Monday, April 19, 2010

Fox's version of Jack Carson

I've mentioned how Jack Carson often played a charming schemer in movies such as The Strawberry Blonde and Mildred Pierce. The closest Fox got to this was in quite a few pictures starring Don Ameche. One such movie was Confirm or Deny, which the Fox Movie Channel is showing at 6:00 AM ET tomorrow morning.

Ameche plays Mitch Mitchell, who's in charge of an American news bureau in London during the days of the Blitz. Mitchell wants to get his reports on the bombings out, and he wants to get a scoop, which means getting a dedicated transatlantic telegraph wire of his own, something that's in very short supply. That's not the only problem he's got. There's a war on, and the British authorities are insistent on controlling what information gets out to the public, since they don't want to give the Nazis too much information on how much success they're having. This means that Mitchell also has to deal with the censors, in the form of Jennifer Carson (played by Joan Bennett). Along the way, Mitchell finds himself falling in love with his censor, and trying to charm her, as well as the owner of one of London's finest hotels, when he wants to use their basement for his news bureau after the old office gets bombed by the Nazis.

Confirm or Deny is a movie that tries to do a lot in a running time of about 75 minutes, and, to be honest, that's to the movie's detriment. There's not enough time to make Ameche's character truly sympathetic, or to give the audience a plausible reason for why the two should fall in love. It also leaves subplots either hanging a bit, or, in the case of the one involving Roddy McDowall as a boy who handles Ameche's newsgathering carrier pigeons, ends them abruptly (and with too much obviousness about where the story is going). Don Ameche and Joan Bennett deserved better than this. The thing that makes Confirm or Deny interesting, though, is its being a time capsule of how Hollywood looked at England in the months just before Pearl Harbor. The movie was made when the US was still neutral, although it didn't get released until just after Pearl Harbor. That is the one thing that makes Ameche's disdain for the censorship much more logical: he's officially neutral; why should he care about what the Brits are doing? Ameche and Bennett also give the best they can in a movie that's given short shrift. The whole thing left me wishing that Fox could have given everybody involved a little more time to flesh out the story.

Confirm or Deny hasn't been released to DVD, so you're going to have to catch the Fox Movie Channel showing.

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