Monday, September 21, 2009

Up the River (John Ford) *

Director: John Ford

Cast: Humphrey Bogart, Spencer Tracy, Claire Luce, Warren Hymer

Story: Steve (Bogart) and Judy (Luce) are former inmates trying to make it on the outside. When they are blackmailed by someone who wants to pull a job, their convict friends Saint Louis (Tracy) and Dannemora Dan (Hymer) break out of prison to help.

Background: This was the first major feature length films for Bogart and Tracy. Ford was a very active director in the silent era, but had yet to really show his full potential.

Thoughts: It's amazing how much talent went into a movie that is just painfully awful in every single way. Ford had made some decent silent films at this point, but he was not ready for the talkies. The editing is just miserable, with jump cuts all over the place that don't make sense. A young, fresh faced Bogart certainly has some appeal here, and the film seems to be going for a nice, pleasant charm, but without any laughs it is patently boring. This one is a misfire for everyone involved.

Postscript: Ford, Bogart, and Tracy would all go on to become Hollywood legends. Tracy and Ford would work together again almost 28 years later in The Last Hurrah and then 4 years after that in How the West Was Won.

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