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Monday, September 6, 2010


If you can wade thru 40 minutes of stillborn romance, you’ll reach the lean WWI actioner Howard Hawks tried to make from William Faulkner’s short story TURN ABOUT. Gary Cooper & Roscoe Karns play U.S. volunteer pilots who sneak Robert Young on one of their bomb runs. They hope to show this rich, young pup what the war’s all about. Young may be a kid in a uniform, and a bit of a sot, but he’s got ‘the right stuff’ and holds his own during the mission. By the time they’ve landed, these three are the best of pals and Young returns the favor by taking Coop & Karns on his next 'torpedo boat' run with his Captain/best pal Franchot Tone. Mutual admiration; dangerous action; clipped, fatalistic banter; heavy-duty male-bonding; and swift action scenes follow. (Borrowed footage & underwhelming process work hurt the air-borne stuff, but the torpedo runs are superb.) Alas, someone @ M-G-M (probably Hawks’ brother-in-law, Irving Thalberg) added Joan Crawford to the story. As an upper-crust Brit, who’s Franchot Tone's sister, Robert Young’s finance and Coop’s fated mate, she tries on an accent and a to-the-manner-born attitude that are as ill-suited to her talents as the costumes she has to wear.

WATCH THIS, NOT THAT: To see Young & Tone break your heart as the best of pals, see THREE COMRADES/’38; to see Coop as a WWI flyboy who’s mistakenly reported dead, see the deliriously romantic & funny LILAC TIME/’28, a late silent with wonderful Colleen Moore. (Alas, LILAC TIME is currently only available on YOU-TUBE in compressed digital mode and COMRADES is only available with Robert Taylor.)

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