Tag Archives: George Tobias

Mission to Moscow (1943, Michael Curtiz)

Mission to Moscow is straight propaganda. There’s a lot of Hollywood propaganda in the early 1940s, even the late 1930s, but usually, with those films, there’s at least the pretense of dramatic storytelling. There’s a love story attached, maybe a love triangle, something. There’s nothing attached to Mission to Moscow. It’s essentially a long advertisement for the Soviet Union. Most amusing, I suppose, is when Stalin himself shows up. The film’s from 1943, so nobody knew about him yet.

Walter Huston plays the ambassador to Russia and his story sort of guides the film. It follows him, but the way he moves is for the exposition, not for the character. There isn’t a single conflict for his character in the entire film. Huston’s fantastic, of course, but he’s better at the beginning. For most of the film he looks concerned or he gives speeches, but at the beginning there’s still some dramatic excitement. There are a number of other good performances, particularly Oskar Homolka.

As long as Mission to Moscow is, it’s competently told–writing this screenplay later got Howard Koch blacklisted–and there are a number of nice segments. The film ought to be famous as Michael Curtiz’s follow-up to Casablanca (but isn’t) and it’s probably his strongest directorial effort. There’s one particular scene, at a formal reception, which is beautifully constructed. The camera moves from each country’s representatives, both establishing their political situation as well as the particularities of the characters. It’s too bad this scene–as well as an excellent trial scene–are surrounded by such boring material.

The film plays on Turner Classic Movies from time to time and I read Warner Bros. is considering a DVD release (though I don’t know as part of what collection–no one knows Huston or Curtiz anymore).

2/4★★

CREDITS

Directed by Michael Curtiz; screenplay by Howard Koch, based on the book by Joseph E. Davies; director of photography, Bert Glennon; edited by Owen Marks; music by Max Steiner; produced by Robert Bruckner; released by Warner Bros.

Starring Walter Huston (Ambassador Joseph E. Davies), Ann Harding (Mrs. Marjorie Davies), Oskar Homolka (Maxim Litvinov, Foreign Minister), George Tobias (Freddie), Gene Lockhart (Premier Molotov), Eleanor Parker (Emlen Davies), Richard Travis (Paul), Helmut Dantine (Major Kamenev), Victor Francen (Vyshinsky, chief trial prosecutor), Henry Daniell (Minister von Ribbentrop), Barbara Everest (Mrs. Litvinov), Dudley Field Malone (Winston Churchill), Roman Bohnen (Mr. Krestinsky), Maria Palmer (Tanya Litvinov), Moroni Olsen (Colonel Faymonville), Minor Watson (Loy Henderson), Vladimir Sokoloff (Mikhail Kalinin, USSR president), Maurice Schwartz (Dr. Botkin) and Joseph E. Davies (Himself).



This film is also discussed in Sum Up | Eleanor Parker, Part 1: Dream Factory.
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Between Two Worlds (1944, Edward A. Blatt)

Between Two Worlds has some nostalgic value for me. When I first discovered Eleanor Parker (through an article in the magazine, “Films of the Golden Age,” which I’ve had to drop because problematic), Between Two Worlds was somehow one of the first of her films I came across. It’s early in her career, when Warner Bros. was done using her in the one-hour B films and moved her up to the two-hour ones. However, it’s not Parker who stands out in Two Worlds, it’s John Garfield.

Between Two Worlds is a play adaptation, but doesn’t feel too much like one. It does, however, have two protagonists (Garfield and Paul Henreid). Garfield isn’t the film’s intended protagonist–it doesn’t open or close with him–but his performance is so strong, he takes the lead in a few sections. Henreid is okay, I guess, playing a character somewhat like Victor Laszlo, but Parker, as his wife, doesn’t seem to know much about him. The play is from 1924 (Outward Bound) and they updated it for World War II, so some of the tripping can be attributed to that adaptation.

Regardless, the film is too long. Some sections breeze past–whenever Garfield’s running it or when Sydney Greenstreet’s there–but others, mostly the ones with Henreid, clog. Parker’s got a great scene to herself at the end and there are a lot of good performances. Faye Emerson, who appeared in at least two other films with Parker and Garfield, is particularly frustrating. Sometimes she does good work, sometimes she does bad. She leaves on a good note and so does Between Two Worlds. I had to force myself to remember its faults.

2/4★★

CREDITS

Directed by Edward A. Blatt; screenplay by Daniel Fuchs, from a play by Sutton Vane; director of photography, Carl Guthrie; edited by Rudi Fehr; music by Erich Wolfgang Korngold; produced by Mark Hellinger; released by Warner Bros.

Starring John Garfield (Tom Prior), Paul Henreid (Henry), Sydney Greenstreet (Thompson), Eleanor Parker (Ann), Edmund Gwenn (Scrubby), George Tobias (Pete Musick), George Coulouris (Lingley), Faye Emerson (Maxine) and Sara Allgood (Mrs. Midget).



This film is also discussed in Sum Up | Eleanor Parker, Part 1: Dream Factory.