Wednesday, February 21, 2024

I Cover the Waterfront

One of those movies whose title I'd seen in various of the sites that sell public domain movies on DVD is the 1933 feature I Cover the Waterfront, so when TCM ran it I made a point to record it so that I could finally watch it and write up a review here.

The movie starts off with opening credits done newspaper-style, and helpfully putting faces to names of who plays the man characters. We then see the main character, Joe Miller (Ben Lyon), climbing the stairs up to what would be a garret apartment if Miller were a starving artist in a movie set in Paris. But Joe is a reporter in one of the cities on the California coast, and his apartment overlooks the harbor. Indeed, Joe is trying to get a story involving the ships that come and go, although he has to work long hours and is fed up with it.

Joe's returned home to find another reporter, McCoy (Hobart Cavanaugh), coming out west to start a career in journalism here, which is fine by Joe since he'd rather go back east to a safer big city and reunite with his girlfriend whom he's hoping to marry. So now he'd have a chance to give his notice to his editor Phelps and finally make that big move. But before that can happen, Phelps calls him up with a different sort of story, about a lady calling from a house overlooking the coast who claims she sees a woman swimming stark naked in the Pacific!

Miller goes out to the coast to investigate, and finds that the woman is a pretty young thing named Julie Kirk (Claudette Colbert). Wouldn't you know it, but Julie just happens to be the daughter of Eli Kirk (Ernest Torrence), who is the very sea captain Miller has been investigating. Julie thinks that her father, like the captains of most of the boats in the harbor, is a fisherman and makes his money that way. But we see that Eli is really taking money to smuggle Chinese into the US by sea. Miller is on to this, and when he gets on a Coast Guard cutter to go after Kirk, he throws the guy he's smuggling overboard to his death! So we know less than a third of the way into the movie that Eli Kirk really is the bad guy in the piece.

Miller, having met Julie, now thinks he's got a new angle to get at Eli, and pretends to make nicey to her to get her to spill the goods on her father, not that she knows anything. But you can guess what happens next, which is that Joe is going to fall in love with Julie, and that the feeling is going to be mutual. To say that this puts both Joe and Julie in danger is an understatement.

I Cover the Waterfront is a pretty good movie for one that was produced independently and only has the running time of a B movie. Of course, having a young Claudette Colbert in the cast is a big help in that regard. The movie is actually kind of shocking at times, and also relevant today with the illegal immigrants flooding the US's southern border or in Europe all the illegals getting on boats and trying to cross the Mediterranean or get to the Canary Islands.

Thankfully, as I said at the beginning, I Cover the Waterfront fell into the public domain, so it's fairly easy to find.

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