Catching Up…and The Caine Mutiny

It’s been a busy week. Lots of working, which pays the bills, but delays the blogging.

I can’t wait to watch this Jimmy film…the description from Netflix is as follows:

“After rescuing a prostitute (Simone Simon) from police custody, a noble sewer worker (James Stewart) is sent off to war before he realizes the depth of his feelings for her. Still, they make a solemn vow to think about each other every night at 11 p.m.”

Who knows, it could be good.

Anyways, not much has happened on the classic movie viewing front for the last week. I got to see Super 8 last weekend, which I thought was entertaining. It was definately like an old-time Spielberg movie mixed with J.J. Abrams’ monster movie sensibilities. We finally got The Tree of Life in theaters, so I will be seeing that soon.

The only classic film I got around to watching last week was The Caine Mutiny (Dmytryk, 1954), which was TCM’s Essentials pick. The film boasts a strong cast of Humphrey Bogart, Fred MacMurray, Van Johnson and Jose Ferrer. Young Robert Francis plays Willie Keith, a Navy ensign fresh from commissioning who is assigned to the Caine, a minesweeper that hasn’t seen any real combat action. Appalled by the laid back attitude of the captain and crew, he is relieved when it is announced that a new ship’s captain will be arriving shortly. Fred MacMurray portrays, Tom Keefer, a fairly cynical communications officer who spends his time writing novels, and Van Johnson plays the ship’s executive officer Steve Maryk.

About a half an hour into the film, Bogart arrives as the new captain, Queeg. Queeg has seen years of combat in the Atlantic, and immediately sets about getting the ship and her crew back into shape. It soon becomes apparent that Queeg might not be as sound of mind as everyone first thought. The captain rolls two metal balls in his hand when nervous, and starts to make questionable decisions during training exercises. The officers start to notice, especially after Queeg launches an investigation over missing strawberries.

Maryk is slowly convinced by Keefer that Queeg has paranoia, and should be replaced because his mental illness is affecting his abilities to command the ship. Keefer even suggests that Maryk and Keith accompany him on a visit to Admiral Halsey to present their findings against Queeg, but backs down as the three are invited to meet the Admiral. It isn’t until the Caine runs into a massive storm that Maryk is in a position where he feels he needs to take over. Fearing the ship will capsize under Queeg’s direction, and after Queeg finally gets so overwhelmed that he seems to have shut down, Maryk takes control of the ship without any opposition from his fellow officers.

With the storm behind them, Maryk and Keith face charges of mutiny. Keefer, not being on the bridge at the time, is not charged. Maryk faces an uphill battle to prove he acted in the correct manner, and Queeg is not of sound mind.

The Caine Mutiny was engaging to me because of the acting of it’s main stars. Sure, the plot is pretty interesting (not the B plot with the romantic stuff going on between Keith and his girl), but I really enjoyed seeing all of these fine actors, especially MacMurray, on the screen together. Ferrer comes in just at the very end of the film, but is also very strong as the lawyer representing Maryk. Bogart, while not a “villain,” plays a guy that you don’t really want to like but feel sorry for at the same time. I think the main theme running through the acting performances is subtlety; nothing is overdone. You can see characters thinking things over in their facial expressions, and that helps build to that moment in the storm where everyone finally decides what they are going to do. I love seeing MacMurray in this type of role as well. It’s a meatier part, much like the one he was given in Double Indemnity, and shows the kind of talent he had beyond the romantic comedies and Disney stuff.

So there’s another marathon blog post when all I set out to do was write a short update. Oh well 🙂

I’m now off to a WWII 1940’s Ball tonight being held at the local municipal airport. They’re decking out one of the hangers for dancing to a live swing band, and there will be old fighting planes around. Everyone dresses up in period dress too. I think it’s going to be a lot of fun.

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