Tag Archives: Ronald Reagan

The Voice of the Turtle (1947)

MV5BMjMzMzc4NjE5OV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwOTgzODcxMzE@._V1_SX214_AL_The only reason I even came across this film was because I was looking at Eleanor Parker’s filmography. Eleanor Parker herself is a somewhat forgotten actress today, except for her role as the Baroness in The Sound of Music, and The Voice of the Turtle seems somewhat forgotten even compared to her other films. But it is a sweet, gentle, funny romance that I think would be much better known if it contained bigger stars (Ronald Reagan is certainly well-known, but no so much his movies).

The movie was based on an extremely successful play that ran during the war and was still running when the film was released in 1947. The story, however, is still set during the war. Quirky Sally Middleton (Eleanor Parker) is a young actress who takes love too seriously, or at least so she is told by producer Kenneth Bartlett (Kent Smith). He just wanted them to be able to have a good time together, but she fell in love and he feels in all fairness he must break it off. She, in turn, determines never to take love so seriously again. This has happened to her before.

But Sally has a friend, Olive Lashbrooke (Eve Arden), who knows exactly how not to take things too seriously and has a string of men in quick succession, or sometimes at the same time. She has a date with Sergeant Bill Page (Ronald Reagan), who she knew years ago and is in New York on leave just for the weekend. But when another man Olive knows shows up in town – who has a higher rank – Olive determines to ditch Bill and go with him (Wayne Morris).

Bill comes to Sally’s apartment to pick Olive up, but Olive spins him a rather feeble story about how her estranged husband has suddenly appeared and she simply must have dinner with him, but Bill realizes he’s being dumped. Olive leaves him and Bill asks Sally if he can borrow her phone. He calls every girl he knows in New York. Some are married, some are out on dates and he can’t find a single person to spend his weekend with. In slight desperation, he asks Sally out to dinner.

Ronald Reagan and Eleanor Parker

Ronald Reagan and Eleanor Parker

The rest of the film deals with how these two people discover that they have a lot in common and tentatively fall in love. They’ve both been in love before and were hurt and are now cautious. There’s a housing shortage in New York (The More the Merrier deals with the comic results of a housing shortage in Washington DC – this was a common problem during the war and made its way into several films) and since it’s so late at night and unlikely that Bill will be able to find a hotel, Sally invites him to sleep at her apartment. Meanwhile, Olive has become disenchanted with her date (he’s put on a little weight since she last saw him and shaved his mustache) and keeps calling Sally’s apartment to check up on them. She doesn’t at all appreciate Sally going out with him. She calls it beau-snatching.

You can tell the movie is based on a stage-play. Much of the action occurs in Sally’s apartment, but I didn’t find it too stagy or house-bound. It made it intimate, more closely focused on these two people who found each other in the midst of a big world.

Eleanor Parker is the heart of the film and plays a rather different role for her. I’ve mostly seen her as poised and sophisticated, but in The Voice of the Turtle she is quirky, not exactly flighty or scatter-brained, but definitely quirky is the best word I can come up with. She’s sensitive and hates to have anything alone, like a radio playing with no one to hear it or a coffee pot boiling with no one in the house. It makes them seem to her to be lonely. Her favorite question to ask is if Olive or Bill was in love with someone they mention. She can’t bear to have a phone ring and not answer it. If there are two glasses of milk or champagne or anything, she takes a sip out of one to make sure their are both equally full. One suspects the reason she offered to let Bill stay in her apartment was so she wouldn’t be so alone, not so much because she was looking to kindle a romance.

Eleanor Parker takes all these quirks (and she has more) and makes Sally adorable and sweet. Ronald Reagan is also good here. I haven’t seen him in many movies, but this is my favorite of his by far. Bill’s essentially a really nice guy and he and Parker have a sweet interaction. I keep using the word sweet, but that is the best word for this film. But not in an overly sentimental way. Eve Arden usually played the best friend to leading ladies, offering blunt and caustically funny advice that is usually ignored, but never resented. In this film, she’s more of an acidic flirt, but a welcome character, all the same.

Sally keeping live out of the kitchen while Bill hides behind the door

Sally keeping Olive out of the kitchen while Bill hides behind the door

There’s not a lot of physical comedy or slapstick. There is one very funny scene when Bill and Sally are having breakfast together when Olive comes over and Bill must hide in the kitchen while Sally tries to keep Olive out. Sally does have a lot of eccentricities, but Bill never makes fun of her. Another thing I liked about the film is that there are no artificial obstacles or misunderstandings to create unnecessary tension. The film is simply an exploration of how these two people fall in love and the main obstacle is Sally’s fear of being hurt again. But what’s nice about it is that Bill understands and is willing to address the issue; there’s none of this talking at cross purposes with the man stumping off hurt and leaving me yelling at the screen that if they’d just talk about the issue everything would be fine.

It’s a delightful film and I enjoyed it far beyond my expectations. Incidentally, the title of the film is a reference to a verse in the Bible. It’s quoted, or paraphrased, by Bill and comes from Song of Solomon 2:12: “For behold, the winter is past, The rain is over and gone. The flowers have already appeared in the land; The time has arrived for pruning the vines, And the voice of the turtle has been heard in our land.” The turtle actually refers to Turtledoves.


Posted by on October 2, 2015 in Movies


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Desperate Journey (1942)

220px-Desperate_Journey_-_PosterDuring WWII, Errol Flynn made a string of war related movies. His first one was Desperate Journey, released in 1942 and was finished filming just as America was entering the war. It’s basically a giant escape film, or perhaps a giant chase. Five crew members of a downed bomber attempt to escape Germany. Hot on their trail is Raymond Massey’s Major Baumeister. They roam about Germany, wreaking havoc, commit a little sabotage, conk Nazis on the head, steal cars, meet some German underground members and hop a ride on Göring’s private, though empty, train car. It’s all incredibly coincidental (their car runs out of gas and a gas truck drives by) and highly patriotic, but a fun, if not memorable, ride.

The movie begins by showing a member of the Polish underground give his life to blow up a bridge. Before he dies, though, he manages to send a message by pigeon to the allies in England. Using this information, they believe there will now be a bottleneck of trains waiting for the bridge to be repaired and they intend to bomb those trains. They send out one bomber with a crew of eight. Part of that crew is the second in command, Terry Forbes (Errol Flynn), Johnny Hammond (Ronald Reagan), Kirk Edwards (Alan Hale), Lloyd Hollis (Ronald Sinclair), and Jed Forrest (Arthur Kennedy). The captain is injured when a Nazi plane attacks them and Terry decides to risk going below the cover of the clouds to see if he can see the target. The result is a crash.

They are captured by the Nazis, but manage to escape, ransack Major Baumeister’s office and steal some important documents showing the location of a Messerschmitt factory. And the chase is on. Baumeister is particularly determined to find them because if anyone found out that they had stolen those documents from him, he might be sent to the Russian Front (always a terrifying threat in the movies – spoofed repeatedly and hilariously in the show Hogan’s Heroes).

Errol Flynn, Alan Hale, Arthur Kennedy, Ronald Reagan, and Ronald Sinclair - that is Raymond Massey's head

Errol Flynn, Alan Hale, Arthur Kennedy, Ronald Reagan, and Ronald Sinclair – that is Raymond Massey’s head

The crew is somewhat hampered, however, by Hollis, who is very young and tires easily. But on the whole, the crew is pretty harmonious, without any real internal tension. Jed Forrest does try to curb Terry’s penchant for reckless daring-do, but never questions his right to lead.

The crew is puzzlingly multi-national. Aussie Terry (Flynn, unsurprisingly) is his usual high-spirited self as an officer who would really prefer flying fighter planes to bombers, while Canadian Jed ( Kennedy) used to be a bookkeeper and loves facts and figures and certainties. Kirk (Hale – one of at least twelves movies he did with Flynn) fought in the first world war and lied about his age and died his hair so that he could fight in this one after his son died at Dunkirk. But he’s no brooding Lear. He’s very Alan Hale-ish, full of broad humor, practical jokes, and a desire for good food.  And the very English Hollis (Sinclair) is still a kid, who’s father was a great WWI hero who shot down 43 Germans.

But oddly enough, the man who stands out the most is Ronald Reagan’s American Johnny. It’s not because the character is a complex one, but he brings an easy-going and street-smart presence to the film. There is a funny scene when Baumeister tries to get him to tell him the secret of how American planes can fly at higher altitudes than Nazi ones and through an incredible patter of gibberish and nonsense words, like thermathrockle, delivered at a tremendous rate, Johnny contrives knock out Baumeister.

It was acknowledged to be the best scene in the film because Flynn desperately wanted it for himself, though the director, Raoul Walsh, refused to give it to him. I was surprised to see that Reagan shared top billing with Errol Flynn. Reagan had just been poised to move into leading roles, apparently. He had received a good deal of attention for his role in Kings Row, but just as his career was about to be boosted, he was called up and spent the rest of the war in the army, though he did not fight overseas. It effectually deflated his career.

The crew with the obligatory female character, played by Nancy Coleman

The crew with the obligatory female character, played by Nancy Coleman

Flynn did not fight during WWII. He was not well, though. His draft board physical revealed that he had tuberculosis in one lung and while filming his next movie, Gentleman Jim, he suffered a minor heart attack. He was only thirty-two and tragically had already run his health into the ground.

The score for Desperate Journey is ridiculously sweeping and patriotic. Composed by Max Steiner (not the subtlest of composers: King Kong, Gone With the Wind), he used “God Save the King” (or is it “My Country Tis of Thee”?) as a recurring theme and it is always blowing about, portentously martial, in the background, at odds with the more lighthearted ethos of the actors.

While watching, I had a random thought. Are there any enemy uniforms more readily stolen and worn in movies than Nazi uniforms? The crew spends half the film in Nazi uniforms and this is not unusual for Hollywood films. My theory is that it is because, though representative of an evil ideology and government, they are still by far the coolest uniforms ever (which is a pity). The boots, the nicely fitted jackets, the long coats – though not the helmets, but what helmet doesn’t look faintly ridiculous. Hollywood has always delighted to get their heroes into Nazi uniforms (something that also happens a lot in Hogan’s Heroes).

Below is a clip of Ronald Reagan double-talking Raymond Massey.

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Posted by on February 25, 2015 in Movies


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