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Susan Green

To See or Not to See

(16 December 1940)

From Labor Action, Vol. 4 No. 36, 16 December 1940, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Oriental Vengeance
“The Letter”

Director William Wyler has made a remarkably good picture out of a somewhat hackneyed plot. It has to do with the murder of a native by the wife of a rubber planter in the Malay country. Her plea is self-defense. But up pops this letter which puts an altogether different light on the case. Her life depends upon procuring and suppressing the incriminating evidence.

Wyler has the very able assistance of Bette Davis in the part of the white woman. With admirable skill she runs the gamut from the wily murderess seeking to save her neck to the unhappy woman who has made a mess of her life. James Stephenson is also a decided asset. He does a wonderful job of the lawyer, honest and unwilling to purloin evidence, yet risking. his reputation for his friend. And my hat is off to Sen Yung who plays the part of a native clerk in the office of lawyer Joyce a slippery, conniving, but always polite Oriental.

To me this clerk is the important character in the story. Not only is he the intermediary through whom the incriminating letter is finally procured, but he expresses with refinement and subtlety the hatred that Orientals have for the intruding occidentals. As against his oiliness, the violent revenge of the dead native’s widow, seems a bit ineffectual.

Wyler has surrounded this tale of murder and vengeance with the heaviness of jungle vegetation and the smell of mystery. All in all, it is melodrama at its best.

The Nazis Didn’t Get Her

Emmy Ritter, an American married to a German and in her day a very great actress, has been clapped into a Nazi concentration camp, and, incommunicado, awaits her execution. The Nazis got her when she returned to Germany from America to sell the estate of her dead husband. She needed the money to carry on anti-Nazi propaganda.

Ironically enough, an appendicitis operation successfully performed by the concentration camp doctor, held up the execution. This enabled Emmy’s son, worried by his mother’s silence, to get to Germany, find out about her imprisonment, and plot for her escape. He was aided by an old German servant, a countess, a young boarding school girl – and by the doctor in the concentration camp. That is absolutely all I’m going to tell you about the exciting escape from the jaws of death.

But this is not a shallow chase story. The people who finally help the young man save his mother go through intense emotional struggles. The countess, a widow, an American before she married, is now the mistress of the important General Kurt Von Kolb. She dreads the consequences of getting mixed up with the young American’s plan. Inch by inch she rises to the occasion, and finally does what is required of her. Dr. Ditten is torn between his political allegiance to the Nazis and his doctor’s passion to save a life that he had already saved once by his skillful operation. Also, the great actress Emmy Ritter had stirred his deep admiration when he was a young man.

Conrad Veidt gives a perfect performance as the tight-lipped, vain, cruel General Von Kolb. Nazimova’s style of acting is excellent for the role of Emmy Ritter. Unfortunately, Norma Shearer, as the unhappy countess, displays her limitless limitations. But she does not spoil an excellent picture.

Kiss and Make Up

The latest issue of The March of Time will tell you how very displeased the American imperialists have been with their neighbor to the south. The film shows how the landless peasants were getting land, how education and medicine were being brought to the villages, how the unions were getting strong, how demonstrators carried slogans of “Down with American Imperialists”. The commentator says that the American imperialists didn’t like any of this, nor did they like having Leon Trotsky down there, nor having Mexico’s rich oil resources taken back by the Mexicans. The picture broadly hints that General Almazan was the candidate of the displeased northern neighbor for president of Mexico, and shows how he was defeated by the Cardenas political machine.

The film makes clear, what has been very evident in the newspapers, that Camacho, Cardenas’ man, will play along with the United States, and indicates that Mexico is compelled to take this course for the reason that it is in a bad way economically. The war has cut off practically all its European trade, just when it was making the change to the public ownership of its important oil industry – a situation favoring a crushing “neighborly” embrace from the colossus of the north.

Besides all of which, the film has some excellent shots of Mexican people, and one of Trotsky in his study.

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Last updated: 21 July 2014