Tuesday, April 28, 2015


Chorus girl Maisie Ravier (Ann Sothern) slips out of her hotel room in a West African town without paying and sneaks aboard a rickety boat to Lagos where a job (supposedly) awaits. She tries to hide in the cabin of Michael Shane (John Carroll), a former rubber plantation doctor who became disillusioned and now runs a plantation, but he kicks her out and puts her at the mercy of the skeevy captain. But halfway down the river, the boiler room explodes and Shane reluctantly takes Maisie with him to a nearby plantation's medical office, coincidentally, the one where he used to work. The current doctor, McWade, lets them stay on a while, but the two soon realize they've stepped into a couple of sticky situations. For one, McWade is spending too much time on research and not enough time with his wife, Kay, who responds a little too freely to Shane's flirtations. For another, McWade is fighting the attitudes of several natives, led by a gaggle of witch doctors, who don't trust Western medicine. At the climax, a crowd of rebellious natives arrives at the doctor's home, ready to carry him off for a sacrifice, until Maisie's quick thinking saves the day.

This is the second in a series of B-movies from MGM (which means they're much glossier than the average B-film) about the adventures of Maisie, a character created by writer Wilson Collison. The first film, set on a dude ranch, has plot points similar to this film, which is itself based (theoretically) on a Collison novel called Congo Landing but clearly harks back to a Collison play called Red Dust which was made into a classic 1932 movie with Jean Harlow and Clark Gable. (I hope I have all these details right—the trail of credits is a bit confusing.) Sothern makes this worth seeing, doing a fine job as a brassy dame with a heart of gold. Because these were made under the Production Code, Maisie can't be as morally loose as she probably was in the original novel, but Sothern manages to make her both wholesome and sexy. Carroll, the B-movie Clark Gable, is one of my favorite 40s supporting actors and he's perfect as a Gable stand-in. Shepperd Strudwick and Rita Johnson are fine as the distracted doctor and his dying-to-be-unfaithful wife. Ann Sothern's performance of "St. Louis Woman" at the climax is worth the wait. Fun line: Maisie tells a sailor that in her stage act she was billed as a little girl with a big harp. He says, "Oh, you played with an Irishman." She replies, "Maybe that's what the act needed." [TCM]

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