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Susan Green

To See or Not to See

(25 November 1940)

From Labor Action, Vol. 4 No. 33, 25 November 1940, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

You Almost Smell The Salt
“The Long Voyage Home”

It is an old woman’s tale that sailors go to sea to find peace for their souls on the briny deep. Yet the tale persists, and even a usually clear-sighted reviewer like Bosley Crowther of the New York Times falls into the fallacy of referring to this entirely unsentimental saga of the sea as “the never-ending story of man’s wanderings over the waters of the world in search of peace for his soul”.

This film version of four of Eugene O’Neill’s one-act plays, knit together to make one fascinating story, leaves no illusions as to why Drisc, Yank, Axel and the other land-loving seafarers on the old tub of a freighter, the S.S. Glencairn, added sequel after sequel to that never-ending story of man’s wanderings over the waters of the world. They were caught in a vicious circle, only one of whose arcs is the lure of the sea itself. After a long lonely voyage fraught with danger, they are easy prey for the first brothel-keeper they meet – and then go away with empty pockets. What is there to do but go back to sea? But in this story the old-timers at ieast have the satisfaction of rescuing young Ole Olson from their own fate. He returns – with his money – to his mother on a Swedish farm.

Thanks to the good sense of director John Ford, who knows when he has the stuff out of which a realistic film can be made, there isn’t even a smell of make believe about the S.S. Glencairn and her tough crew. It’s all there. The dreaminess of a moonlight night in the Caribbean. Fist fighting over the daughters of the devil who come abroad to smuggle rum and sell their favors. The merciless fury of a storm, out of which Yank comes with a fatally punctured lung – and no doctor on board. The filthy system of shanghaiing sailors. The cruelty of the men, matching that of the sea, when they suspect the reticent Smitty of being a German spy. Also the healing balm of a calm sea and a sun-drenched deck. It is all there:

On the S.S. Glencairn of 1940 the forecastle is not as wretched a hole as the one I remember in the O’Neill play. Also, it seems to me that in the play the men were much more rebellious when they learned that the ship had loaded a cargo of explosives for England. But these points, however interesting, are still only minor criticisms of a film in which the story, the directing, the acting, the photography are tops.

Gimme Too!
Or Hollywood Pulls Out a Plum

A recent item from that cultural centre of America brought the glad tidings that the motion picture industry has turned over its entire facilities to the army for the production of films to be used in the training of the conscripts called under the Selective Service Act. A nice, big-hearted, altruistic thing for Hollywood to do, no?

Yes – until you get down to the end of the item, where it says that Gordon Mitchell, manager of the research council of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts, who will be in active charge, has just come back from conferences in Washington with a government allotment of $250,000 of the $5,000,000 Hollywood is to get in connection with the first group of conscripts. The implication is that more millions are to go Holly-ward as more conscripts go camp-ward.

Unless you are a conscript, you will not have the pleasure of seeing any of these pictures to be produced solely to meet the “national emergency”. They will not be released for the general public, but will be used only as a visual “educational” course for new soldiers. Of course, the army will be working hand in glove with the motion picture industry.

Needless to say, this lucious plum is being shared by all the Hollywood big shot pay-triots: Paramount, Twentieth Century-Fox, Columbia, Warner.

Definitely, To See
Walt Disney’s “Fantasia”

You have probably some time or other yawned through a movie short which attempted to visualize music for you. Don’t let that prejudice you against going to see Disney’s Fantasia which has been described as “seeing music and hearing pictures”. It is a work of great beauty and imagination, and accomplishes its purpose of bringing to an audience fine music together with the color, movement, characters or what-have-you that might be imagined to fit that music.

Our good fortune, of course, is that we get here not the color, movement, characters, etc., that might occur to anybody, but those that occurred to Disney and his co-artists. So Fantasia is made of the Disney sense of humor, his sense of the drama of color and movement, of rhythm and synchronization. We have here his clever use of the similarities between entirely dissimilar things, his affectionate attention to minutiae, his exploitation of the unexpected.

The show begins as a concert does. The orchestra tunes up. Leopold Stokowski appears, and under his music-molding hands the orchestra gets to work. First comes a Bach selection and with it fascinating patterns of color and. motion that catch every nuance of the music as well as its spirit. Then Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite, in which the Chinese Dance is done by mushrooms, the Russian Dance by thistles and orchids. Mickey Mouse later appears as the best in the world, and never in all my experiences at dance recitals, have I seen better dance rhythms than in Disney’s Sorcerer’s Apprentice or in his Dance of the Hours – that old-time ballet, which Disney burlesques by using ostriches, hippopotami, elephants and. alligators as his corp de ballet. To Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring, with its exploding discordances and its weighty, thumping rhythms, Disney gives us the convulsions and upheavals of the earth as it molded itself into land, mountain and sea, millions and millions of years ago, together with the evolution and demise of the formidable dinosaur. The effects are as awesome as the music.

Beethoven, Moussorgsky and Schubert are the others on the program of eight selections, all beautifully complemented by Disney’s imagery. There is unfortunately no space here for more detail.

The one thing I regret is that Fantasia can, as yet, be seen only by a very limited audience. It is being shown at few theatres throughout the country. The evening prices of admission in New York range from 75¢ to $2.20, with very few seats at 75¢. Whether it will ever get to the local theatres at regular prices is a matter of doubt, because its showing requires special theatre equipment.

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