Sunday, December 29, 2019

Tonight's Movie: Adventure (1945) - A Warner Archive DVD

Clark Gable and Greer Garson star in ADVENTURE (1945), available on DVD from the Warner Archive.

ADVENTURE was Gable's first film after serving in World War II, and the poster art was well known for the line "Gable's back and Garson's got him!" Alas, that may be the most memorable thing about this confusing, slow-moving 125-minute film.

Gable plays Harry Patterson, a bosun in the Merchant Marine. After his ship is torpedoed Harry and the surviving crew, including his pal Mudgin (Thomas Mitchell), arrive in San Francisco.

Harry chances to meet Emily (Garson), a reserved librarian who's his polar opposite. The two clash repeatedly -- in part as she's jealous of his flirtation with her roommate Helen (Joan Blondell) -- then abruptly decide they're in love and head for Reno to get married.

Despite the marriage, Harry doesn't want to be tied down and is soon off to sea, while Emily reconsiders the wisdom of their impulsive wedding. Is it enough to have a husband she'll only see for a few days a year? Meanwhile at sea, Harry is discovering that what he wants from life has changed due to his marriage...and back home, Emily discovers she's going to have a baby.

I knew from my reading over the years that ADVENTURE was a film considered to have problems, but given the excellent cast and the director (Victor Fleming), I nonetheless anticipated that the film would be a mildly entertaining diversion of the 2-1/2 star variety. To my surprise, it wasn't even that good.

This is one of those films where you can't help wondering what on earth the filmmakers were thinking and why some of the bright people at MGM who turned out so many good films couldn't find a way to do more with this one. At the very least, they could have edited the interminable opening half hour way, way down; the movie should be a good half hour shorter than the final cut. There's a lot of confusing mumbo jumbo in that first 30 minutes about saving souls which goes pretty much nowhere, and the film also manages to make a ship being torpedoed completely devoid of drama or excitement.

The film is so slow-paced that Garson doesn't even show up in the film until 24 minutes in, and when she does appear she and Gable spend at least 20 minutes bickering. When I started fighting to stay awake at the 45-minute mark, I was incredulous to realize that there was an hour and 20 minutes of movie still to go.

In the movie's defense, it does pick up speed after that first miserable 45 minutes, starting around the time that Emily takes Harry and Helen to visit her childhood home in the country. Once Emily and Harry's relationship is front and center it becomes more interesting, though the film unfortunately fights to keep them conflicted and apart for as long as possible. The last hour of the movie saves it from being a complete waste, but this is no more than a two-star movie, or maybe 1-1/2.

I don't think there's any problem with Gable and Garson's chemistry, as some of my past reading has suggested, simply their material. I do think Gable and Garson would have done much better together if the script had been more lighthearted, taking advantage of the wonderful twinkle in each of their eyes when they're having fun; I don't count the attempts at comedy in this film as anything genuinely funny.

The supporting cast includes the lively Lina Romay, who also sang with Xavier Cugat's band in films such as YOU WERE NEVER LOVELIER (1942). Philip Merivale, Tom Tully, Richard Haydn, Harry Davenport, and John Qualen are also in the film. Small roles are played by Audrey Totter, Barbara Billingsley, Morris Ankrum, Esther Howard, Ray Teal, and Pierre Watkin.

A great many people worked on the story and script, including Adela Rogers St. John, Casey Robinson, and Sam Zimbalist. Definitely too many cooks trying desperately to save a sinking ship, or something like that.

The film was shot in black and white by Joseph Ruttenberg.

ADVENTURE was released by the Warner Archive several years ago, but since everything from the Archive is available "on demand," older titles continue to remain as easily available as new releases.

The Warner Archive DVD includes the trailer. The print and sound quality are fine.

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 Margot Shelby said...

I've heard a lot about how boring this movie is. Guess I don't have to seek it out then. I have a hard time envisioning Gable and Garson together.

12:54 PM  
Blogger barrylane said...

As we discussed, I do not like the way Adventure evolves, which does not mean that it wasn't worthwhile to combine the various sensual and spiritual elements. I though Gable just terrific, and Joan Blondell a good sparring partner, Mitchell I thought was playing a part that would have been, or could have been intended for Tracy had this thing been shot in the thirties. Garson did not connect, not her fault, the part as presented in story and staging left her out in the cold. Victor Fleming's fault, without question. I cannot identify his problem, but something personal, no doubt, that followed him to Joan of Arc, which was not as dramatically unstructured because at least some part of history provided the narrative. Back to Adventure at MGM -- no one is going to tell Fleming he is off base, because they will not know until it's too late. And he is Clark's buddy, so as long as Gable goes along....

5:52 PM  

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