Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Dangerous Crossing (1953): Jeanne Crain Goes Crazy.... Or Does She?

Folks who follow this blog and its corresponding page on Facebook know what a fan I am of 1940's/50's cutie Jeanne Crain.  She never made it into the really big time but she had quite a run at 20th Century-Fox while it lasted.  Well, in 1953 that run ended and one of her last vehicles at the studio which had been her cinematic home for a decade, was Dangerous Crossing, a low(er) budget mystery-suspenser that did little to furthur her career or the careers of anyone associated with it.  However, it was the very first Jeanne Crain film I ever saw as a youngster and, though not very plausible at times, it really is a fun and suspenseful potboiler.

Based on a 1943 radio play called "B-13" by noted mystery writer John Dixon Carr, Dangerous Crossing follows the they're-crazy-as-a-bat, they-claim-their-relative-vanished-but-they-were-never-there-in-the-first-place plotline.  This style of mystery had been filmed several times before and would be afterward.  Besides Hitchcock's The Lady Vanishes, one notable version of the theme was So Long at the Fair (1950), a British historical mystery with Jean Simmons.  Dangerous Crossing was actually remade as a TV movie in the 90's called Treacherous Crossing with Lindsay Wagner.

Ruth Bowman (maiden name Stanton) is a wealthy and beautiful yet emotionally unstable (or so it would appear) young bride (or so she says).  Okay, okay, I know I'm being vague here so I'll just get to it.  Ruth is on a passenger ship bound for England on her honeymoon.  We see her.  We see her groom, John.  The thing is, no one else sees them together on the ship and he up and disappears, making beautiful, confused Ruth seem off her rocker.  It's no wonder, as she is listed on the passenger list as Ruth Stanton and there is no Bowman listed.  To make matters worse when her past is looked into, she seems to have had some emotional issues regarding her father's death.

She interacts with various passengers and crew members as the puzzle just gets more and more tangled.  Among those trying to help her, either solve her mystery or just keep her sedated, is the handsome ship's doctor, Paul Manning (Michael Rennie; you knew he wouldn't be a troll, didn't you?).  As frustrated as she is with her situation, she can't help but be attracted to the tall doctor who is genuinely trying to help her.  So where's her husband?  Or did he even really exist?

As stated above, I love Jeanne Crain.  Her beauty and elegance are top notch in my book and she brought some fine performances to the table when challenged.  This, however, wasn't one of the most challenging ones.  She races around the ship with wide eyes expecting to see Frankenstein's monster at every turn.  When she's happy she's ecstatic and when she's stressed (which is often here) she takes the wide-eyed approach.  She's still lovely though and the movie is still fun.

Besides Crain and Rennie, the cast is scattered with various character actors of the day.  Longtime supporting actress Mary Anderson is on board (couldn't help the pun) as a stewardess who seems to know more than she should.  Casey Adams (aka Max Showalter), a Fox regular, oogles, respectfully of course, Crain as the ships Second Officer, and as the long lost hubby is Carl Betz, betz...uh, er best known as Dr. Alex Stone on the 1950's television comedy "The Donna Reed Show."  Also notable is a friendly and attractive passenger who befriends Ruth, Kay Prentiss, played by Marjorie Hoshelle, who just happened to be Mrs. Jeff Chandler in real life.

When she decided to leave 20th Century-Fox after ten years there, Crain said:  "Fox was wonderful to me but I wasn't happy for the last few years.  I wasn't permitted to go to other studios on loan-outs, and lost the leads in Quo Vadis and Carrie.  Other girls were signed for the roles I wantedat my own studio.  I asked for singing and dancing roles, but the answer was always 'no.'  Now, after ten years, maybe I'll get my big chance."  She didn't.  Nonetheless, she DID get to try a few different characterizations, as with Man Without a Star as a redheaded tough, yet glamorous, ranch owner, out to tame Kirk Douglas and The Joker is Wild (1957) with Frank Sinatra.  When she and Betty Grable, who left Fox shortly after, ended their tenure at the studio, their portraits in the Fox commissary were replaced by images of Terry Moore and Jean Peters.

Friday, July 19, 2013

My Debut Classic Movie Book!

Friends and Blog Followers, I'd like to announce the debut of my very first book! Of course it's about classic movies and as a matter of fact, called, Classic Movies: 14 Films You May Not Have Seen, But Should. Just as the title says, I discuss some often overlooked gems, movies that I've enjoyed and wanted to share with others who MAY not have heard of or had the opportunity to see. It's on Kindle or Kindle app for android or iPhone. If you like classic movies, check it out!


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