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Saturday, May 24, 2008


While recent critical consensus has waxed for John Ford’s classic Westerns & genre pieces, it’s waned on his more overtly artistic titles. (Scripter Dudley Nichols gets much of the blame.) But by any critical standard, this superbly shot & acted adaptation of four early Eugene O’Neill one-act plays about life on the sea is a stunner. A shockingly young John Wayne, with a light Swedish accent, just about steals the show as the homesick merchant seaman the crew treat like a mascot. (Presaging THE ICEMAN COMETH, he keeps their pipe dream illusions of escape alive.) All the actors are at their best, with particular stand out perfs from Ian Hunter, John Qualen & the magnificent Wilfrid Lawson (he’s the Alfred P. Doolittle in the original PYGMALION/'38). And note the shared title card credit Ford took with lenser supreme Gregg Toland. Orson Welles showed the same respect in next year’s CITIZEN KANE.

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