Dane Clark

Pride of the Marines (1945, Delmer Daves)

Pride of the Marines is a disappointment. It never gets particularly good, but it does have a lot of potential–at least from its cast–so when it starts getting better and then slips, it’s a disappointment. The film starts before Pearl Harbor with John Garfield’s would-be bachelor falling for Eleanor Parker. Garfield’s reasoning for wanting to be a bachelor is he wants to live his life like a nine year-old boy, going to sporting events, going hunting, never having a woman tell him no.

Garfield’s reasonably likable, but he’s not good in this part. Albert Maltz’s writing for Garfield is juvenile, while everyone else in the cast gets a good part. It’s not just Parker, who actually gets to act when tolerating Garfield’s hijinks, it’s even Garfield’s friends (and landlords) Ann Doran and John Ridgely. Garfield’s friendship with their daughter, played by Ann E. Todd, is his most honest character relationship even though it doesn’t make any sense given how juvenile he behaves. There’s one caveat to Doran and Ridgely’s performances–when they have to spout exposition about how Garfield just can’t grow up, they can’t sell it. Only Parker can sell those moments, at least until the second part of the film.

During the first part of the film–there’s a lot to Pride, given it’s two hours and has three distinct sections–Daves is ambitious with his direction. Lots of extravagant setups. They usually work, except Owen Marks’s editing of the footage is very messy. It looks like Daves didn’t shoot the right coverage, especially when he has to account for Garfield and Parker being much shorter than Ridgely and Doran. But Daves goes for big shots. They work.

Then Garfield goes to war. After some understandably used, but ill-fitting, real footage from the Pacific Theater, Daves settles into a decent battle sequence. It’s a nightmarish sequence with excellent photography from J. Peverell Marley (his best in the film) and music from Franz Waxman (his best in the film). Even Marks’s editing is strong. It’s also the best sequence in the entire picture, because once it’s over, Pride moves on to its next location and an all new set of problems.

Garfield’s injured. He’s possibly blind. Can a nine year-old boy imagine his girl back home wanting him? No. But he also can’t imagine anything else. But Pride of the Marines is a forties patriotic picture and so everyone else around Garfield is pretty much handling their wounds with dignity. Although Maltz doesn’t exactly have anything for them to talk about. There’s one rousing scene where Dane Clark–who’s great–talks about fighting for himself and his country (as a Jewish guy in the service–there’s even a great anti-racism sequence, albeit only in regards to Mexicans, it’s from 1945 and Warner after all), but otherwise these guys have nothing to talk about except girls. If a reverse Bechdel didn’t sound like a tricky Olympic dive, I’d say it fails the reverse Bechdel. But, really, all these guys have to talk about is their girls back home for the most part. The acting from the bit players is fine, Maltz just doesn’t give them anything to say.

Rosemary DeCamp shows up in Garfield’s recovery as his suffering Red Cross worker. She has to hold his hand through everything because otherwise how can we see Garfield’s struggle. Only it’s not a struggle. Daves doesn’t give him much to do as far as acting. He just acts up. The one or two chances he gets for a good scene get messed up by over-production.

The acting from Parker is good no matter what, no matter how lame the writing gets. Same goes for Clark, who seemingly gets better as his material gets more obvious. Doran, DeCamp, Ridgely, Todd, all good. Garfield sort of gets an incomplete, sort of gets a pass. The film drops the ball on a lot–like how does Garfield feel about being a national hero who loathes himself–and the ending feels tacked on.

Pride of the Marines has its built-in constraints–it’s a forties propaganda picture, after all–but every opportunity it gets to surmount them, it fails. Though Daves’s first act creativity does come back for one shot at the end. Only for him to screw it up with the boringly directed finale.

1.5/4★½

CREDITS

Directed by Delmer Daves; screenplay by Marvin Borowsky and Albert Maltz, based on a book by Roger Butterfield; director of photography, J. Peverell Marley; edited by Owen Marks; music by Franz Waxman; produced by Jerry Wald; released by Warner Bros.

Starring John Garfield (Al Schmid), Eleanor Parker (Ruth Hartley), Dane Clark (Lee Diamond), Ann Doran (Ella Mae Merchant), John Ridgely (Jim Merchant), Rosemary DeCamp (Virginia Pfeiffer), Anthony Caruso (Johnny Rivers) and Ann E. Todd (Loretta Merchant).


Old Stock (2012, James Genn)

The last scene of Old Stock doesn't exactly overshadow the rest of the film, but it certainly sets it apart. It's one of the more subtle finishes to a film. Without giving the viewer any guidance, director Genn and writer Dane Clark close the picture with a silent reference to a line in the dialogue. Hopefully the viewer gets it, because it's a fantastic pay-off.

The film concerns Noah Reid, the Stock of the title, who ends up hiding out in a retirement community (at the ripe old age of twenty) with his grandfather (Danny Wells), after an initially vague personal tragedy. The film manages to make it forty-five minutes before explaining the situation; when it finally does so, Genn goes with a full flashback. After hinting at it in dialogue–it's a small enough town Reid's famous for it–the flashback's the easiest way to get the story told.

Old Stock is short and to the point. Clark's script gets in a full subplot involving Wells and his estranged wife, Corinne Conley, and implied subplots for Melanie Leishman and Meghan Heffern, as the girls in Reid's life. Heffern is the girl involved with that vague personal tragedy, Leishman is the one who appears in the retirement community and causes Reid to reexamine his seclusion.

Genn's direction is fantastic, both composition and direction of actors. No one really gets a big scene, just quietly devastating ones. Reid, Leishman, Heffern, all outstanding.

Great editing from Kye Meechan too.

Stock is a notable success.

3/4★★★

CREDITS

Directed by James Genn; written by Dane Clark; director of photography, Arthur E. Cooper; edited by Kye Meechan; music by Dave Genn; production designer, Rosanna Lagace; produced by Geordie Sabbagh; released by E1 Entertainment.

Starring Noah Reid (Stock), Melanie Leishman (Patti), Meghan Heffern (Dhalia), Corinne Conley (Gloria), Anna Ferguson (Millicent), Gene Mack (Wendel), Jason Weinberg (Jason Weaver), Anand Rajaram (Dr. Anand), Jacob Kraemer (Tristan) and Danny Wells (Harold).


The Very Thought of You (1944, Delmer Daves)

Delmer Daves–for someone whose directing occasionally makes me cover my eyes in fright–does an all right job with The Very Thought of You. He has these tight close-ups and, while there are only a few of them, they work out quick well. Otherwise, technically speaking, he doesn’t have many tricks. He’s on the low end of proficient and I kept thinking, as I watched the film, what a better director could have done with the material, since the film’s so strong.

There isn’t much internal conflict in The Very Thought of You. World War II applies pressure on the characters, pushing them into conflicted situations, which gives the film a nice lightness. It gets slow occasionally, since the only foreseeable suspense throughout is Dennis Morgan’s character getting killed in battle–except he and Eleanor Parker have multiple goodbyes, only to get to see each other again before he goes off. The first act is loaded with good scenes and great conversations and, while the second doesn’t have as many, it has enough the pacing doesn’t get too bothersome.

I suppose the film is propaganda, but it’s incredibly light propaganda if it is–a shot here or there, an extra line of dialogue. Morgan looks like a leading man, but he’s probably the weakest actor in the film. I’ve seen it before but didn’t remember much and I was worried he’d be expected to carry it. Instead, Parker’s got an awful family–Beulah Bondi and Andrea King remind of wicked characters from a fairy tale and both are excellent. Obviously, Parker needs some support in the family scenes, so Henry Travers is her understanding father and does some nice work. Georgia Lee Settle is her precocious little sister and she’s good too. The 4F brother, played by John Alvin, also does some good work. The family scenes are most of the best written ones, since they have visible conflict. The other good scenes are the ones with Parker and Faye Emerson and the ones with Dane Clark as the comic relief (with a heart of gold). The romance between Morgan and Parker–the majority of the film takes place over two days–has all off-screen conflict and, though it’s the subject of the film, one just takes it for granted and engages with the rest.

The film is well-made (though there’s mediocre direction–with a few exceptions) and it’s nice and a pleasant viewing experience. Still, without any conflict and any real suspense, it’s a chore to maintain interest. It’s rewarding, but still a chore.

3/4★★★

CREDITS

Directed by Delmer Daves; screenplay by Alvah Bessie and Daves, from a story by Lionel Wiggam; director of photography, Bert Glennon; edited by Alan Crosland Jr.; music by Franz Waxman; produced by Jerry Wald; released by Warner Bros.

Starring Dennis Morgan (Sgt. David Stewart), Eleanor Parker (Janet Wheeler), Dane Clark (Sgt. ‘Fixit’ Gilman), Faye Emerson (Cora ‘Cuddles’ Colton), Beulah Bondi (Mrs. Harriet Wheeler), Henry Travers (Pop Wheeler), William Prince (Fred), Andrea King (Molly Wheeler), John Alvin (Cal Wheeler), Marianne O’Brien (Bernice), Georgia Lee Settle (Ellie Wheeler), Richard Erdman (Soda Jerk) and Francis Pierlot (Minister Raymond Houck).


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