Movie Diary 5/15/2022

Moontide (Archie Mayo, 1942). Arty Fox project (begun by Fritz Lang) with Jean Gabin as a sailor who fetches up at a little floating bait shack in California, with Ida Lupino as a despondent girl he saves from suicide one night in the surf. Incredible set, built in a water tank. The film has a very attractive sense of a little community of disparate people coming together, including Claude Rains’ philosopher (his name is Nutsy) and Jerome Cowan’s wealthy boat owner, who can learn a thing or two from poor people. Chester Gan plays the owner of the bait shack, and he leans on the comical Chinese for sure, but Victor Sen Yung plays his son as an agreeable slang-slinging youth of today, complete with Mickey Mouse sweatshirt. The outlier is Thomas Mitchell as Gabin’s old friend, a cruel type whose personality appears to stem from his unrequited crush on his pal (Mitchell’s idea of fun is slapping Nutsy with a wet towel in the shower). Gabin doesn’t sound too comfortable in English, but his physical presence and facial expressions are choice. The film also has Thomas Mitchell turning down a drink not once but twice, which feels like a violation of what we expect from our character actors.

Out of the Fog (Anatole Litvak, 1941). Based on an Irwin Shaw play, with lots of gentle lefty sentiments strewn along the way (which fits it neatly into the mode of a Warners picture). On the Brooklyn waterfront, minor thug John Garfield presses two modest fisherman (Thomas Mitchell and John Qualen) for protection money, and sweeps Mitchell’s daughter (Ida Lupino), who dreams of romantic things, off her feet. Garfield is like a wind-up monkey, all swagger and plastic grin, clearly representing not so much the gangster ethos as capitalism itself – he’s got his bankbook neatly laid out, his “it’s just business” spiel in place.

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