Monday, December 10, 2012

Tonight's Movie: Deep Waters (1948)

I'm quite a fan of Dana Andrews, but his film DEEP WATERS had escaped my notice until it was recently released on DVD-R by the Fox Cinema Archives.

I'm glad I discovered the movie, as it was a very good film from director Henry King. King, who also directed wonderful slices of Americana such as MARGIE (1946) and I'D CLIMB THE HIGHEST MOUNTAIN (1951), was the perfect director for this type of story. He filmed the movie almost entirely on location in Maine, as noted on an opening title card. The rugged coastline was beautifully captured in black and white by Joseph LaShelle.

The story concerns Donny Mitchell (Dean Stockwell), a ward of the state since the deaths of his father and uncle, who were both fishermen. Social worker Ann Freeman (Jean Peters) brings Donny to live with Mary McKay (Anne Revere), a stern but kindly woman looking for help with the chores.

Ann has just broken her engagement to Hod (Andrews), a lobsterman, as she doesn't want to spend her life fearing for his safety every time he goes to sea. She likewise becomes concerned for Donny's safety when he becomes attached to Hod and Hod's partner Joe (Cesar Romero) and wants to help them on their boat. Ann's attempts to keep Donny away from the sea backfire, as he gets into deep trouble attempting to run away.

This is a quietly absorbing movie which doesn't take easy outs. Donny has some serious problems, and for a while they pile up pretty heavily. It could have become a downer of a film, given his struggles, but that's prevented by the natural, deeply felt performances, with the lead actors all playing caring people who want to help a young boy turn his life around before it's too late. By the same token, the characters' no-nonsense Maine attitudes keep the film from becoming cloying. Each of the actors is excellent, with standouts being Revere's crusty-yet-caring foster mother and Romero's Portuguese seaman who dreams of life on a farm.

The film has a rich atmosphere thanks to its location shooting, with a significant percentage of scenes filmed outdoors. At least some of the interior scenes, such as the climactic courthouse sequence, also appear to have been filmed on location. This was the second year in a row Dana Andrews appeared in a film with extensive New England location shooting; the previous year he was seen in BOOMERANG! (1947), filmed in Connecticut.

The supporting cast includes Ed Begley (Sr.) as a boat builder with political pull who helps Hod and Donny, and Mae Marsh has a brief but notable role as a woman worried about her seaman husband. Leona Powers, Will Geer, Cliff Clark, and Raymond Greenleaf are also in the cast.

Richard Murphy's script was loosely based on the novel SPOONHANDLE by Ruth Moore. The film runs 85 minutes.

It's interesting to note that the movie poster, with an odd drawing of Andrews and Peters, doesn't seem to have much relationship to the film! The Fox Cinema Archives covers have been of variable quality, but in this case the still chosen for the DVD case does a much better job conveying the film's story and tone.

Incidentally, I always enjoy checking out Leonard Maltin's CLASSIC MOVIE GUIDE, but I don't think the reviewer could have possibly been watching the same movie. "Slick" and "empty" aren't adjectives I would use to describe this rough-edged, interesting film. I hope Mr. Maltin will have the film reassessed at some point. It's a solid, memorably different movie which deserves a fresh look.

7 Comments:

Blogger Jacqueline T Lynch said...

Dang, I've never even heard of this one. I'd love to see it.

4:54 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

I think you'd find it interesting, Jacqueline, especially with your love for looking at movies in historical context and observing what they tell us beyond the story itself. The good look at Maine in the late '40s is very enjoyable.

Best wishes,
Laura

8:26 AM  
Blogger Vienna said...

Completely new to me. Hope to see it sometime. Good cast.
Thanks for your review.

8:33 AM  
Blogger DKoren said...

I like this film quite a bit, for exactly the reasons you list. Really liked the cast. And yeah, that poster? Really has nothing to do with the movie!

10:22 AM  
Blogger James Corry said...

How did the print/source material look Laura? Frankly, I'd love to buy some of the Fox-MOD CinemaScope films, ("Night People" "Hatful Of Rain") but I'm afraid that they have just thrown an old pan-and-scan copy out to us suckers. While the Warner Archive does an incredible job of getting the BEST source material available (and even re-mastering many titles in their correct aspect-ratios) the Fox people don't seem to care and it's strictly "hit-or-miss".......

Brad

7:23 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Hope you'll get to enjoy it sometime, Vienna.

Deb, I'm so glad you've seen it. LOL re the poster. Great to hear from you! Hope to see you at the movies or Disneyland in 2013. :)

Brad, it looked really good, as have the other three films I've seen to date in this series. All four films were from the '40s so no issues re pan & scan.

The one thing that was odd about DEEP WATERS, which I didn't mention in my review, is there's abrupt mention of Donny (Stockwell) breaking his foster mother's saw, and he earns money to replace it. Breaking the saw is talked about as though the viewer has seen it and is a bit puzzlign at first -- I suspect there was a scene or scenes left on the cutting-room floor, but would assume this is an issue with the original film and not this print.

It's a shame the Fox folks don't care about the pan & scan issue...if you stick to pre-1953 titles hopefully they'll be fine based on what I've seen so far.

Best wishes,
Laura

11:01 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

David R. of Stoke-on-Trent has been having trouble posting a comment so I'm copying it in for him, with my thanks for taking the time to leave his impressions of the movie and other interesting background. Here it is:


Friday, May 9th, 2014.

Hi, Laura,
Re: you blog review on the 1948 release Deep Waters. I have tried to post a comment about the film on your blog, but I'm not sure if it was entered, as it kept asking me for my URL and I don't have one. Anyway, here is my comment:

"Deep Waters", filmed in 1947 and released in 1948, is a wonderful film, superbly acted by all the cast, but particularly by Dana Andrews and the then eleven years old Dean Stockwell. This was the second of Dean’s three films for 20th Century-Fox, on loan out from MGM. The third of these films, made a year later, "Down to the Sea in Ships", bears more than a passing resemblance plot wise to "Deep Waters". In both films, Dean plays a orphan boy who longs to go to sea like his late father and make it his life and in both films, there is a seaman (Richard Widmark in "Down to the Sea in Ships" and Dana Andrews in "Deep Waters") whom Dean befriends and looks up to and grows to love as a father figure and partner on his boat who is warned to keep away from Dean for different reasons in each film, but who is not at liberty to tell Dean the reason that he has had to break off their friendship and partnership, leaving Dean very confused by his hero’s sudden change of attitude towards him and feeling very abandoned; betrayed and rejected. The acting in these scenes in "Deep Waters" is exemplary, with Dean living the part to such an extent that he really becomes the character he is playing and takes the audience with him all the way. "Down to the Sea in Ships" director Henry Hathaway said of Dean: "He was marvelous…just a great actor…an intense little guy".

"Deep Waters" has a truly terrific storm at sea sequence that was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Special Effects at the 1949 Oscars, but lost out to "Portrait of Jennie". The Fox Cinema Archives DVD is an excellent transfer, with superb image and sound quality and I highly recommend it. With regard to the broken saw scenes, I have seen publicity stills of Dean sawing wood in the back yard and carrying a pile of wood into the house. Such scenes obviously never made it to the final release version of the film.


7:54 PM  

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