Tuesday, August 24, 2010


Don Ameche, an American correspondent in London during the Blitz, flirts in the dark (during a blackout) with Joan Bennett, a teletype operator for the government; though she says she's married, that doesn't deter him. When an air raid is called, they spend the night together, platonically but cutely, in a crowded subway station. Next morning, when he finds out that his Consolidated Press building was destroyed in the bombing, he sets up a temporary HQ in a hotel basement and gets the government to loan Bennett to his company. From here, there are two plotlines related to Ameche’s belief that Germany is on the verge of invading England: 1) he tries to lease radio wire in Penzance so he'll be among the first to get the news out; 2) he's also trying to sneak word of the possible invasion into his news reports in defiance of the military censor (John Loder). Other characters of interest include a young lad (Roddy McDowall) who stays behind at the old press building to watch for incoming messenger pigeons for news of the invasion, an older blind typist (Arthur Shields), the hotel manager (Eric Blore), and Ameche's boss in New York (Raymond Walburn). But the romance between Bennett (who isn't actually married) and Ameche carries the movie to its climax, with the two trapped in the hotel basement by rubble, with a ticking bomb in the room.

This unsung and largely unseen film, shot and released before America entered the war, is actually a very good wartime drama. The romance is intertwined nicely with the dramatic stories, which eventually lead to a dramatization of issues of journalistic ethics in wartime. Ameche is successful at sneaking his news past the censor, but a tragic occurrence changes his mind about doing so. Ameche's character is an interesting departure from the usual Hollywood idea of a reporter; for a change, he's not a cardboard obnoxious lout but a fleshed-out likable guy; even his early aggressive flirting doesn't come off as offensive, and his performance is solid. He and Bennett have good chemistry, McDowell is fine in what turns out to be a crucial role, and Eric Blore gets to stretch a bit beyond his usual crisp sarcastic fussbudget-type, though his role is fairly small. Though the film is a drama, a light touch abounds until the climax. Watch for this one; maybe soon Fox will give Don Ameche his own boxed set. [FMC]

No comments: