Thursday, June 4, 2009

Trevor Howard

TCM's look at directors is spotlighting Carol Reed on June 5, and you can see the British actor Trevor Howard in two of Reed's movies tomorrow: the romantic drama The Key, at 6:00 AM ET, in which Howard plays one of two World War II convoy captains vying for the affections of Sophia Loren; and The Third Man, at 6:00 PM ET, in which Howard plays a British Army officer. Another Howard movie I'd like to recommend, even though it's not airing soon, is Father Goose.

Howard doesn't have such a big part here; he's playing another military officer. This time, though, it's one in the Royal Australian Navy, specifically charged with overseeing monitoring stations on several Pacific Islands in World War II. One day, into the port where he's stationed sails Cary Grant, a hard-drinking loafer who wants no part of the war. However, Howard dragoons Grant into manning the station in exchange for drink, and then makes certain Grant will keep his end of the bargain by scuttling Grant's boat (which isn't even really his, but that's another story).

Grant begins to look out for Japanese planes and ships, but soon gets more than he bargained for. Not in the form of the Japanese -- they're saved for the climax of the movie -- but the lovely Leslie Caron, who's been stranded herself by a Japanese attack. Worse, she's a teacher, and has seven of her young female students in tow! She's also very proper, and proceeds to hide all of Grant's liquor, in order that he'll actually do the job he was sent to the island to do.

Of course, this is where the plot gets predictable: you know that Grant and Caron are going to fall in love, that the Japanese are going to come back, and that the two adults and all the children are going to have to try to make a daring escape. Still, it's not a bad little comedy. This was made in 1964, near the end of Grant's career. By this time, he had become stereotyped as a distinguished older gentleman, and wanted to do a movie that would have him be a bit less of a gentleman. Leslie Caron is a bit too elegant to be a teacher, but that wouldn't be a first for a Hollywood movie; Audrey Hepburn was impossibly elegant in The Children's Hour. The children can be obnoxious at times, but really are necessary to the plot. All in all, it's a pleasant enough movie that's well worth watching and avoids the bad language that plagues movies of today. It's also available on DVD.

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