Wednesday, June 13, 2012
GUY NAMED JOE, A
(December 1943, U.S.)
In most cases on this blog of mine, I'm afforded the opportunity to discuss an original film BEFORE I move onto the remake (presuming I even like the remake in the first place). Every once in a while, though, the remake falls under a different name, and in the case of the alphabet's order, Steven Spielberg's ALWAYS (1989) had to come before it's original inspiration, A GUY NAMED JOE. What can you do?
In 1943, World War II raged overseas while America pressed on with great spirit and went to the movies regularly to escape their troubles. Director Victor Flemming was also just coming off a few years of the two biggest hit films of his career, THE WIZARD OF OZ and GONE WITH THE WIND. For this film, he returned to the art of fantasy inside a World War II drama that tells the story of Pete Sandidge (played by Spencer Tracy), a reckless pilot of a B-25 Mitchell bomber flying out of England who's in love with Dorinda Durston (played by Irene Dunne), a civilian pilot ferrying planes across the Atlantic who's also quite sure that Pete's "number is up". She's not wrong. Wounded after an attack by an enemy fighter, Pete has his crew bail out before bombing the ship and crashing into the sea in flames. He's dead, for sure, but we next find him walking in the clouds, appearing as alive and as cocky as ever. Here's where we learn the rather poignant fantasy taking place here and that is that when great pilots die, they serve to pass on their knowledge and experiences to rookie pilots back on Earth with their spiritual presence. Actaully, it sounds real nice when you think about it.
Now, because love and cliche go almost hand-in-hand in the movies, the love triange is not absent here. In this case Dorinda, despite her bereavement, is falling for the handsome pilot Ted Randall (played by Van Johnson) who's unknowingly being "spirited" by Pete who's still jealously in love with Dorinda who also just happens to be inconveniently dead (follow?). By the film's climax, Ted is given a dangerous assignment to destroy the largest Japanese ammunition dump in the Pacific. Rather than face the possibility of losinng another man that she loves, Dorinda steals his aircraft to do the job herself. Pete guides her in completing the mission and returning to the base to Ted's embrace. It's now when Pete finally accepts what must be in life and in death and walks away toward eternity, his job completed.
Well, what can I say to that except, "Awwwwwwww!"
Steven Speilberg always loved A GUY NAMED JOE. You can see a brief clip of it in on TV in POLTERGEIST (1982). It is, believe it or not, difficult for me to distinguish if the original film is actually better than the remake. Each of them, in my opinion, have their own special, unique qualities that make them both stand out on their own. The original has that World War II era flavor behind it that gives it the wartime spirit that was not only very entertaining during it's time, but also very necessary to American morale. The remake, however, has that Spielberg touch that's almost never failed my expectations in the movies.
This could take some further thinking...
Favorite line or dialogue:
Pete Sandidge: "Now wait a minute, wait a minute, take it easy, take it easy. Either I'm dead or I'm crazy."
Dick Rumney: "Well, you're not crazy, Pete."
Pete: "You mean I'm dead?"
Pete: "I'm...you mean, I...you mean this is for good?"
Dick: "You guessed it."