Thursday, June 2, 2011

China Girl

The Fox Movie Channel has brought the movie China Girl back to its lineup after a long time in the vaults. For some resaon I thought I had blogged about it before, but apparently not. It's airing at 7:30 AM ET tomorrow morning.

George Montgomery plays Johnny Williams (don't call him Johnny Jones), an American news service photographer working in Burma in late 1941 when it's taken over by the Japanese. He and two fellow ex-pats Bull and Fifi (Victor McLaglen and Lynn Bari respectively) escape from detention and just oh-so-conveniently happen to find a plane with which they can make a getaway to the northern part of the country where they'll find the Free Chinese. At this point the story begins to take two turns. First, it turns out that Johnny's friends aren't really friends, or even well-meaning amateurs; they're spies working for Japan. And Johnny manages to get some information off of them. Second, in Mandalay, Johnny meets the lovely Miss Young (Gene Tierney), whose father runs a school for orphans in Kunming, which is in that part of China that's in a war zone. Johnny falls in love with Young, and tries to help the poor Chinese orphans, while also trying to get back to the US with the vital information he has (I think it's about the upcoimng attack on Pearl Harbor, but it's really a Macguffin).

To be honest, China Girl is a bit weak as a movie, largely because looking back on it, I can't help but see a pale imitation to Foreign Correspondent. Alfred Hitchcock's movie was set just before the outbreak of World War II in Europe and came out shortly afterwards; China Girl follows the same pattern surrounding the attack on Pearl Harbor. There's spies who aren't what they seem to be, a dashing American newsman, and a love interest for him. But Alfred Hitchcock was a master storyteller, and knew how to put the story first; only the scenes at the end are really propagandistic. In China Girl, it feels more as if the movie was rushed into production precisely to make propaganda and boost the morale of Americans on the home front.

I don't think China Girl has gotten a release to DVD, so you're going to have to catch this one on the Fox Movie Channel.

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