Monday, April 23, 2012

ONE WAY PASSAGE (1932)



ONE WAY PASSAGE (1932) PROVES THE OLD ADAGE THAT LOVE IS BETTER OVER A PARADISE COCKTAIL WITH DEATH HANGING OVER YOUR HEADS.
  Well, maybe there isn't any adage that says such a thing but, after seeing this movie, I'm coining one.  This is what can only be termed a "tearjerker" or a "weepy" in much the same vein as that "AFFAIR TO REMEMBER" that everyone's always mooning about.  However, ONE WAY PASSAGE isn't as sloppy or as overwrought as the later film.  In fact, ONE WAY PASSAGE is fairly sober and unmelodramatic considering its themes.  Joan (the ravishing Kay Francis ... or the wavishing Kay Fwancis as her nickname usually referred to her lisp) meets Dan (William Powell) when she upsets his Paradise cocktail.  Sparks immediately fly and they begin a shipboard romance as their vessel sails to San Francisco by way of Honolulu.  Joan and Dan seem perfect for each other as their romance heats up.  Sadly, there's a snag.  Well, two snags.  And rather substantial ones.  Dan is a convicted murderer who is being conveyed to prison by policeman Steve (Warren Hymer) to be executed.  And Joan doesn't have an idea.  Of course, Dan's not the only one with a secret.  Joan is dying with a terminal (and unspecified) disease and may kick off at any moment.  Naturally, Dan has no inkling of this either.  So both lovers go through the movie withholding this vital information from the other in order to spare them heartache.  Of course, this only GUARANTEES heartache aplenty.  Also along for the (boat)ride are petty thief Skippy (Frank McHugh) and con woman Barrel House Betty (Aline MacMahon) who is masquerading as a Countess in order to fleece some rich passenger.  Naturally, Betty and Skippy both know Dan and do their best to help him shake Steve the Cop and jump ship; they also aid in the matchmaking department as far as Dan and Joan's romance is concerned.  While we are told in no uncertain terms that Dan is a convicted murderer, no excuses are made by the screenplay (that it was self-defense or he's actually wrongly accused or it was an accident etc.). 

 No, we are simply informed that he is a convicted murderer and that's that; but hey he's charming William Powell so we've gotta love him, right?   And Kay Francis is at the top of her career here in the same year she made TROUBLE IN PARADISE for Ernst Lubitsch.  Frank McHugh and Aline MacMahon are both splendid as lovable rogues and even hard-boiled Warren Hymer (seen in DESTRY RIDES AGAIN) manages to inject some humanity into his cop role as he falls for Betty himself and also begins to sympathize with Dan's plight.  Director Tay Garnett (perhaps best known for his film noir classic THE POSTMAN ALWAYS RINGS TWICE) does a fine job helming this brief film (only slightly longer than one hour) and doesn't waste a minute of screen time.  The sparkling screenplay by Wilson Mizner and Joseph Jackson shines like the frequent martini glasses populating the film and the story won an Academy Award for the film.  The Hollywood Production Code hasn't taken effect yet so we get some nicely saucy moments as when Betty manages to steal the bullets from Steve's gun.  When Skippy asks her how she did it, the camera pans over to some of Steve's discarded clothes on Betty's stateroom chair.  Ooo La La!  Also, the film doesn't tack on some lighthearted Hollywood ending; however, the film does end beautifully despite the downbeat nature of a pair of doomed lovers.  ONE WAY PASSAGE is one of those films which has fallen by the wayside over the years but it is thankfully now available from the Warner Archives "made-on-demand" DVD service.  This is one every film fan should seek out.

1 comment:

wellyousaythat© said...

Doomed lovers. The stuff that dreams are made of