Thursday, August 16, 2012

Tonight's Movie: The World in His Arms (1952)

For tonight's movie I chose THE WORLD IN HIS ARMS (1952), in celebration of the birthday of leading lady Ann Blyth.

I knew little about the film prior to watching it, and when the movie began I was amused to discover that, for the second day in a row, I would be watching an early '50s seafaring tale directed by Raoul Walsh and written by Borden Chase. With the exception of those credits and the presence of supporting actor Bryan Forbes, the resemblance between THE WORLD IN HIS ARMS and last night's film, SEA DEVILS (1953), ends there.

THE WORLD IN HIS ARMS, teaming Blyth with Gregory Peck, is a Universal film, and it's vastly better than SEA DEVILS, which was an RKO film starring Rock Hudson and Yvonne DeCarlo.

THE WORLD IN HIS ARMS is a bit slow out of the starting gate, with a sluggish first half hour, but as soon as Blyth and Peck meet at a San Francisco ball, the movie starts firing on all cylinders.

The film has excellent lead performances, exciting action sequences, and several swooningly romantic love scenes, evocatively underscored by Frank Skinner's Russian-tinged theme music. Ann Blyth even gets to sing a few lines of a song.

And oh, yes, it's also got Universal Technicolor! Any film fan would know they were about to watch a '50s Universal movie from the gorgeous red title cards. Speaking of which, check these out and you'll see what I mean...thanks to Toby for the link.

Peck is Jonathan Clark, nicknamed "the Boston Man," a sea captain known for obtaining seal pelts from Russian territory and selling them for a fortune in San Francisco. He falls in love with Marina (Blyth), a Russian countess who is posing as an untitled member of the countess's entourage.

Jonathan and Marina make plans to wed, but then she's kidnapped by a Russian who wants to force her into marriage for reasons too complicated to explain here. Jonathan ultimately goes to her rescue, aided by his old rival Portugee (Anthony Quinn). During the climactic wedding scene, keep your eyes on the stained-glass window -- wow, what an entrance!

It's all a lot of fun, put over with considerably more vigor than the tepid SEA DEVILS. Peck and Blyth are charming, fully committed to expressing their characters' developing feelings. Watch their eyes and expressions; they're really lovely together. It may be a raucous film in many respects, yet I found their yearning romance extremely touching. The film's last shot leaves behind a warm, happy glow.

Peck certainly seemed to play a lot of sea captains in the '50s. In addition to this film, there was CAPTAIN HORATIO HORNBLOWER R.N. (1951), MOBY DICK (1956), and THE BIG COUNTRY (1958). In the latter film he's not seen sailing a ship, but his navigation skills come in handy!

Period films were also familiar territory for Ann Blyth. Her previous film was the very memorable time travel romance I'LL NEVER FORGET YOU (1951), costarring Tyrone Power. The following year, in fact, Blyth appeared herself in another sailing adventure, the very good ALL THE BROTHERS WERE VALIANT (1953), where her new marriage to stoic sea captain Robert Taylor is threatened when his dashing younger brother, played by Stewart Granger, returns from the dead.

This 104-minute film was based on a novel by Rex Beach. The supporting cast includes Universal stalwart John McIntire, backed by Andrea King, Carl Esmond, Hans Conreid, Sig Ruman, and Rhys Williams.

THE WORLD IN HIS ARMS was released on DVD as part of The Gregory Peck Collection. Some vendors sell the film in its case as a standalone DVD. It can be rented from Netflix.

The movie was also released on VHS.

As I finished writing this I came across a 2009 review at Kevin's Movie Corner. He also gives the film a solid thumbs up.

It's an entertaining movie in the best tradition of the early '50s Universal adventure films. Recommended.

May 2020 Update: Wonderful news, Kino Lorber is releasing THE WORLD IN HIS ARMS on Blu-ray in July 2020.

August 2020 Update: My review of the Kino Lorber Blu-ray may be found here.


Blogger barrylane said...

Agreed on all points, although I liked the picture straight away. Your comments did however make me want to see All The Brotheres Were Valiant. Just ordered.

1:28 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Thanks, Barrylane! Glad to know you also enjoyed it. Hope you enjoy ALL THE BROTHERS WERE VALIANT. One of those "good-but-not-great" films for which I have a soft spot, given the cast, the Technicolor, and a stirring Miklos Rozsa score.

Best wishes,

8:51 PM  
Blogger Kevin Deany said...

Thanks for the shout out, Laura. I've always felt that the schooner race in this film is one of the most unheralded action sequences of the 1950s. Just wonderful to watch. And I love that final scene with that surging Frank Skinner score.

2:01 PM  

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