Jan 4, 2009

A Guy Named Joe

Van Johnson, Irene Dunne, and Spencer Tracy star in a WW II melodrama written by Dalton Trumbo.

I’ve seen Tender Comrade and Spartacus, both also scripted by Trumbo. Trumbo was one of the Hollywood 10 who was jailed for refusing to cooperate with HUAC. Trumbo did manage to get left wing messages in his movies. In Tender Comrades there’s an implicit condemnation of a girl who prays before going to bed, and a character, a refugee working as a cook, and who is probably Jewish, gets upset over two pounds of bacon. Not because it’s not kosher, but because it’s hoarding. In Spartacus all of the slaves are noble and good, while the Romans are bisexual, corrupt, and venal. That script overlooks the atrocities committed by the slaves. In A Guy Named Joe there’s a pretty little speech about the future. Now you can get away with making speeches about the future because you can wrap your beliefs around that sort of thing. But if you listen carefully, the future is used as a source of the things that will be achieved. Underlying it is a subtext that goes like this “We must eradicate the kulaks, so that in the future all will have bread to eat.”

Okay, now that I’ve dissed Trumbo, is the movie worth seeing? Yes, as a romance, although some parts, such as Irene Dunne getting into a fighter plane and attacking a Jap base by herself, strain credulity.