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Susan Green

To See or Not to See

(27 May 1940)

From Labor Action, Vol. 4 No. 7, 27 May 1940, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

“That They May Live”
A French film with English subtitles

Censors pounced upon this French film immediately upon its production. It was never seen anywhere in Europe. And no wonder. It is an international appeal to the peoples of all countries not to forget the millions of the dead and wounded of the last war.

The story begins on the last day of the last war – just before the armistice. Twelve men go out on a death patrol. The same day, the armistice is declared. But for these men it comes too late. Eleven of them are brought back dead to a town crazy with the joy of peace. The twelfth, who lives, is so moved. by the tragedy of the useless death of his eleven comrades that he pledges to devote his life to the cause of peace. He will see that people will never forget the war dead.

He:is an inventor of some note and sets up his work shop on the edge, of the huge war cemetery. At this point the story becomes weak and unclear. There is an unmixable mixture of pseudo-science with the supernatural. Apparently the inventor works on mechanical contrivances to render ineffective all instruments of slaughter, and at the same establishes communion with the dead. He becomes a little crazed and totally blind.

When he regains his vision and his mental clarity, it is 1938. The country is again feverish with war preparations. His own inventions have been turned to the uses of slaughter. He has no recourse now except to the supernatural. He goes to the cemetery at Verdun and appeals to the war dead to arise and walk the earth as a warning to the people.

Here is the powerful part of the picture. Victor Francen, a very fine actor, puts everything he has behind his role. He appeals, in French, in English, in German, to the international brotherhood of the war to arise and save the living from the horrible death they knew. The emotional stir of his appeal is tremendous.

“The Maginot Line – West Wall” – a short

Major Eliot, NY Herald Tribune writer on military matters, appears in this movie short explaining the fortifications on the western front. With diagrams and actual pictures his explanation becomes very graphic. If you don’t already have a good. idea of the maze of death traps comprising these fortifications, watch for this short.

In comparing the Maginot Line with the West Wall, Eliot states that the French built theirs in eleven years without stint of materials, whereas the Germans hurried theirs through in four with great economy in the use of materials. For all that, the Nazi got through.

“Primrose Path”

Elly May does not want love. She dresses like a boy and acts like a boy just to keep the boys away. But love finds her just the same. Then her troubles start. Elly May is the poorest of the poor. Her father is a drinking weakling with scholarly pretensions but no earning power. Her mother keeps up the. slum existence of the family by giving gentlemen what they want. How can poor Elly May win her man if he knows the truth about her? So she lies. She pretends her family is not poor.She pretends it is respectable. She gets her man. Then comes the day of reckoning.

Ginger Rogers as Elly May is good. to see. She does the part of the tomboy without any unnatural underscoring.

The gags are lively. As an illustration: “We paint the ham on with a brush”, Elly May informs the customers, Also on the humorous side is Elly May’s kid sister. Her recitation “Don’t Swat Your Mother” is worth the price of admission.

“Dark Command”

The worst crudities of the usual western are missing from this one. The background is the struggle between the North and the South for the state of Kansas, just before the civil war, Walter Pidgeon does well as the villain, a soured school .teacher who turns bandit, and practises his art under the uniform of the confederacy. The hero, a two-gun cowboy from Texas, is very attractive in the person. of John Wayne, and fully deserves to win the southern girl, Claire Trevor. You pay your money, and if you like this sort of picture, you’ll get your money’s worth.

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