Thursday, August 18, 2011

Jean Gabin in English

This morning, I mentioned that TCM's star of the day for Summer Under the Stars, Jean Gabin, made two films in Hollywood. I think I've seen only one of the two: Moontide. But it's on DVD, and worth a view.

Gabin plays Bobo, a longshoreman in northern California who has several problems. First, he drinks heavily. Second, when he drinks, he tends to have blackouts, such that he can't remember what he's done. And last and probably worst of all, he's got a friend named Tiny (Thomas Mitchell) who's ostensibly looking out for Bobo's best interests, but in reality is a bad influence on him. One night, after a night of heavy drinking, a man winds up dead in a bar fight. Tiny tells Bobo that he (that is, Bobo) did it, which happens not to be true. But because of those blackouts, Bobo has no clue whether or not he really did it. And Tiny is taking advantage of this to blackmail Bobo.

Into all this walks, or rather washes up, Anna (Ida Lupino). She's a waitress with no future, who's decided to kill herself, apparently Norman Maine-style by walking into the sea. Bobo saves her, and because this was back in the day when the police would arrest people attempting suicide, Bobo takes Anna back to his place. Here, the two fall in love. That's great for Bobo and Anna, but not so much for Tiny, who wants to break up their relationship....

Moontide isn't the greatest movie out there, but it's one that's filled with interesting performances. Gabin does more than OK with his role, and in fact speaking English as a second language is a plus, as it makes him seem like a bit of a dullard who really needs somebody like Tiny to look after him. Ida Lupino, who was born into an acting family, learned to fight to get good roles and became very adept at playing women who had to fight their way through life: On Dangerous Ground, The Hard Way, and Road House all come to mind. She's playing something similar in Moontide, and even though this is closer to the beginning of her career as a leading actress, she still does it with ease. Thomas Mitchell had previously won an Oscar for playing the drunk on the Stagecoach with John Wayne back in 1939, and is surprisingly menacing here. Also of note is Claude Rains, who plays somebody reminiscent Guy Kibbee's "judge" in Lady For a Day. It's an odd role for Rains to show up in a picture like this, but to his credit, he does as well as anybody else could have done.

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