Saturday, December 27, 2008

"He's kinda grand, ain't he?"

I am such a dork. I was in the mood for a Joel McCrea western, so I bumped this movie, The Silver Horde (1930), to the top of my netflix queue. There are a couple of big things wrong with this idea of mine:

1. I insisted on interpreting "Horde" as "Hoard," and, as the vague description was about an adventurer in Alaska making his fortune, I assumed it would be a Western reminiscent of The Far Country, just with silver instead of gold.

2. I know JMC didn't make any Westerns until a few years later.

Uh... duh, Deb! What were you thinking??

So, the silver horde referenced by the title is... salmon, and the movie was set in modern times (relatively speaking) and was about rival fisheries and salmon canning. No hoard of silver. No back-stabbing claim jumpers. Not a single cowboy or a horse within sight. Instead, there were manicurists (darned funny scene), evening gowns and JMC in one of his oh-so-wonderfully fitted tuxes, some lovely real Alaska scenery, and some sled dogs. Not to mention lots of salmon and the cannery operations...

After my initial disappointment (and laughing at my own blind wishful thinking), I found a fun movie with a few surprises. A few spoilers follow...

JMC plays one of those bright-eyed and rather naive do-gooder types, out to make his fortune, and having no luck at it. He's given a business opportunity by Cherry (Evelyn Brent), a famous woman of ill-repute that everybody's heard of -- except JMC. The villain is this "no one competes with my fishery, mwah-hah-hah *rubs thin moustache* kind of guy. He's also trying to marry (naturally!) JMC's wealthy scoiety girl, Mildred, who's played by Jean Arthur. Naturally, with the unknown help of Cherry, JMC's cannery succeeds, which forces the bad guy to implement various nasty plans to stop him and results in a very cool giant brawl -- on the fishing fleet, no less! Woo! This scene actually looked rather dangerous to film: the two rival fleets colliding mid-river, cannery workers from both sides jumping between moving ships, fighting and throwing each other overboard. Yikes! A love triangle between Cherry, Mildred, and JMC anchors the rest of the story. Of course, JMC eventually discovers Cherry's reputation and has an angry meltdown. There's also a couple fabulous confrontations between the two women. In the big one, Mildred, our respectable society girl is dressed all in white, Cherry's dressed in black... but when all's said and done, guess who JMC actually ends up with? Yeah, Cherry, the woman with a reputation from San Francisco to Sitka. I'm not sure that would have happened if this movie had been made a few years later. I actually cheered when he dumped Mildred to go to Cherry, because Mildred (cute as Jean Arthur is) was annoying and shallow and selfish and just so not the right match, but I was sure the movie couldn't possibly let him end up with a famous prostitute. Particularly after the villain is exposed as still being married to another prostitute!! But it did! WOOO! Happy ending!

So, not at all what I was expecting, but quite enjoyable. Highlights were the fishing fleet brawl, the scathing social-commentary dialog between the two women, a sequence showing the entire process from netting the salmon through the various processing to the canning and crating, and seeing all the main actors actually working and getting fishy in the cannery. Actor Louis Wolheim any time he's on screen. He steals the show! He gets the hilarious manicurist scene, and I love when he physically restrains JMC (no easy feat) and gives him a piece of his mind. And, of course, there's JMC himself, so darned cute when he's angry and sad. Or happy. Or dancing. Or tired. Or punching out the opposition....

1 comment:

  1. I, um... oh, wow... that last picture there... oooooh. Okay, checking to see if the library system has this. Or any JMC movies I haven't seen yet.

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