership. I find them a very sympatico couple. Is it wrong that I see the irony in Norma falling ill and not being able to perform the radio show? "One Way Passge"-itis.

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