Friday, July 31, 2015

Never Let Me Go

Tomorrow is August 1, which means the start of another month of Summer Under the Stars on TCM. As usual, every day brings 24 hours of movies starring a different person. This first day of August will feature somebody who did much of her work over at Fox, but who made enough movies elsewhere that TCM can get enough things to make a day of it: Gene Tierney. One of the Tierney movies that I haven't blogged about before is Never Let Me Go, kicking off the day at 6:00 AM.

Top billing goes to Clark Gable, who plays Philip Sutherland. Philip is a newspaper correspondent, working the Soviet beat. He had been stationed in Moscow for some time, going back to the days when the US and the USSR were uneasy allies since they were both fighting the Nazis. Of course we know who won that fight, and when victory was achieved Philip got the chance to take in a celebratory ballet. There, Philip saw ballerina Marya Lamarkina (Tierney), whom he had fallen for, at least from a distance. But to his surprise, Marya apparently noticed him, as she was trying to learn the language so she could meet him. They have a whirlwind romance and get married.

But there's a problem: getting an exit visa for Marya. State artists are a national treasure, and the Soviet government wants to keep a tight leash on them. If they let Marya go off with Philip, there's a high likelihood that she'll never return. Indeed, one of Philip's colleagues, Christopher (Richard Haydn), is in the same boat. He married a Soviet woman (Belita) and the government won't let her go to to England with Christopher despite the fact that she's pregnant. To make matters worse, the spirit of comity that the US, UK, and USSR had during the war is rapidly evaporating as an iron curtain is descending across the continent from Stettin to Trieste. Eventually Philip's visa runs out, and he's forced to leave the country without his wife. And there's no way the Soviets are going to give him another visa to enter the country.

Philip gets an assignment in London, which at least allows him to be a bit closer to Marya. But it also allows him to be closer to Christopher, and eventually he gets an idea: the two of them can sail to the coast of the USSR and arrange to pick up their wives there. Highly illegally, of course. It's another of those daft ideas that you could only think of in a movie, and which would never work in real life. After all, letters from the western husbands to their Soviet wives would be censored. And could either side in the marriage even get close to the coast? Well, since this is a Hollywood movie you can assume that the answer is yes, they actually can do it. Marya and the ballet go to Tallinn (remember that Estonia was part of the USSR at the time), which just happens to be on the coast. And Philip arranges to pick her up there....

Never Let Me Go is one of those movies where you really have to suspend your disbelief to watch it. That having been said, the movie just about works. Tierney had already played a Soviet wife in The Iron Curtain, and she does reasonably well doing that again here, even if she isn't that realistic as a ballerina. Clark Gable was never less than professional, and gives a solid performance that only pales if you consider all the other great movies he did earlier in his career. Again, if there's any problem with the movie, it's with the plot. But overall, it's entertaining enough.

Never Let Me Go did get a DVD release courtesy of the Warner Archive, although there's a more recent film with the same title, so be careful if you look for the DVD online.

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