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Susan Green

To See or Not to See

(22 July 1940)

From Labor Action, vol. 4 No. 15, 22, July 1940, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

We Wish to Cooperate

A new national anthem has been born. In any movie theatre it can be heard issuing from Kate Smith's booming bellows. Accompanying this Irving Berlin song, the screen has shown snow-capped mountains and billowy waves, New York City from an airplane, the white house, battleships with guns blasting away, marching cadets, and the like.

We suggest that the next round of film show a tenement house in the slums of New York or Chicago in the summer – the hovels of southern sharecroppers – a negro being lynched by a mob – the wards of a hospital for the maimed and crippled of the last war. We will be glad to cooperate in changing the words of the song to harmonize with the suggested pictures.

A Mother in War

“I want that baby!” shouts the agonized Czechoslovakian mother in the story. She is referring to her infant grandson. She has lost three of her sons in the Nazi invasion. She holds in her hand an iron medal for the life of her youngest. Her husband also dies in war. Outside, on the road, the Nazis are training mere boys in the use of guns and gasmasks. She must save her grandson from military regimentation and death in war. So, she leaves, with her daughter-in-law and grandson, for America where her fourth son lives.

This excellent film of the ravages of war on the heart of a mother is, in its ending, a bit behind the times since America can no longer be considered a haven from military regimentation. This Czechoslovakian mother would find herself in a new America fevershly hurrying into a rigid military regime. She and the small remnants of her family would be fingerprinted as aliens, and before her horrified eyes she would see the beginnings of the very thing she came here to escape.

Since the story is about the Nazi invasion of Czechoslavakia, the Nazis, and not war itself, stand out as the villains of the piece. So that this mother's tragedy does not make the powerful anti-war appeal it should. All of which does not detract from the dramatic story or the gripping quality of the film. The acting is competent, the honors going to Eugenie Leontovich as the mother; Don Ameche as one of the sons actually loses his usual look of round-faced well-being.

Did You Know About

Thanks to an article by John Woolfenden, in a recent issue of the New York Times, on how and where Hollywood makes its race track pictures, certain enlightening facts come out. Most of the jockeys who ride for pictures are actually ex-jockeys. For some time now Negro ex-jockeys have not been employed in Hollywood. It seems there are rules barring Negroes from racing on tracks in democratic America. Without so much as a peep of protest, Holly wood complies with this race-discriminating ruling in making its race track pictures. The result is that many noted Negro ex-jockeys can find employment only as exercise boys.

Where Angels Fear to Tread

Joan Crawford goes to town, and how! She creates an uproariously funny role of the smart-set female who suddenly finds “god”, pins on a pair of wings, and flaps around in everybody's affairs – maliciously messing them up. There are two actualities that tend to clip her artificial wings: (1) a husband who drinks and from whom the godly Susan withholds his marital rights; (2) an unhappy daughter, Blossom, with spectacles on her nose and a brace on her teeth:

While Susan gives loud-mouthed devotion to her god-movement – even insisting that the snickering help call her by her first name – she takes the heart out of her husband and begrudges her daughter even a little attention. However when husband Frederic March is almost gobbled up by another woman, Susan becomes sadder and wiser.

This rapid revolution in the soul of a venomous vixen is hard to accept. Trickery to keep another woman from getting her husband would be more in character. Furthermore some of the best parts are where March lets her have it – she deserves plenty. So, for her to end up in the arms of her husband, who we know sees right through her, is very unsatisfying.

Nevertheless as entertainment it is tops. Anyway, nobody takes seriously the lives of people who do nothing but ride, play tennis and drink cocktails. Besides the excellent performances of Joan Crawford and Frederic March, Rita Quigley, new in films, is swell as Blossom.

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Last updated: 10 July 2014