Monday, February 17, 2014

Uncertain Glory (1944)

Director: Raoul Walsh                                   Writers: László Vadnay & Max Brand
Film Score: Adolph Deutsch                          Cinematography: Sidney Hickox
Starring: Errol Flynn, Paul Lukas, Jean Sullivan and Lucile Watson

An inspirational film about the French Resistance during World War II, but how you make Errol Flynn into a Frenchman is something of a stretch. Once you get past that, however, Uncertain Glory takes a bit of A Tale of Two Cities and mixes it with some Les Miserables to create a strange tale of sacrifice and honor. The film was directed by the incomparable Raoul Walsh who had filmed Flynn in Northern Pursuit the year before and would work with the star in his next war film, Objective, Burma! Flynn had recently formed his own production company, Thomson Productions, and part of his new contract with Warners gave him control over directors and material. The new structure unlikely made him any more money, however, and yet required a lot more from him during production, and so this was the only film he used his company for, preferring to work within Warners’ established system from then on.

The story has Errol Flynn playing Jean Picard, a criminal about to be executed for murder. In confronting his captor, police inspector Paul Lukas, it’s seems that everything about the case hasn’t come out, and that Flynn is hiding something. Fortunately, out in the prison yard as he’s taken to the guillotine, the British begin bombing and he’s able to escape. His first stop is at the home of the great Sheldon Leonard, who gets him a passport and travel papers, then he heads off to Bordeaux with Faye Emerson, Leonard’s girl. It takes Lukas no time at all to recapture him, but they have to stop on the way back as a saboteur has blown up the bridge. It’s here they learn that the Gestapo are going to kill a hundred French prisoners if the saboteur doesn’t give himself up. Flynn, with an unexplained aversion to the guillotine, wants to turn himself in and face the firing squad instead. It also doesn’t hurt that he’ll save a hundred lives in the process.

Flynn is his usual dashing self, though the character he plays is decidedly against type. Part of the tension in the film is waiting for everything to be a misunderstanding and have our faith in Flynn rewarded. Paul Lukas, though Hungarian by birth, is perfectly believable as an actual Frenchman, and is a welcome relief from the decidedly American accents of the rest of the cast. Once in the small town where Flynn and Lukas wait before going back to Paris, our hero falls in love with Jean Sullivan in one of her few roles as an actress. Her performance is a bit stilted and melodramatic. Better is character actress Lucile Watson, whose son is one of the hundred to be executed. In a small role is Douglass Dumbrille, who has always struck me as something of a poor man’s Cedric Hardwicke, as the commissioner of police in Paris. No real distinguished German actors play any of the anonymous Nazis, but then they don’t have a prominent part in the film. The film is really the internal struggles of Flynn and Lukas. Uncertain Glory, I’m sure, had high aspirations, but doesn’t have the same kind of resonance today that a lot of other war period films retain. Still, it’s always good to see Flynn.

No comments:

Post a Comment