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Friday, October 15, 2010

REAP THE WILD WIND (1942)

Paulette Goddard was David O Selznick’s second choice for Scarlet O’Hara in GONE WITH THE WIND/’39, but she was Cecil B. De Mille’s first choice for this rip-off. Ostensibly, this is a typical C.B. historical set in the bustling, semi-legal ship-scavenging trade off the Florida coast in the 1840s. He-man John Wayne (who’s hemmed in by De Mille’s framing) & foppish Ray Milland (who’s very good) fight over assignments and the feisty Paulette; Robert Preston & Susan Hayward pitch woo over the objections of villainous Raymond Massey who’s masterminding the shipwrecks; and the Paramount effects department struggle to tame the pudding-rich TechniColor, the cute ocean-going miniature vessels and a righteous giant squid. De Mille was at his most ridiculous in the 1940s, so you expect the phony camera tricks (they match up with his phony characters & dialogue), but the accumulation of swipes from GWTW, especially in the first half, is a bit much. And if you think Goddard would have made a rotten Scarlet, just imagine a C.B. De Mille GWTW! ‘Thou Shalt Not Covet Thy Neighbor’s Picture!’

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