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Thursday, May 29, 2008

THE RAINS CAME (1939)


Phenomenally effective Hollywood soaper/disaster pic shouldn’t work at all, but does largely because its stylistic absurdities remain ‘all of a piece.’ It’s an Indian epic (Ranchipur) without a native player in sight, just lots of Max Factor #38. But it’s 1939 and the dream factory is working so smoothly that when Myrna Loy describes Tyrone Power as a ‘pale copper Adonis,’ she neither offends nor misstates the essence of the film’s intense appeal. The grand old formula, swells & locals flirt & gossip in an exotic setting until a natural disaster causes everyone to find their special inner strength or succumb, has rarely been so nicely structured and handsomely acted & staged. George Brent, a regular Warners’ stand-by lead, and M-G-M megger Clarence Brown could often be dull dogs on their home lots, but on loan to Fox they’re positively revivified. The special effects hold up remarkably well and the corny interpersonal dynamics are magically distilled into something approaching real drama. With its tasty supporting cast (Maria Ouspenskaya is a standout, as is Nigel Bruce in a rare unsympathetic role) and sujmptious Arthur Miller lensing, RAINS is posh twaddle that’s more satisfying than many a better pic.

CONTEST: Back in the '30s, you'd rarely find three major players under contract at one studio working on a project for the competition. But that's just the case here with M-G-M stalwarts Loy & Brown, in addition to Brent on loan from Warners, propping up Fox Studios' biggest pic of the year. Most of the puzzle is easily solved if you know what Fox contract star had recently been borrowed by M-G-M. Name the star and the M-G-M film involved in the swap to win our usual priceless prize, a MAKSQUIBS Write-Up on any NetFlix DVD of your choice. This still doesn't explain Warners letting Brent moonlight for Darryl Zanuck. Any likely guesses?

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