Wednesday, June 10, 2020

DISASTER BLOG-A-THON: The Hurricane, 1937


The Midnite Drive-In and Dubsism are hosting (cue: thunder and lightning) the DISASTER BLOG-A-THON!  Your journey to movie danger starts HERE and HERE.


Manakoora is a South Sea Island under the dubious protection of France. Governor Paul DeLaage played by Raymond Massey comes from a long line of bureaucrats who place their fidelity to duty above all else. The strict adherence to this foreign code does not harmonize with the carefree lifestyle of the islanders. The philosophical (read: alcoholic) Dr. Kersaint played by Thomas Mitchell loves and thinks he understands the people of Manakoora. Kersaint chides DeLaage: "You're a sensitive man. You'll do something to yourself if you govern these somewhat childish people according to your ideas instead of theirs. You'll destroy yourself."



The return to the island of the ship Katapua captained by Captain Nagle played by Jerome Cowan brings two much-loved passengers home. It is hoped that Mme. Germaine DeLaage played by Mary Astor will soften her husband's authoritarian heart. The first-mate Terangi played by Jon Hall is Manakoora's favourite son and his return means a celebration as he marries lovely Marama played by Dorothy Lamour. First, a church ceremony by Father Paul played by C. Aubrey Smith, a missionary who loves his congregation. Whether that love is good for them or not, is yet to be seen. Second is a traditionally joyous native marriage celebration performed by Chief Mehevi played by Al Kikume.


Terangi and Marama should have a gloriously happy future ahead of them. Yet Marama fears for Terangi's next trip on the Katapua. Her dreams portend sadness and danger. Terangi is proud of his first-mate position. The hat he wears makes him the equal of any white man on Tahiti. "You are married a few days and already you're an old wife full of worries."


Terangi was wrong about his first mate's cap. Standing up for himself against a drunk in a bar, he strikes a man of influence. Terangi is sentenced to six months in jail under the jealous eyes of a sadistic guard played by John Carradine. Captain Nagle's attempt to sway the courts did nothing to reduce the sentence or set Terangi free. Neither does Governor DeLaage do anything to help despite the pleas of his wife, his doctor, or the ship's captain.


It is more than Terangi can bear to be locked up. It is natural to his nature to try to escape. Each escape and there are many, adds to his sentence until 16 years loom large against him. It will be nearly half that until at last a successful escape brings him the long way back to Manakoora, to Marama and the daughter he has never seen.

Terangi's return also brings "the wind that overturns the world." No one on Manakoora can escape the wrath of nature. It is more powerful than governments or religions.

All of our characters, the people of the island, and the conflicting emotions are brought together in the thrilling hurricane sequence which runs approximately 20 minutes.


Samuel Goldwyn was Hollywood's most powerful independent producer of the classic era. He took a deeply personal interest in all of his films. He purchased the rights to the romantic action novel The Hurricane by Nordhoff and Hall, famous for their Bounty trilogy. Goldwyn and John Ford had worked previously on Arrowsmith from the Sinclair Lewis novel in 1931. Goldwyn pegged Ford as the right person to bring this ambitious project to the screen.

The Hurricane had an excellent cast and crew. Much of the shooting was done on Santa Catalina Island by Bert Glennon, the second of the eight films he made with Ford. Second unit backgrounds were shot by Archie Stout at American Samoa. The special effects team was led by Oscar-winning art director James Basevi. Thomas Moulton won the Oscar for Best Sound, recording, an integral part of the incredible hurricane in this movie. Alfred Newman was nominated for Best Music, score, and Thomas Mitchell for Best Supporting Actor.


Reviews for The Hurricane were mixed but audiences were receptive making the film a hit from a box office standpoint. Despite CGI and the number of disaster movies since 1937, I believe audiences will still be taken with the story and the astounding effects of The Hurricane.


Of note:

In films since 1934 under his real name of Charles Locher, the actor changed his name to Jon Hall to capitalize on his connection to the co-author of The Hurricane, James Norman Hall. Nice publicity for the picture.


Dorothy Lamour's next film with John Ford would be Donovan's Reef in 1963. Pictured above with co-star Lee Marvin. The theme of The Hurricane by Alfred Newman with lyrics by Frank Loesser has become a standard. Dorothy Lamour sings The Moon of Manakoora.


Moviegoers of 1937 were seeing double. Mary Astor and Raymond Massey, along with C. Aubrey Smith were also featured in The Prisoner of Zenda.












20 comments:

  1. How is Raymond Massey in this? Ever since seeing him in A MATTER OF LIFE AND DEATH last month I’ve been hoping to see him in other stuff (besides ARSENIC, of course).

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    1. I like Massey. Each character feels right. His governor in this is very frustrating, but the human side does emerge. In Zenda, he is a glorious villain but Astor's character loves him so that you feel for her.

      His Abe Lincoln in Illinois is classic. He lost the Oscar to Jimmy in Philadelphia Story. Other nominees: Fonda in Grapes of Wrath, Olivier in Rebecca and Chaplin in The Great Dictator.

      I like his Chauvelin in The Scarlet Pimpernel and Captain Jarvis in Action in the North Atlantic. Very diverse roles.

      Andy Brock in The 49th Parallel is the "regular guy Canadian" and my favourite segment in the wartime picture.

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  2. Gorgeously produced classic with a very exciting cinematic storm sequence, but what a cast of powerhouse actors like Massey, Mitchell and Astor, plus the eye candy of the good looking and romantic Jon Hall and Dorothy Lamour. You have made me want to see this one again soon!!
    - Chris

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  3. This movie is so famous, but I've never seen it! However, your review has inspired me to get up and see a copy - thanks!

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  4. My most recent post mentions combinations...some that work and some that don't. The combination Samuel Goldwyn and John Ford definitely worked, and your piece made a awesome contribution to our blog-a-thon. Thank you for sharing it!

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  5. MARY ASTOR played ROBERTA CARTER in RETURN TO PEYTON PLACE. The main character ALLISON was played by CAROL LYNLEY who you just wrote about(BLUE DENIM). The son TED CARTER was played by BRETT HALSEY and his wife was played by LUCIANA PALUZZI. Brett & Luciana married in 1960. The movie came out in 1961 the year their son was born. They divorced in 1962. Yesterday Luciana turned 83!

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    1. I saw a bit of Return to Peyton Place once. Mary's character seemed to be quite the possessive mom.

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  6. MARY ASTOR and C. AUBREY SMITH were both in LITTLE WOMEN(1949). Mary played MARMEE(the mother) and C. Aubrey played the neighbor MR. LAWRENCE whose grandson is LAURIE(PETER LAWFORD). Mr. Lawrence gave BETH a piano. LEON AMES played the husband of Marmee and, of course, the dad of the four girls. Interestingly, both Mary and Leon did a PEYTON PLACE movie. Leon was in the original movie and as I earlier stated Mary was in the sequel.

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    1. It is lucky for us that these favourite actors couldn't help but cross paths so often in Hollywood. Mary Astor and Leon Ames were parents to Margaret O'Brien in Little Women and Meet Me in St. Louis.

      Leon Ames was in the doomsday drama Testament in 1983, bringing him into a disaster movie. What a long and varied career.

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  7. I was so excited to come across this movie on YouTube while in college. I didn’t remember a whole lot of the story but the hurricane is still vivid in my mind! I had no idea it was based on a book. I will definitely have to revisit this one soon!

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    1. That hurricane sequence is a marvel. Once seen, never forgotten.

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  8. This film really surprised me. The hurricane sequence was thrilling and so well-done. I was left on the eadge of my seat the whole time! I also really liked C. Aubrey Smith in this movie - and in all other movies I saw him in afterwards. Great review!
    Kisses!

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    1. The hurricane sequence truly is thrilling. I think it would surprise some viewers of today. I wonder how we can get them interested or get TCM to show the movie someday.

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  9. You know, I always forget Samuel Goldwyn was an independent producer because his films always seem to come from a larger studio. For instance, this film seems like it would have been produced by Paramount or Columbia.

    It sounds like a terrific yarn, and paired with this cast, I can't believe I haven't seen it sooner. Thanks for the heads up!

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    1. I know what you mean about Goldwyn. He was one of the big boys but he wasn't like them. I think you'll really enjoy The Hurricane.

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  10. Wow, I'm so adding this to my list. Dorothy Lamour is underrated--she definitely had more to her than the "Road" pictures, although those are awesome.

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    1. I so agree. Dorothy could do it all, sing, and look glamorous. She deserves more recognition. The "Road" pictures wouldn't have worked as well as they do without her, and I am a huge Hope and Crosby fan.

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