Combustible Celluloid
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With: Dorothy Lamour, Jon Hall, Mary Astor, C. Aubrey Smith, Thomas Mitchell, Raymond Massey, John Carradine, Jerome Cowan, Al Kikume, Kuulei De Clercq, Layne Tom Jr.
Written by: Oliver H.P. Garrett, Dudley Nichols, based on a novel by James Norman Hall, Charles Nordhoff
Directed by: John Ford
MPAA Rating: NR
Running Time: 110
Date: 11/05/1937

The Hurricane (1937)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Cool Breeze

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

John Ford's South Seas adventure/romance The Hurricane is, on the surface, different from his other films, but as soon as you start watching, his familiar rhythms and themes come right out. It tells the story of a young, loving couple, Marama (Dorothy Lamour) and Terangi (Jon Hall), who live on a beautiful island. One day, Terangi goes off to work on a schooner, despite Marama's protests. In Tahiti, Terangi gets into a bar fight and is sentenced to six months in jail. He tries to escape, is caught, and his sentence is extended. Before he knows it, he's in for sixteen years.

Various good souls, Captain Nagle (Jerome Cowan), Dr. Kersaint (Thomas Mitchell), and Father Paul (C. Aubrey Smith), try to convince Governor Eugene De Laage (Raymond Massey) to release Terangi, but even though it becomes increasingly apparent that it's the right thing to do, the governor refuses. (Mary Astor plays the governor's wife, and yet another one of the voices of reason.)

Meanwhile, after eight years, Terangi manages to escape for good and goes into hiding. That's when the devastating hurricane of the title strikes, and it's an impressive and terrifying bit of moviemaking. Ford beautifully balance the story's politics, romance, and outdoor exoticism, making one of his most full-blooded entertainments.

The film received three Oscar nominations, one for Mitchell as Best Supporting Actor -- he would go on to win two years later for Ford's Stagecoach -- one for Alfred Newman's score, and a win for Best Sound Design. Ben Hecht reportedly worked on the screenplay without credit. Ford directed the Shirley Temple movie Wee Willie Winkie the same year.

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