Saturday, May 14, 2016

Tonight's Movie: Yellow Jack (1938) - A Warner Archive DVD Review

YELLOW JACK (1938) tells the story of Major Walter Reed (Lewis Stone) and his quest to understand the origins of yellow fever and find a cure. The disease was nicknamed "yellow Jack," hence the movie's title.

YELLOW JACK is one of several movies starring Robert Montgomery which was recently released by the Warner Archive.

Montgomery plays the title role, starring as Sergeant John O'Hara, a soldier serving in Cuba who agrees to participate in human trials which ultimately prove that yellow fever is spread by mosquitoes.

When O'Hara isn't at work or participating in the experiment, he's trying to woo nurse Frances Blake (Virginia Bruce). This was one of two films costarring Montgomery and Bruce released in 1938, the other being THE FIRST HUNDRED YEARS (1938), which was reviewed here a few days ago.

Montgomery, sporting an Irish brogue, is most appealing as the intelligent, brave sergeant. His relationship with Bruce is one of my favorite things about the movie, and in truth I wish they'd had more scenes together!

Lewis Stone is always worth watching, and he's excellent as Walter Reed. There's an excellent cast including Andy Devine, Buddy Ebsen, Charles Coburn, Alan Curtis, Stanley Ridges, Henry Hull, Jonathan Hale, Phillip Terry, and Sam Levene.

The movie was based on a play by Sidney Howard, which fictionalized a true story. The theatrical origins of this soundstage-bound film are fairly clear, but the actors and the interesting subject matter surmount that issue and make it very much worth watching.

The 1934 play, incidentally, starred James Stewart and Millard Mitchell, who later costarred in the classic Westerns WINCHESTER '73 (1950) and THE NAKED SPUR (1953). Sam Levene was the only member of the theatrical cast to also appear in the movie.

YELLOW JACK was directed by George B. Seitz and filmed in black in white by Lester White. It runs 83 minutes.

I previously reviewed this film after watching it on Turner Classic Movies in 2009.

The Warner Archive print looks terrific. The DVD includes a 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.


Blogger Jeff said...

Robert Montgomery doesn't play the title role. His name is not Yellow Jack in the film, it's O'Hara.

3:31 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Hi Jeff! Montgomery plays John O'Hara. You may not be aware that Jack is a nickname for John. As I mention in the review, the title also refers to the nickname for YELLOW FEVER. So in the end the title is a play on words, referring to both the disease and the man who participated in the human trials.

Hope you enjoyed the film!

Best wishes,

4:41 PM  

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