Sunday, March 10, 2013

Irv Spence's Cartoon Diary: March 10, 1944



"Dullness creeps in..."

Because you can never have too much information about an obscure, 69-year-old Dana Andrews vehicle, from the March 10, 1944 Los Angeles Times:

'Purple Heart' Atmosphere Effective'

by Edwin Schallert

Prisoners of the Japanese, suffering brutal treatment at the behest of the nation's military machine, are doubtless as major an item of news as may be discerned today. For which reason "The Purple Heart", offered by Darryl F. Zanuck as the first production following his return to 20th Century-Fox, has a grim, topical and potent interest.

Directed by Lewis Milestone, the feature has many striking dramatic polnts to arrest attentlon, apart from its timeliness. It is an excellent picture in its early stages especlally, fades somewhat into tediousness after that. Its subject, while a particularly vital one, is rather forbidding for the audience pleasure-bent.

Speech Applauded

However, the public at Loew's State yesterday, where I witnessed the showing, applauded at the close of the film. The speech that tells the little yellow traitors off evoked a stirring response that spurred the climax. It gives a lift to the final portion of the picture. Thus it all more or less becomes a question of whether or not this is the type of entertainment desired today, and there seem to be negative as well as positive reponses.

Current program at Loew's, Chinese, Uptown and Carthay Circle theaters suffers in being too much given over to war issues anyway. March of Time reels dealing with postwar job arrangements keep in that groove. It is soundly illuminating, showing how the problems of canceled orders may be met by large manufacturing concerns. But this is documentary.

The only relieving event is, therefore, the Donald Duck cartoon. This discloses Donald disposing of an obnoxious trombone player, with the aid of Jupiter and Vulcan, who send him lightning bolts, and is delightfully and humorously imaginative.

Scenes in "The Purple Heart" which are quite intriguing display the pomp and ceremony of the court of judgment ruled by the Emperor of Japan and Society of the Black Dragon.

Those on trlal are an American bomber crew whose craft was downed in a storm and who were captured by deceit after the Tokyo raid. They are charged with the murder of civilians, destruction of schools and hospitals, all manner of trumped-up evidence being used against them.

Pawns in Rivalry

Suddenly they become the pawns in a conflict of jealousy between the army and the navy. Commander of the army asserts they have come from an aircraft carrier. The commander of the navy opposes this idea, as it is a reflection on his branch of the service.

There is more trickery and intrigue on the part of the military, third degrees and cruelties, all aimed at getting the men to confess how their flight started. They are depicted as a gallant crew ready to face torture and death rather than concede the information, finally openly and searingly defying their ruthless enemy.

Faults and Virtues

For all its pertinence to recent events in the Far East "The Purple Heart" lacks of that great reality which distinguishes finer achievements of this type. It reverts to sentimentalism at odd moments as, for example, the retrospect themed by the bathing of a man's wounds. A great deal of it relies too much on expressions on men's faces rather than strong action. Dullness creeps in on this account during the latter part of the feature.

Performances are worthy as given by Dana Andrews, Richard Conte, Farley Granger, Kevin O'Shea, Donald Barry, Sam Levene, Charles Russell,

John Craven, but outstanding are the oriental impersonations by Rlchard Loo, Peter Chong, H. T. Talang, Key Chang and various others. Talang all but deserves an Academy supporting award, and Benson Fong is good.

And, just in case anybody thought that there was nothing else playing around town that weekend:

No comments: