Hurricane, The (1937) B+
Adapted by Dudley Nichols and Oliver H. P. Garrett from a novel by Charles Nordhoff and James Norman Hall, John Ford’s “The Hurricane” is an early, vastly popular sampler of the disaster genre.
The story of a struggle between individual freedom and colonial oppression is secondary to the striking effects of the hurricane and to the erotic sight of the handsome and virile Jon Hall and the young and beautiful Dorothy Lamour as scantily clad natives in love.
Initially Goldwyn offered the male lead to Joel McCrea, who turned it down. Director John Ford was also second choice, after disagreements with Howard Hawks.
The story is framed in a flashback, related by the boozy doctor played by Thomas Mitchell, who two years later would win the Supporting Actor Oscar for John Ford’s Western, “Stagecoach,” in which he also played an alcoholic medic.
Jon Hall plays Terangi, a native of the French-controlled island of Manakoora. After marrying childhood sweetheart Marama (Dorothy Lamour), Terangi takes a job on a ship. While docked in Tahiti, Teragni is goaded into a fight by a white man, an offense for which he is sent to prison.
French governor DeLaage (Raymond Massey) is a strict man, dedicated to upholding the law. The appeals made on behalf of Terangi by the doctor, priest (C. Aubrey Smith), ship’s captain (Jerome Cowan) and the governor’s own wife (Mary Astor) fail to change DeLaage’s mind
What ensues is a tale of the fight of freedom-loving Terangi caught in the nasty web of “white justice.” Terangi escapes from prison several times, only to be recaptured and sentenced to longer terms.
Finally, he makes his way back to Manakoora by killing a prison guard, but he continues to be pursued by DeLaage. Just as Terangi is about to sail off in an outrigger canoe with Marama and their child, a ferocious hurricane begins. Risking his own life, and his freedom, Terangi rescue DeLaage’s wife and several other refugees.
The product of art director James Basevi, the hurricane, a stunning blowout by standards of the time, winning the Sound Recording Oscar, was not staged by John Ford, but by the uncredited Stuart Heisler.
“The Hurricane” was poorly remade in 1979 with Jason Robards and Mia Farrow in the Raymond Massey and Mary Astor roles.
Oscar Nominations: 3
Supporting Actor: Thomas Mitchell
Score: Alfred Newman
Sound Recording: Thomas Moulton
Oscar Awards: 1
The winner of the Supporting Actor Oscar was Joseph Schildkraut in “The Life of Emile Zola.”
The Scoring Oscar went to Charles Previn (father of Andre) for “One Hundred Men and a Girl.”
Black and white
Running time: 102 Minutes.
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