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Sunday, March 30, 2014

CRY HAVOC (1943)

THE WOMEN meets the 300 in this stagebound film adaptation of Allan Kenward’s flop B’way play about army & volunteer nurses stuck in WWII Philippines as the Japanese close in. Trying for throat-lumping sacrifice & patriotism, it overloads on dramatic incident . . . when not making like BABES OF BATAAN. (See poster.) Scripter Paul Osborn holds his nose on all the crises and largely sticks with the play’s all-gal gimmick (though look fast for Robert Mitchum dying on a stretcher), but the ensuing artificial texture in script & production places this far off the comfort zone of director Richard Thorpe, slowly moving up from B-pics. If it all proves too mechanical in feeling & structure to give off much emotional charge, there’s some pleasure in watching all those featured female players working away together; stalwarts like Margaret Sullavan & Fay Bainter as well as undersung good-time gals like Joan Blondell & Ann Southern.

DOUBLE-BILL: Paramount had SO PROUDLY WE HAIL/’43, their own Philippine nurse drama, out a couple of months before this M-G-M release. It’s not exactly better, but with a starrier cast and a more consistent/confident tone, it does feel more comfortable with itself.

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