Friday, November 19, 2010

1935 - CHINA SEAS, mash up of Dinner At Eight and Grand Hotel on a boat


For the Cadillac of film studios, MGM sure pumped out a lot of middle brow junk like this.   The very manly Clark Gable, is the manly captain of a ship sailing in the China Seas.  1930's sex bomb Jean Harlow plays a character named China Doll.  Wallace Berry is the passenger with funny business on his mind. American Rosalind Russell plays a very proper English woman named Sybil, who is involved with manly Clark in a love triangle with bra less Jean Harlow, and so it goes.


The screenwriter Jules Furthman was usually pretty good at making this pack of cliches interesting but this time he doesn't seem to be very inspired.  The director Tay Garnett who was a very underrated film maker does what he can to keep this foolishness interesting and almost succeeds. 

The film has a lot going on.  There's a hurricane scene where a steamroller of all things, on the deck of the ship gets lose and rolls around flattening a few coolies.  Almost immediately after that pirates attack the ship but manly Clark Gable gets the upper hand with some kind of a cannon he just happens to have on board his ship. 


Have to give Tay Garnett credit, he slips in as much sex and sadism as he can get away.  During the typhoon scene, Harlow in an already tight gown gets soaked with water which leaves little left to the imagination.  Manly Clark Gable is tortured by some kind of gizmo called a "Chinese boot" something apparently invented for for this film.  Garnett also isn't afraid to have a few bodies flying across the screen when manly Clark Gable starts blasting the pirates with his cannon.


A lot of MGM's reputation as the classy prestige studio rests on  films like Ben Hur, Mutiny On The Bounty, and Romeo and Juliet.  However crap like China Seas is what the audiences came to watch and MGM knew it.

90 fairly quick minutes.

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