Saturday, December 7, 2013

Reap the Wild Wind

John Wayne got to wear a lot of costumes during the course of his career. A lot of them were old west duds, but there were also military uniforms. In some cases, such as Red Riber, the two were combined as he played a cavalryman in the West. But Wayne gets to wear a different period costume in Reap the Wild Wind, which is airing tonight at 10:00 PM on TCM: that of a mid-19th century ship's captain.

Wayne plays Captain Jack Stuart, the captain of a clipper ship that plies the route from New Orleans to New York, more or less. If you look on a map, you'll note that the quickest route involves going through the Florida Keys. That, of course, is dangerous, as there are all sorts of shoals on which a ship could run aground. Indeed, it's something we saw in Jamaica Inn, where you had people deliberately trying to get ships to run aground so that they can salvage the cargo. There's that in the Keys as well, and sure enough, Stuart is betrayed by one of his officers who is being paid off by the saboteurs to run the ship aground.

There are also legitimate salvage operations, since there are so many wrecks. Indeed, when Stuart's ship wsa scuttled, he himself is salvaged, so to say, by one of those salvagers, tomboyish Loxi Claiborne (Paulette Goddard). Loxi takes Jack home to recuperate, and you can guess that they're going to fall in love. You can also guess that there are going to be complications. Jack Stuart is a ship's captain, so in theory he should be leaving soon to take command of another of the shipping company's vessels. This is where another of the complications comes in: there has to be an investigation of the disaster, and that's being headed by the shipping company's lawyer, Stephen Tolliver (Ray Milland). Loxi belives Stephen is trying to keep Jack from getting another command, so she goes to him in Charleston to try to convince him otherwise, and when Stephen meets Loxi, he falls in love with her.

This sort of a love triangle may cause complications for the lives of the characters, but it's a fairly standard plot twist. The rest of the plot, however, begins to get rather more complicated at this point. Stephen had been planning to give Jack another command, and of the best ship in the line, but due to a series of mixups Jack and Loxi believe that it was Stephen's boss who approved this and Stephen is trying to keep Jack from getting the captaincy. So Jack joins in with the people who scuttled his previous command and tries to scuttle the shipping company's steamship. Loxi, however, discovers that everything was a mistake and heads off to try to stop Jack....

The story in Reap the Wild Wind is fairly silly, but damn if it isn't a terribly entertaining movie. John Wayne is good enough as a ship's captain, in many ways playing the same role he did when he'd play all those cavalrymen. Paulette Goddard is a bit miscast as a tomboy, but she doesn't do anything to drag the film down. Ray Milland is more than good enough as the other man, and the supporting characters are all enjoyable enough. And then there's the finale, which involves Wayne and Milland going underwater to try to find a key piece of evidence which will exonerate Jack. That is, until Milland gets attacked by a giant octopus! Yes, it's silly, but as I said, it's a fun silly.

Reap the Wild Wind is avialable on DVD, even from the TCM Shop.

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