Sunday, December 31, 2017

Thunder Bay

I watched Thunder Bay off my DVR this weekend, the movie having been shown on TCM back in November when James Stewart was the Star of the Month. It's available from Universal's MOD scheme, so I'm comfortable doing a full-length post on it.

The movie starts off telling us that it's set in Louisiana, 1946, so it's set a few years in the past considering the movie was released in 1953. Steve Martin (James Stewart) and his friend Johnny Gambi (Dan Duryea) are walking along a rural road, looking to get to town of Port Felicity where they have an important business meeting. They're picked up by Teche (Gilbert Roland), but the two men jump off the back of the truck before they can pay Teche the $5 they promised him.

They then hire the boat of Dominique Rigaud (Antonio Moreno), offering him $50 for the day, but it's clear that they have no cash to pay them off, something Dominique's daughter Stella (Joanne Dru) is smart enough to figure out. she's one of the few people who has left this declining shrimp town to spend time in the big city, so she's seen it all and is also a woman with a past as a result. It turns out the business meeting is with MacDonald (Jay C. Flippen), an oil company executive whose company has a lease out in the Gulf of Mexico but hasn't been able to exploit it because offshore drilling was a difficult thing at the time. Steve is convinced he's solved the technical problems.

There are other problems, of course. The townsfolk have been having problems finding shrimp, and they're worried that the oil drilling is going to disrupt the shrimp beds permanently. This especially once Steve starts dynamiting to figure out where the best place to drill is. And once they do start drilling, of course there are all the other problems you can imagine.

But that wouldn't be enough of a plot, so we have to get personal stuff. Stella finds herself becoming attracted to Steve, although because of her past she doesn't want to pursue the relationship. Worse is the problems she can see her kid sister Francesca (Marcia Henderson) about to have. Marcia is Philippe's fiancée, but Johnny is pursuing her and she gets stars in her eyes since Johnny has been around the block and becoming involved with Johnny might be a way out of town for Francesca.

There are a lot of traditional tropes in Thunder Bay, but the movie more or less succeeds, thanks to the performance from Stewart and capable direction from Anthony Mann. It's not the sort of movie I would sho if I were trying to introduce people to old movies, but for people looking for one they haven't seen before, I don't have too much trouble saying it's more than worth a watch.

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