Tag Archives: Tyrone Power

The Rains Came (1939, Clarence Brown)

I was expecting The Rains Came to be a standard soap–with some ethnic flair, of course (Tyrone Power’s an Indian doctor, Myrna Loy’s a British lady). Instead, it’s a little like… Maugham-lite. Neither Loy nor Power is the lead (in fact, Power’s in it so little he should get a “special guest star” credit). The lead is actually George Brent (who gets third-billing).

He opens the movie and he carries it for quite a while. Loy doesn’t show up for a while and, even when she does, Brent’s around the entire time. His troubles with missionary’s daughter Brenda Joyce, for example, take up the screen time when Power should be getting his own backstory. Brent’s the bored Englishman on self-imposed exile in India (hence, Maugham-lite) and he drinks and threatens to cavort. He makes Rains a joy to watch, even when it’s going through it’s more melodramatic sections.

As it turns out, Loy is not a stoic, upstanding British woman as I expected. She’s a bit of a tramp, frequently stepping out on her odious husband–played by Nigel Bruce, whose death scene is played for laughs. It makes Loy a little bit less than likable (elevating the initially annoying Joyce to that position) and quite tragic once she discovers selflessness–again, Maugham-lite.

Additionally, there are great special effects, harmless direction from Brown and some fine supporting performances–Maria Ouspenskaya in particular.

The Rains Came has some excellent moments; they overshadow the mediocre ones.

3/4★★★

CREDITS

Directed by Clarence Brown; screenplay by Philip Dunne and Julien Josephson, based on the novel by Louis Bromfield; director of photography, Arthur C. Miller; edited by Barbara McLean; music by Alfred Newman; produced by Darryl F. Zanuck; released by 20th Century Fox.

Starring Myrna Loy (Lady Edwina Esketh), Tyrone Power (Maj. Rama Safti), George Brent (Tom Ransome), Brenda Joyce (Fern Simon), Nigel Bruce (Lord Albert Esketh), Maria Ouspenskaya (Maharani), Joseph Schildkraut (Mr. Bannerjee), Mary Nash (Miss MacDaid), Jane Darwell (Mrs. Smiley), Marjorie Rambeau (Mrs. Simon), Henry Travers (Rev. Homer Smiley), H.B. Warner (Maharajah), Laura Hope Crews (Lily Hoggett-Egburry), William Royle (Raschid Ali Khan), C. Montague Shaw (Gen. Keith), Harry Hayden (Rev. Elmer Simon), Herbert Evans (Bates), Abner Biberman (John, the Baptist), Mara Alexander (Mrs. Bannerjee) and William Edmunds (Mr. Das).


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Diplomatic Courier (1952, Henry Hathaway)

Diplomatic Courier starts a lot stronger than it finishes. For the first half or so, it’s a post-war variation of a thirties Hitchcock–a lot of unexplained, strange incidents and a protagonist trying to unravel them. Then it changes gear, becoming a Hollywood attempt at The Third Man. It’s successful during the first part and it fails miserably during the second.

Part of the problem is the inexplicably fourth-billed Hildegard Knef (she easily should be second billed). I’m not sure how her performance would have been in her native German, but in English, she’s not good. Her performance, along with the endlessness of the last thirty minutes, capsizes Courier.

Tyrone Power does fine as the protagonist, though the film’s a lot more interesting when he’s out of his depth. A CID officer, played by Stephen McNally, sends him out on an espionage job he’s not qualified to undertake. When Power is out of his depth, it works (there’s a lot of that confusion during the first half); eventually he becomes the standard heroic leading man and the film’s a lot less compelling.

The supporting cast, especially Karl Malden, is decent. Patricia Neal is all right, but the material fails her. McNally makes very little impression. Plus, bit parts for Charles Bronson and Lee Marvin.

Courier breaks the rule of Chekhov’s gun. The film probably would have been a lot more exciting if it had fired.

It’d be an inoffensive time waster if it weren’t for the weak finale.

1.5/4★½

CREDITS

Directed by Henry Hathaway; screenplay by Casey Robinson and Liam O’Brien, based on a novel by Peter Cheyney; director of photography, Lucien Ballard; edited by James B. Clark; music by Sol Kaplan; produced by Robinson; released by 20th Century Fox.

Starring Tyrone Power (Mike Kells), Patricia Neal (Joan Ross), Stephen McNally (Col. Mark Cagle), Hildegard Knef (Janine Betki), Karl Malden (Sgt. Ernie Guelvada), James Millican (Sam F. Carew), Stefan Schnabel (Rasumny Platov), Herbert Berghof (Arnov) and Arthur Blake (Max Ralli).


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The Mississippi Gambler (1953, Rudolph Maté)

Torpid isn’t an adjective I get to use often, but I can’t think of a better one to describe The Mississippi Gambler. It’s a boring melodrama, trading entirely on the charisma of its cast–Tyrone Power might have been able to handle the weight, but the film concentrates on the loveless marriage of Piper Laurie (as she pines for Power) just when it needs him most. There are some fine moments throughout, particularly at the beginning, with Power and John McIntire working well together and the relationship between Power and Paul Cavanagh rather touching. But the story skips ahead way too often, passing over indeterminate months, until all the dramatic import is lost.

Bad acting from principle supporting cast members doesn’t help. John Baer’s particularly terrible, but Ron Randall isn’t much better. Most of their scenes are with Laurie and her performance is strong enough it’s inconceivable she’d be so devoted to such a pair of rubes. Some of the problem is with the script–Power, McIntire and Cavanagh are positioned as real men, while everyone else is a fop or dandy. It’s a goofy approach and somewhat nonsensical (there’s a lot of strong homoerotic undercurrents between Baer and Randall–and Baer’s devotion to sister Laurie is positively disturbing).

While Rudolph Maté’s direction isn’t bad, it’s certainly middling. The film’s got rather opulent sets and Maté shoots them to good effect, but that compliment’s probably the best one I can come up with. He’s got some strange composition–lots of backs of heads–and the film’s inability to convey any passage of time is partially his fault. Even if he didn’t choose to use fades to black or didn’t insist the script fit together, in terms of consecutive visual action, he still could have done something. It’s kind of his job, right?

Still, as boring as the film gets–as bad as Frank Skinner’s music gets and it gets bad–The Mississippi Gambler is never downright terrible. Power can do this kind of thing in his sleep; some of his performance here is certainly semi-conscious. McIntire and Cavanagh both make the most of their scenes. Julie Adams is fine in one of the script’s more useless, melodrama only roles.

It’s actually a perfect example of a melodrama. Nothing in the film doesn’t exist solely to advance the plot to its preordained conclusion. In the third act, as the pieces fall into place for the inevitable to occur, the film decides to take forever to get there, which gets really irritating.

I suppose Irving Glassberg’s Technicolor cinematography is pretty enough. I already complimented the sets too… The Mississippi Gambler is simply an excruciating ninety-nine minutes. Seton I. Miller seems to have written as many scenes as possible–I should have counted–with the idea enough of them would make a full narrative. Unsurprisingly, his experiment fails. He’s not even a bad writer–some of his dialogue and humor works and he has a handful of solid character relationships–he’s just a terrible plotter. What should have been surefire–Power as a charming gambler–is instead a big snooze.

But it’s still somehow competent.

1.5/4★½

CREDITS

Directed by Rudolph Maté; written by Seton I. Miller; director of photography, Irving Glassberg; edited by Edward Curtiss; music by Frank Skinner; produced by Ted Richmond; released by Universal Pictures.

Starring Tyrone Power (Mark Fallon), Piper Laurie (Angelique Dureau), Julie Adams (Ann Conant), John McIntire (Kansas John Polly), Paul Cavanagh (Edmond Dureau), John Baer (Laurent Dureau), Ron Randell (George Elwood), Ralph Dumke (F. Montague Caldwell), Robert Warwick (Gov. Paul Monet), William Reynolds (Pierre Loyette) and Guy Williams (Andre Brion).


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Nightmare Alley (1947, Edmund Goulding)

Nightmare Alley is–or should be–a cautionary tale about the dangers of foreshadowing and being really cute about it. The end of the movie is forecast in the opening scene, then again in the third or fourth scene–hammered in for those who weren’t paying enough attention the first time. The second time key phrases are dropped to make the scene stick in memory, so it all comes up again towards the middle of the film–the inevitable conclusion. I was going to say the worst was how long it took for the film to get to that conclusion (and it takes forever), but the bad pacing isn’t the worst. The worst is what happens at the end, the surprise. The whole movie, which had been cheapening itself for the entire third act, goes all the way with the ending.

Had the film continued as well as it started, it’d be more unfortunate, but the late second act and severe third act sink make the failure a lot more palatable. The beginning–and the rest of the film really–is beautifully directed. Goulding works wonders with group shots, two shots, everything. His composition is an incredibly impressive feast for the eyes. Even the script, on the dialogue level, isn’t bad. The plot just gets more and more ludicrous. After a certain point, it begins to strain credibility as familiar characters disappear and it just gets to be scenes with Tyrone Power and Helen Walker. When it brings Coleen Gray back (she’s fantastic as Power’s suffering and supportive wife), it’s only to get the disastrous conclusion going.

Power–in what could have been his best performance, if only the character hadn’t fallen apart along with the plot–is great, as is Joan Blondell. Ian Keith is also excellent. The beginning mostly just gives the actors dialogue, plot, and room to act really well. Combined with Goudling’s direction, it makes Nightmare Alley seem as though its potential is limitless, but then the plot starts closing off possibilities, boxing in the characters and restricting the actors. Maybe it is a severe mishap after all–especially since it’s probably Gray’s biggest role and she’s so good until the script fails her.

1.5/4★½

CREDITS

Directed by Edmund Goulding; screenplay by Jules Furthman, based on the novel by William Lindsay Gresham; director of photography, Lee Garmes; edited by Barbara McLean; music by Cyril J. Mockridge; produced by George Jessel; released by 20th Century Fox.

Starring Tyrone Power (Stan Carlisle), Joan Blondell (Zeena Krumbein), Coleen Gray (Molly Carlisle), Helen Walker (Lilith Ritter), Taylor Holmes (Ezra Grindle), Mike Mazurki (Bruno) and Ian Keith (Pete Krumbein).


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