Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Apparently I haven't blogged about "Tycoon" before

TCM's Star of the Month salute to Anthony Quinn has been running his starting roles early in prime time, and then at the end of the night and early the next morning going to movies in which he played supporting or tiny roles. One of those smaller roles is in Tycoon, airing early tomorrow morning at 4:00 AM on TCM.

John Wayne stars as Johnny Monroe. He's a construction engineer, working for Mr. Alexander (Cedric Hardwicke). Alexander is building a railroad in the Andes mountains of exotic South America. Johnny and Alexander have a constant clash of ideas, so when Alexander needs to see somebody about the progress on the construction, he usually talks to Johnny's partner Pop (James Gleason). It doesn't help that Johnny is one of those people who works hard and plays hard. Anyhow, John and Pop have come down from the mountains to the city where Alexander is living in part to unwind for the weekend, and in part to talk to Alexander. Alexander wants to build a tunnel, which in theory is shorter in the long run, but there's the question of expense if you really want to do the tunnel safely.

Meanwhile, John has gotten himself good and drunk and is ogling the ladies. He sees one particularly lovely lady going into church for Mass, and decides that he's going to get this woman because that what John Wayne always does in his movies. The woman turns him down at first probably because he's hung over, so he follows her home and finds out that... this woman is Maura Alexander, the daughter of his boss! It goes without saying that Dad is none too happy with the idea that his daughter is thinking about seeing this engineer. Doesn't she know he's going to love the railroad more than he'll love her? Oh, and there's the social class difference and John's hard living. After a brief romance that sees them get caught in the middle of nowhere one night, the two get married!

What the hell were they thinking? Maura tries to make the best of it, moving in with Johnny up at the camp where they're building the tunnel. By now, it's turned out that Johnny and Pop were right about the idea that you can't build a tunnel if you're going to cheap out on safety. There are multiple cave-ins at the tunnel site, and Johnny's obsession with getting the tunnel finished strains his and Maura's relationship to the breaking point. Well, she was wanred that he'd love the construction work more than he'd love her.

Eventually, it becomes clear that they won't be able to get the tunnel built on time or on budget, so Johnny insists that the better solution would be to build a bridge instead. In theory a bridge is cheaper, but there's the question of whether it can stand up to the rainy season and the increased flow of the river. Still, Johnny is insistent on getting the railroad done so that he can win back Maura....

There's a lot going on in Tycoon, and while the movie is fairly interesting, it generally doesn't quite add up to the sum of its parts. John Wayne is about as good as he normally is, taking the lessons he learned from making all those westerns and the few military films he had done to this point and applying them to the job of playing a construction engineer. Laraine Day is lovely even if her role isn't all that demanding. James Gleason plays the moral conscience for the main character yet again, and is always worth watching for his supporting roles. As for Star of the Month Anthony Quinn, he plays Alexander's nephew who is also a construction engineer. Rounding out the cast is Judith Anderson as Maura's former governess who is sticking around as a sort of foster mother.

Tycoon is available on DVD, but you might want to watch the movie on TV first before deciding whether to spring for the DVD.

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