Sunday, November 19, 2017

Tonight's Movie: Navy Blue and Gold (1937) - A Warner Archive DVD Review

James Stewart, Robert Young, and Tom Brown star in NAVY BLUE AND GOLD (1937), available on DVD from the Warner Archive.

One of my recent viewing goals has been to catch up on new-to-me James Stewart films, as well as visit some of his titles I haven't seen in a long time.

As it happens, NAVY BLUE AND GOLD was one of the earlier classic-era films I saw on a big screen, though I'm not sure the screen was all that big! When I was a teenager I saw a public screening of it at Cal State Fullerton. I seem to recall it was in a classroom and am guessing it was a 16mm Films Incorporated print; those were popular rentals "back in the day."

In any event, Young and Brown are both fine in this as certain "types" -- Young the self-interested cynic, Brown the rah-rah idealist -- but it's Stewart who shines in a more complex part as a fine young man with a troubled background. His playing encompasses both the sweetness of early Stewart roles and glimpses of the angry man who would be seen to full effect in Anthony Mann's '50s Westerns.

Stewart, Young, and Brown play roommates at the Naval Academy, where Stewart and Young also vie for the hand of Brown's pretty sister (Florence Rice). Young aggressively pursues Rice but she only has eyes for Stewart; she actually pursues Stewart rather than the other way around.

Problems arise when an ethics instructor tells Stewart's class a disturbing story about a man who just happens to have been Stewart's father; Stewart not only rises to defend his father's honor, but it leads to the discovery that he enlisted under an assumed name, fearing he wouldn't be admitted if the Navy connected him with his father. Lying on his application could be grounds for expulsion, dashing his hopes for the only career he's ever wanted.

Young -- who previously won Rice's hand in THE LONGEST NIGHT (1936) and MARRIED BEFORE BREAKFAST (1937) -- is all too believable as the egotistical guy who's only in the Navy as long as it benefits him; however, Young is a deft actor, and his transition to a more mature persona in the latter part of the movie is handled well.

The ebullient Brown is quite engaging as the third wheel of the trio; there's a cute subplot about the family butler (Barnett Parker) having helped him learn all the rules of football. It's rather refreshing to have a "rich kid" be an all-around good guy rather than something a little more cliched.

Paul Kelly is excellent as the Naval Academy football coach, with a fine scene where he politely tells off Young. The deep cast also includes Lionel Barrymore, Billie Burke, Samuel S. Hinds, Minor Watson, and Phillip Terry. Apparently I missed noticing Dennis Morgan, then known as Stanley Morner.

This may not be an especially memorable film, but it's solidly made entertainment which I enjoyed. It's a good exemplar of the kind of well-crafted movies MGM put out on a regular basis.

NAVY BLUE AND GOLD was directed by Sam Wood and filmed by John Seitz. The screenplay by George Bruce was based on his book. The film runs 94 minutes.

The Warner Archive DVD is a bit soft at times but all in all is a good print. The disc includes the trailer.

Thanks to the Warner Archive for providing a review copy of this DVD. Warner Archive releases are MOD (manufactured on demand) and may be ordered from the Warner Archive Collection at the WBShop or from any online retailers where DVDs and Blu-rays are sold.


Blogger Jinzo 2400 said...

Another fine review....I'll put this on my to watch list!

10:40 PM  
Blogger barrylane said...

The following year George Bruce put three men at West Point, substituted hockey for football, and producer Edward Small with Louis Hayward, Richard Carlson and Tom Brown (repeating, more or less, his performance and part) and created The Duke of West Point, a film I personally found to be of great importance. Just an aside, all three leads distinguished themsleves in combat as did Stewart in the prior picture.

8:49 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

I hope you enjoy it, Jinzo!

Thanks for adding all that interesting info, Barrylane. I have a copy of THE DUKE OF WEST POINT, not sure what the quality is but I've been meaning to watch it for some time due to my liking of the cast. How interesting that Brown had a very similar role.

Best wishes,

11:26 PM  
Blogger barrylane said...

Laura, by all means -- please have a look at Duke of West Point., Loaded with sport, romance and heart, at least in part unrelated to the romance. After its successful opening in New York at Radio City, telephone poles around the country were plastered with posters that read: The Duke Is Coming. My all time favorite film, if that means anything.

9:45 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

The high regard you have for DUKE OF WEST POINT certainly has me intrigued, Barrylane. I will dig the disc out of storage and try to watch it "sooner than later."

Happy Thanksgiving!

Best wishes,

6:07 PM  

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