For Reel

Trade Winds (1938)
March 16, 2016, 11:55 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Tay Garnett
2.5 Stars
Trade WindsThis highly unusual curiosity from producer Walter Wanger has some notoriety as the picture that turned Joan Bennett into a brunette, an image change that would bring her great success as a noir femme fatale in the 1940s. But its real interest is the huge number of process shots–in a thriller/romance that travels around the world, the talented cast performs much of the material in front of projections. If the ambition is laudable, it feels cheap and poorly accomplished, ridding the rear projection technique of its charm. Part of the problem is that the picture has some interest in being ethnographic in the way it details other cultures and their people, which is an insurmountable objective when confined to a studio. Also working to the film’s detriment is the clunky tonal shifts. In the first act, Bennett shoots a man who led her sister to suicide before faking her own death. Naturally, what follows is the hijinx of a womanizing private eye (Fredric March), a dopey detective (Ralph Bellamy), and the developing romances involved. Bellamy is a highpoint, but the film is stolen by Ann Sothern, who at the time had failed to connect at either Colombia or RKO. Reportedly, this film brought Sothern to MGM’s attention, which would lead to her casting in the Maisie series.

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