Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Tonight's Movie: Gateway (1938)

GATEWAY (1938) is an enjoyable drama from 20th Century-Fox. It's available on DVD from the Fox Cinema Archives.

Don Ameche stars as war correspondent Dick Court, who's traveling back to the U.S. by ship when he meets a charming young Irish lass in 2nd class, Catherine O'Shea (Arleen Whelan).

Dick is instantly smitten, but Catherine is engaged to marry an American (Lyle Talbot) who's scheduled to meet her when the ship docks. However, Dick has an unexpected second chance with Catherine when her entry into the U.S. is delayed due to the investigation of an awkward shipboard incident in which she had to fend off a lecherous mayor (Raymond Walburn).

Catherine's fiancé is iffy about following through on their marriage, especially with her good name attached to a the "scandalous" shipboard story, but all's well that ends well with Dick waiting hopefully in the wings.

This is sort of an A-/B+ film, with a strong cast in a quick 75-minute movie made on a handful of soundstage sets. I pretty much always enjoy Ameche, and Whelan (RAMROD) is appealing as a girl who's anxious for a new life in America. Whelan makes only the barest, almost non-existent attempt at an Irish brogue, but that's fairly typical for the era.

Key supporting roles are played by Binnie Barnes, as Dick's old friend who becomes the younger Catherine's mentor, and Gilbert Roland as a gangster wanted by the IRS who's trying to slip back into the U.S. Harry Carey Sr. plays the kindly Ellis Island administrator who helps the refugees through their processing -- and throws them a 4th of July party to boot!

John Carradine plays the leader of a group of unsavory characters trying to break out of custody and escape off the island. Also in the cast are Gregory Ratoff, Marjorie Gateson, E.E. Clive, and Warren Hymer. Look for a very young Joan Carroll of MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS (1944) in the shipboard processing scene.

I found this little movie quite enjoyable. It's not great drama, and indeed it's a bit unbelievable at times, but it's also a pleasant, solidly entertaining time spent with good actors. Fox made a number of these types of mid-range movies, and I've enjoyed many of them, including other Ameche titles such as CONFIRM OR DENY (1941) and GIRL TROUBLE (1942).

The depiction of Ellis Island is also of interest, as it seems rather unlikely the real place was quite so perfect; it's almost like a sleepover camp! That said, it's not all sweetness and light, such as the scene when a grandfather (Maurice Moscovitch) gives up his quota slot to enter the country to his newly born grandchild. The parting scene with the baby before the old man is shipped back home is moving.

It was quite interesting watching this storyline from our era, when immigration is such a fraught topic. The immigrants' willingness to respect and honor our nation's immigration laws, sometimes at great personal cost, is notably at odds with some modern-day attitudes.

GATEWAY would make an interesting double bill with a more recent film about a '50s Irish immigrant, BROOKLYN (2015).

GATEWAY was directed by Alfred L. Werker (HE WALKED BY NIGHT). It was filmed by Edward Cronjager and written by Lamar Trotti, based on a story by Walter Reisch.

Though some Fox Cinema Archives DVDs of the late '40s and '50s have featured disappointing prints, I've almost always had good luck with the line's prints of films from the '30s and early '40s; this was another nice-looking Fox DVD, a welcome release of a relatively obscure film.


Blogger Brittaney said...

I've been trying to watch more Don Ameche films and this one sounds interesting. Thanks for your review.

4:44 PM  
Blogger Raquel Stecher said...

Thanks for the review Laura! I'm very partial to any story that takes place on a boat. Also 75-90 minutes seems to be the sweet spot for me for movies. This sounds like a good watch.

8:32 AM  
Blogger Robby Cress said...

Thanks for the review Laura! This is one Ameche film I haven't seen, but I always keep my eyes open for his films. I've always enjoyed his voice and charm. And I agree with Raquel, the 75-90 minute range is the sweet spot. I have trouble sitting still through many modern films because they are so long!

9:42 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Thanks to you all for your comments! I'm so glad i could help bring this movie to more people's attention. Nice solid movie from the classic era. Hope you can all see it!

I agree on the 75-90 time! Occasionally I'll wish a film had time to dig deeper but typically that is the time I prefer. Most modern films are waaaay too long.

Best wishes,

11:51 AM  

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