Monday, November 14, 2011

The General Died At Dawn

Life is cheap in 1930s China, but war’s expensive so the MacGuffin in Odets’ unambiguous script is a moneybelt carried by freelance do-gooder O’Hara on behalf of the oppressed poor, effortlessly snatched by the cash-strapped warlord’s goons. Coop and Carroll make a supremely attractive couple, but pet monkey and valiantly devil-may-care attitude aside, his role is dull, and she flip-flops between over-emotionalism and cynical self-loathing. Tamiroff is an unconvincing Chinese, and barely threatening, but when dawn finally rolls around, the devotion of his soldiers is demonstrated alarmingly. Largely irrelevant support add self-interest and unprincipled opportunism to the list of things that are not as good as democracy, but the mood is pleasantly noirish, spiced with some neat editing and dialogue peppered with niceties such as Coop’s summation of the central conflict: “I don’t like your friends, I don’t like your politics and I don’t like your hat”.

d Lewis Milestone p William LeBaron sc Clifford Odets ph Victor Milner ed Eda Warren ad Hans Dreier, Ernst Fegté m Werner Janssen cast Gary Cooper, Madeleine Carroll, Akim Tamiroff, Dudley Digges, Porter Hall, William Frawley, J.M. Kerrigan, Philip Ahn
(1936, US, 98min, b/w)
posted by tom newth at

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