"Danny Hawkins dad was hanged!"
Taunted and bullied by that one phrase, by that one fact all his life, Danny Hawkins has learned to take his beatings but he doesn't have to like it. In particular, Jerry Sykes played by Lloyd Bridges takes a perverse delight in drubbing the smaller Danny through the years. Danny and Jerry have reached the point where they are rivals for the lovely schoolteacher Gilly Johnson played by Gail Russell. When Danny kills Jerry it is in self-defense, it is in self-defense that he hides the crime.
Gail Russell as Gilly is lovely as a girl who accepted a proposal from Jerry, the right sort of boy, but is attracted to the outsider. Danny doesn't make it easy for Gilly to offer her love and support, leaving her confused and afraid.
Mose: "Sure, I get lonesome. A man ought to have a woman. Friends, anyway. A man ought to live in a world with other folks. When I come out here, I thought I'd be out of the way, with no-one shoving me around. What I did was resign from the human race. I guess that's about the worst crime there is."
Danny has two friends. Rex Ingram plays Mose, who is the father figure Danny needs. Mose is a sounding board, a supportive and nonjudgmental friend who understands the world and Danny's place in it. If Danny is open to it, Mose can provide guidance.
Danny, in his own way, has befriended Billy played by Harry (Henry) Morgan. For his part, Billy worships Danny for his small kindnesses. His emotions are deep and enduring.
My favourite performance in the film comes from Allyn Joslyn as the philosophical Sheriff Clem Otis. The compassionate Otis is far removed from the usually brash and often obnoxious characters Joslyn was asked to play by Hollywood. The character, like many in the film, will remain with the viewer.
Moonrise is a psychological film-noir with outbursts of shocking violence. I find that director Frank Borzage wears a sensitive heart on his sleeve in many of his films. He presents the lonely and the isolated with dignity in 7th Heaven, Street Angel, Man's Castle, Three Comrades, The Mortal Storm, Smilin' Through, and Till We Meet Again. Borzage and cinematographer John L. Russell (Psycho) create a moody masterpiece in Moonrise.
TCM is screening Moonrise on Wednesday, February 10th at 8 PM.
Wednesday nights in February on TCM are highlighting "Noteworthy African American Performances." Rex Ingram as Mose in Moonrise will be followed by Rex as Jim in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, 1939.
Films shown later that evening feature Percy Rodriguez in The Heart is a Lonely Hunter and Sammy Davis Jr. in A Man Called Adam, and Convicts 4. Check the schedule for the Wednesday night lineup in February.