Friday, May 11, 2018

THE IDA LUPINO CENTENARY BLOGATHON: Moontide (1942)


Maddy Loves Her Classic Films and she is hosting The Ida Lupino Centenary Blogathon, a one-day event on May 12th.

Click HERE to read the tributes to the extraordinary Ms. Lupino.


Jean Gabin, Chester Gan

A lot of people get tight on Saturday night. Bobo, a French dock worker in California, gets good and tight. He gets so good and tight that he can't remember anything about the night. He wakes up the next morning on a barge that sells live bait. It is a morning when the community is rocked by the news of the murder of a barfly called Pop Kelly. It is the morning Bobo discovers he agreed to take on the job of running the bait barge for a dollar a day and a bottle of Saki. Bobo isn't so sure he wants to live with the stink of fish, but he agrees for two dollars a day.

Jean Gabin

Jean Gabin plays Bobo in his first of two Hollywood pictures, followed by 1944's The Imposter. A major star all of his career, Gabin did not find Hollywood to be a good fit. In Moontide, his character of Bobo is a rough and ready man yet with a great understanding of people. Gabin is mesmerizing and charismatic in the role.

Jean Gabin, Ida Lupino

A girl named Anna is beaten down by life and decides to end it all in the convenient ocean. Bobo pulls her out of the sea and pulls her out of a suicide charge from the cops. He takes Anna back to the bait barge and together they discover that life isn't so bad when you have someone who cares and understands you.

Jean Gabin, Ida Lupino

Anna tidies up the barge and smiles. Bobo gives up drinking and treats Anna like a jewel. Bobo is feeling something he never felt before in his life. Anna asks if it "home". Bobo accepts that this is now his life.

Particularly effective at supporting the romance is the use of Irving Berlin's haunting ballad Remember as a theme for Bobo and Anna.

Ida Lupino

Ida Lupino stars as Anna and the role fits her like a glove. Of course, all of Ida's roles leave that impression. She is that sort of actress. She embodies the waif-like qualities of a girl at the end of her tether. She is also emboldened by the love and home offered her by Bobo. Trepidatious at the prospect of such luck, she nonetheless has the strength to reach out for happiness. Ida Lupino truly came into her own as an actress at this time with 1939s The Light That Failed followed by 1941s High Sierra. She was a star, and she was a versatile actress with opportunities to show her craft.

Thomas Mitchell, Ida Lupino

Bobo admits to being the sort who collects people. He doesn't look for them, but they come to him. Nutsy is one. Nutsy is down on his luck but has the air of an educated man. Anna's influence on Bobo, according to Nutsy, is that the gypsy has become a peasant with a home and responsibilities. Bobo has a boxer dog who is devoted and protective. The dog likes everyone with one exception. Perhaps Bobo should have paid more attention to the dog.

Claude Rains, Jean Gabin

Claude Rains plays Nutsy. He's free and easy with advice and support. He seeks nothing more from his friendship with Bobo and with Anna than what is offered. Rains, with his plummy voice radiating intelligence, and his twinkling eyes signifying caring is an anchor for Bobo, not a millstone. Someone else is a millstone.

Jean Gabin, Thomas Mitchell

Tiny is Bobo's best pal. Nutsy describes Tiny as a pilot fish, feeding off the bigger fish. Tiny knows a secret from Bobo's past regarding his violent temper. Tiny has made himself an integral part of Bobo's existence. Tiny gets jobs - "good jobs, good dough" for Bobo, and lives off that work. He always wants to be going somewhere, but Bobo is not in such a hurry. When Anna appears she is, as she puts it, "in Tiny's way". Tiny tries to keep control of Bobo by hinting at something sinister. He puts out the idea that Bobo killed Pop Kelly in a drunken rage and one word from him could mean disaster. Is he telling the truth?

Thomas Mitchell

Thomas Mitchell plays Tiny, whose obsession with Bobo is observed by Nutsy and resented by the dog. Bobo thinks Tiny is "alright, just weak". Mitchell was a very busy actor in his Hollywood career and the audience is the more fortunate for it. Equally adept at characters like the drunken Doc Boone in Stagecoach (Oscar winner) or the lovable Uncle Billy in It's a Wonderful Life, the selfish George Cooper in Make Way for Tomorrow, the supportive Kid Dabb in Only Angels Have Wings, and more, Mitchell is outstanding as the mean-spirited and grabby Tiny, who is at once both sneaky and obvious.

The roles played by these three actors in Moontide are interesting to compare with other works, Mitchell and Rains in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, and Mitchell and Lupino in Out of the Fog and While the City Sleeps.

Claude Rains, Chester Gan, William Halligan, Ralph Byrd

Moontide is filled with interesting secondary characters that fill up Bobo's world. There's a rich doctor played by Jerome Cowan who relies on Bobo's philosophical bent and repays with precious skill. See Mr. Cowan and Miss Lupino in The Twilight Zone episode The Sixteen-Millimeter Shrine.

Henry, Bobo's boss on the bait barge is played by Chester Gan, whose roles in 93 films were usually uncredited bits. Henry's assistant Jimmy is played by Sen Yung, the year the Chan pictures at 20th Century Fox came to end. Ralph Byrd, most famous for playing Dick Tracy is a minister.

Arthur Hohl plays a hotel clerk. Tully Marshall and Vera Lewis live on a neighbouring barge. Charley the bartender is played by William Halligan. Robin Raymond, like Mr. Gan generally uncredited, is nicely featured as a prostitute.

The wedding of Anna and Bobo.

Moontide came to being as a novel by lawyer turned character actor Willard Robertson. Novelist John O'Hara of Gibbsville fame is credited with the screenplay with uncredited work by Nunnally Johnson, Oscar nominee for The Grapes of Wrath.

Ida Lupino, Thomas Mitchell

Director Fritz Lang and cinematographer Lucien Ballard began work on Moontide but left the project due to conflicts or lack of interest. Archie Mayo (The Petrified Forest) and Charles G. Clarke, winner of two Oscars for technical innovations finished the film.

Thomas Mitchell, Jean Gabin

Moontide is a moody romance-crime creature, difficult to pin down. The audience is caught up in events and invested in these characters, especially the mercurial and appealing Anna. We want what they want, whenever they figure that out.

Jean Gabin, Ida Lupino

The atmosphere is palpable in this film although set-bound; the fog coming off the water, the darkness that blankets the characters in the night, the rowdiness of the local hangout. All of this adds to a portrait in noir that is irresistible.












10 comments:

  1. Love this: "...the role fits her like a glove. Of course, all of Ida's roles leave that impression. She is that sort of actress."

    I like movies like this that hover between genres. There is a mystery to them, a poignant reality that life is not always so easily scripted and figured out. Ida was tops, and so are you, and I'm kicking myself that I missed taking part in this blogathon.

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    1. I believe you've hit on the strong appeal of these odd little movies that don't fit in with their "poignant reality...".

      I take it then that in the next little while Ida may pay a visit to Another Old Movie Blog?

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  2. Moontide is a strange little movie. The cast is great, Lupino simply inhabits her role, and Jean Gabin is good as always. Unfortunately he never found his niche in Hollywood. But then that's OK, we have his French films.
    Thomas Mitchell is absolutely despicable.

    Maybe the movie suffers a bit from being completely studio-bound. I'll have to rewatch it.

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    1. On a recent re-watch I found myself more impressed with the way Mayo and Clarke dealt with the limitations of the set. They created a nicely consistent mood that supported the performances well.

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  3. An most impressive cast and I agree that the atmosphere permeates MOONTIDE. It's too bad Hollywood had a hard time finding the right roles for Jean Gabin. I quite like his French films, especially one of his later ones: FRENCH CAN CAN by Jean Renoir.

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    1. I'm impressed by the work of the actors here. I can't help but think if Gabin had met the right producer/director, there would be some interesting Hollywood films from him. However, we got no kick coming, because his work in France isn't going away.

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  4. I really must watch this film. Your review makes it sound so intriguing, and I have yet to watch any of Gabin's films. This sounds like a good place to start.

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    1. Gabin is a most enticing actor. I think you will want to see more of him after seeing Moontide.

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  5. Thanks so much for giving me more insights into a film I've heard about but never watched. Jean Gabin is such a wonderful actor and I'm looking forward to seeing him on the screen with Ida Lupino.

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  6. It is quite an emotional story. I think it would work well as a silent film, and that is something that intrigues me.

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