Friday, March 6, 2009

A Girl in Every Port (Howard Hawks) ***1/2

Director: Howard Hawks

Cast: Victor MacLaglen, Robert Armstrong, Louise Brooks

Background: Not much is available on the making of this one. Howard Hawks was a relatively new filmmaker at this point, with only 4 films under his belt, and none of them were particularly noteworthy. MacLaglen was out to prove he could be a leading man, as he'd played mostly supporting roles up to this point.

Story: Spike (Victor MacLaglen) is a sailor with a gift for seducing women in any port. Soon he finds that another sailor (Robert Armstrong) is beating him to the punch. They start to feud, but then quickly become buddies. Their newfound friendship is tested when Spike falls for Marie (Louise Brooks), a diver he meets in France.

Thoughts: Now this one was a blast. It's a classic guy's movie, featuring a couple of rough and rowdy sailors who like to drink and get into numerous barroom brawls. Both of the leads are great fun to watch, but it's Victor MacLagen as the oafish Spike that is the most endearing. He's able to pull off the double act of seeming like a guy's guy, but also has endearing childlike qualities that really make him a winning character. The third act of this film revolves around Spike's interest in a diver played by Louise Brooks. I've already found Brooks to have a captivating and unique screen presence for this era, so her appearance here was certainly welcome. This early Hawks picture showcases his ability to do fast paced comedy and stage rousing action sequences, both of which would be trademarks of his later films. This is the most purely amusing silent film I've seen outside of the traditional comic silents of Chaplin, Lloyd, and Keaton.

Postscript: Not much is available on the financial success of the film, but it did help Louise Brooks land her seminal role in Pandora's Box. MacLaglen would later win an Oscar for his role in 1935's The Informer and make many appearances in John Ford films. (Including one I will be reviewing shortly, 1928's Hangman's House.) Hawks of course became a Hollywood legend by directing classics such as Bringing Up Baby, His Girl Friday, and Seargent York.

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