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Thursday, August 26, 2010


In the disheartening early months of WWII, the big Hollywood studios raced to churn out action-packed military-themed dramas that also worked as recruitment propaganda. The service branches varied, but the stories usually put two guys & a gal in a love triangle that was only solved with a coup de militaire. (Even CASABLANCA/’42 largely holds to the pattern.) This example, from 20th/Fox, finds Tyrone Power & Dana Andrews vying over Anne Baxter between dangerous assignments on PT boats & submarines. It’s an unusually vigorous film to come from vet megger Archie Mayo, but a lot of the footage (in remarkably fresh looking TechniColor) was undoubtedly made by the 2nd unit specialty departments who turn out some exceptional F/X for the era. But what really stands out now is Ben Carter, the film’s sole black actor who plays the submarine’s cook. While it’s striking just to encounter an African-American crew member in the setting, Carter isn’t required to pop his eyes, speak in an exaggerated dialect, play craps or shuffle; he’s even integrated into the storyline. And not only does he fully participate in the film’s climactic commando raid, he’s one of its fighting heroes, killing off bunches of Nazis and tossing off a couple of the best lines in the sequence. He doesn’t even die saving his noble white brother, but shares equally with Ty & Dana in a heroic pose as they sail into port. Rare stuff, worth taking note of.

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