Thursday, January 19, 2012


Ralph Meeker and James Whitmore (pictured) were Army buddies in WWII and during a battle in the rain-drenched South Pacific, Meeker saved Whitmore's life. A few years later, Whitmore, a mechanic, is married to Meeker's sister (Nancy Davis) but Meeker is institutionalized, a victim of shellshock. He's progressed over time, but whenever it rains, Meeker goes into a hysterical panic. A nurse who has fallen for Meeker (Jean Hagen) comes to Whitmore's home and tells them that Meeker is desperate to get out of the hospital; Whitmore and Davis visit him frequently but aren't sure they’re ready to take him in, especially with two children in the house. Eventually they do and things are fine for a while, but soon tensions develop: Hagen wants Meeker to come to Oregon and work on her family's farm, but Whitmore wants him to help out at the garage, and Meeker just wants to be left alone to renovate an old boat he's bought. And of course, there's always the worry over what will happen when it rains. Of course, things come to a climax during a nighttime storm.

This is one of those serious, earnest psychological melodramas which were popular in the 50s but which haven't worn well over the years. Whitmore and Davis are OK, but they're just so anguished, and that anguish becomes each one's sole character trait. Meeker, on the other hand, gets a decent range of emotions—he's often anguished but he's also nervous and touchy and angry and sometimes funny—and he makes the movie worth seeing (and his appealing physical presence is a plus). Hagen, just before her breakout role as Lina Lamont in SINGIN' IN THE RAIN, is fresh-faced and threatens to be a lively presence (she tools around in a truck and has a tomboyish appeal) but in the last third of the film, her character is reduced to little more than a footnote. The "mystery" of the rain is solved in a satisfying manner, but why no one figured it out long before is a mystery of its own. [TCM]

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