Sunday, January 28, 2018

Tonight's Movie: They Met in Bombay (1941) - A Warner Archive DVD Review

Clark Gable and Rosalind Russell star in MGM's THEY MET IN BOMBAY (1941), available on DVD from the Warner Archive.

Gable and Russell are quite appealing in this minor yet diverting entertainment. Shades of TROUBLE IN PARADISE (1932), the duo play competing jewel thieves who go into partnership after making off with a fabulous necklace belonging to the Duchess of Beltravers (Jessie Ralph).

After escaping Bombay on a ship captained by Peter Lorre -- and then fleeing from him after a double-cross -- Gerald (Gable) and Anya (Russell) find themselves in China. Gerald's latest money-making scam involves obtaining a British soldier's uniform -- and before you know it, he's roped into helping evacuate British and Chinese citizens when the Japanese invade. Gerald's heroism earns him high military honors; is it time to leave a life of crime behind? And is it even possible?

The movie suffers from an erratic tone, shifting from light crime comedy and witty repartee to more heavy-handed wartime battle scenes, but Gable and Russell hold viewer attention throughout. It's amusing to note that Gable and Russell are described in a telegram as 35 and 25, respectively, when Gable was actually about 40 and Russell 33 when this was filmed. Either way, both actors are at their most attractive and congenial in this film.

The movie is a bit of an oddity for its era in that, while Gerald and Anya make a show of sleeping in separate cabins on Lorre's ship, the pair are clearly living together in China without being married.

On the other hand, they can't keep living a happy life of crime under the Production Code, hence Gerald's conversion to war hero in the final act, with the promise of marriage on the horizon.

The film could have stood trimming a couple of its 92 minutes, but all in all it's a pleasant watch for fans of the lead actors, despite its uneven storytelling. It's almost two different movies for the price of one!

The fine supporting cast includes Eduardo Ciannelli, Reginald Owen, Matthew Boulton, Luis Alberni, Jay Novello, Philip Ahn, Keye Luke, Richard Loo, and Victor Sen Yung.

The movie was directed by Clarence Brown, with black and white photography by William H. Daniels. Russell's fabulous gowns were designed by Adrian.

Except for a few scratches here and there, which are heaviest as the opening credits begin, this is a very nice print. The trailer is included on the disc.

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 barrylane said...

The first half is funny, sensuous, intriguing and beyond well presented. Not funny, witty and charming. The second half, starting with the escape is nearly a different film, but in the hands of Clarence Brown, who does not get the recognition he deserves in hindsight, though he certainly did in his time, and with Clark Gable and Rosalind Russell doing their best to make it happen, even though contrived, with all of us in the audience aware of that fact, it still swims, not sinks. Add Jessie Ralph and Reg Owen to the credit side. As for Peter Lorre, I am not a fan. He does what he does, plays a disgusting little man.

10:34 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Seems like a pretty fair assessment of the film to me. The high caliber of the leads and the director keep the movie watchable even as it shifts story focus and tone.

I've never thought much about Lorre one way or the other; I guess I'd say I'm not a fan but, yes, he "does what he does." If nothing else he's a distinctive '40s film personality.

One thing I didn't mention was I admired the design of the beautiful hotel set, and there is also quite a nice matte painting (barely recognizable as such) during the China sequence.

Best wishes,

10:48 PM  
Blogger Rafe said...

I never watch the second half, which completely falls apart.

7:19 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Thanks for your feedback! It's interesting how the movie has such a change in tone midway through.

Best wishes,

6:22 PM  

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