Monday 29 October 2007

Between Two Worlds (1944) Edward A Blatt

It's 1944 and we're in an English port where the British Great White Fleet Ltd is about to put a bunch of diverse people onto a ship. They're expecting to sail to America but a bomb hits them and they find themselves instead on a different ship, a huge cruise liner, with a very different destination in mind. They meet up there with a sensitive pianist and his wife who weren't going to be allowed on in the first place, but who then committed suicide by gas. All these people are dead and the ship is going to take them one way or another.

This is a fantasy film really, but there are so many scenes that play out in such a melodramatic way that it's difficult for it to be anything but a women's picture. It is fascinating though to see where everything goes. The screenplay is by Daniel Fuchs, based upon a play called 'Outward Bound' by Sutton Vane, and it's intelligent and varied. We have an ensemble cast with diverse characters, each with their story to tell and their own way of telling it.

There's hard boiled alcoholic newspaper reporter John Garfield, Faye Emerson as a world weary stage actress, Sara Allgood as an elderly Irish lady, sinister businessman George Coulouris, a upper class couple played by Gilbert Emery and Isobel Elsom, Dennis King as a priest and George Tobias as a merchant marine. I know most of these names well and they all deliver the goods, especially Garfield and Emerson who bounce off each other superbly. Add to that Paul Henreid and Eleanor Parker as the pianist and his wife, the first two to realise what's happening. They're a sappy couple but an important one and they are as well defined as everyone else.

If those names weren't enough, add Edmund Gwenn as the steward and much later Sydney Greenstreet as the man who gets to make all the decisions. He's precisely what you'd expect and he's spot on as the arbiter of truth, all levels of often uncomfortable truth but thoughtfully just truth. It's really what the film has been building up to all along, and it's a joy to watch. I'd never heard of this film before but it's a real sleeper. The rating is high but not too high at IMDb but people seem to have a really fond place in their hearts for it. I can see why. It's a real heavy handed weepie at points but a powerful one and one that could certainly inspire.

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