For Reel

One Way Passage (1932)
January 4, 2012, 9:00 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Tay Garnett

In their sixth pairing, Kay Francis and William Powell play doomed lovers on a ship set for San Francisco. She is terminally ill and he is a fugitive facing execution in San Quentin, though neither are aware of the others’ secret. What is most striking about the piece is Robert Kurrle’s cinematography – his camera is in constant motion from the first shot, an impressively choreographed long take. Kurrle shot Jewel Robbery, another Francis and Powelll collaboration released the same year, and the aesthetic here differs significantly – perhaps the sophistication of the camerawork can be attributed to the influence of director Tay Garnett. In the early years of sound, only a few filmmakers – Rouben Mamoulian being a prime example – had the ambition to use such elaborate tracking shots. Visuals aside, the picture doesn’t completely hold together, though it does have some lovely redeeming moments. It takes too long before the romance between the leads feels settled in, and in the first half of the picture, especially, Garnett emphasizes the subplots more than he does the relationship between the central characters. In fact, it is the courtship between a police sergeant and a con artist posing as a courtesan that often steals the show.

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