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Susan Green

To See or Not to See

(5 August 1940)

From Labor Action, Vol. 4 No. 17, 5 August 1940, p. 3
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).


Wisecracks, sexy and otherwise, falling thick and fast, the story starts off at a fast pace and creates an interesting situation. Two brothers, George Raft and Humphrey Bogart, are trying might and main to become independent haulers of produce. They get a break which enables them to pay off the installments on their truck. But luck doesn’t stay with them. One night Bogart falls asleep at the wheel. The truck plunges off the road, is completely wrecked, and Bogart loses an arm. So there they are. No truck, no money, three arms between them instead of four, and one-armed Bogart bitter and discouraged.

So far, pretty good. There is plenty of excitement, drivers falling asleep at the wheel, trucks crashing to destruction. The rough camaraderie of the road runs generously through the story. The problems of the drivers who want to be “their own bosses” instead of working for the owner of a fleet of trucks, provides social interest.

But for some mysterious reason the script writer decided to ditch all this and to start off somewhere else. Enters the beautiful conniving wife (Ida Lupino) of a boss truckman. She loves George Raft, but he scorns her. Follows a murder, a trial, and nemesis creeping up on Ida in the form of madness.

Thus the film gives us the wreck of a good story, along with the wrecked trucks – all for the same price.

For the Good of Their Souls

In the deep depression years of 1931–1932 we were reading about the vagrant girls who had left or been driven out of poverty-stricken homes. They were found sleeping in railway stations and riding the subways all night because they had nowhere to go. They were bumming their way on freight cars and thumbing their way on the highways. They congregated in hide-outs where they led a jungle existence until the local sheriff jailed them. Released from one jug, they soon got herded into another. Girls of the Road are these girls.

But, alas, in the film they are not girls at all but merely types that, move about like marionettes. And the treatment they get at the hands of the script writer is as routine and unimaginative as the grub they ate in the town jails. Furthermore they have thrust upon them a governor’s daughter who believes in their souls and wants to save them. (Lady bountiful is played by that perennial pollyanna, Ann Dvorak). And, to add insult to injury, the governor’s daughter gets them a “home” where they can become “rehabilitated”, instead of the jobs they really need.

In spite of these handicaps and the additional one that the film comes about a decade too late, the plight of the girls still stands out as something very real.

Enough is Enough
(From Rachel Field’s novel)

To sit for two hours and twenty minutes watching Bette Davis being noble and Charles Boyer being self pityingly sad, adds up to having had about one hour and ten minutes too much. Movement from one situation to another is required of a good film. Here you get scene after scene of the same situation: the governess being wonderful to the children; they loving her; the duke and the governess yearning for each other; the duchess crazed with jealousy. The result is stuffy and depressing.

The sameness of the scenes also prevents Bette Davis from giving full range to her powers. When the opportunity to give comes her way, she does give, but there is not enough of it.

Though the story dates back to the pre-revolutionary period of 1846 in France, the producers have made practically no use at all of this historical background. So that we get nothing more than a hot-house triangular tragedy, about which this reviewer did not get very excited.

The Staff of Life
(A French film with English subtitles)

If it’s acting of the first order that you want, Raimu supplies it in the role of the fleshy middle-aged baker whose good-looking young wife has deserted him for a muscular young gypsy. In a comic role and a comic situation, Raimu must tread carefully on this side of the ridiculous, for his wayward wife is very dear to the baker and her desertion no joke to him. Raimu succeeds. He makes you laugh at the baker and feel sorry for him at the same time.

The baker’s wife becomes the concern of the whole village. For the unhappy man has let the fire go out in his oven. The village has become breadless. He promises to bake such bread as they have never eaten before, if they will only find and bring back his wife. The wife-hunt is on, and a delightful funny thing it is.

The hostility between priest and scholar, the family feuds of generations, neighborly fights over poverty, all become grist to the mill producing droll situations and witty dialogue.

Decidedly a “don’t miss” film.

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