For Reel

Three Comrades (1938)
July 19, 2012, 11:50 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Frank Borzage

F. Scott Fitzgerald worked in Hollywood during the latter half of the 1930s out of financial necessity. While he was most certainly one of the foremost American novelists of his or any time, screenwriting wasn’t a medium that he took a particular liking to, nor was it one that he found much success in. In the end, his only completed screen credit was his adaptation of Erich Maria Remarque’s Three Comrades, which was reportedly heavily rewritten by both Edward E. Paramore Jr. and producer Joseph L. Mankiewicz. While there is something distinctly literary about the dialogue in its unusual lyricism (Franchot Tone, in particular, is given a number of anti-war polemics to recite), it is precisely that cadence which provides the film its most genuinely affecting moments, appealingly meshing with director Frank Borzage’s grand romantic sensibilities. While Remarque’s novel was primarily a criticism of the Nazi Party, the screen version is much more about not only a country in recovery in the shadow of war, but it is most certainly in line with Borzage’s melodramatic tradition established in such greats as Seventh Heaven and City Girl. Star Margaret Sullavan, who would only appear in sixteen movies total over the course of her relatively brief career, is marvelous as the fallen aristocrat who falls for the least cynical of titular trifecta, played by Robert Taylor. What is particularly rare about the picture is how delicately it deals with friendship in addition to romantic love. The camaraderie between the males is expected, but what is most welcome is the asexual friendship that develops between Tone and Sullavan, who share just as many scenes together as the true lovers do.

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