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A Movie A Day: THE REAL GLORY (1939)
Fact is you're afraid to live. That's much worse than being afraid to die.

Ahoy, squirts! Quint here with today’s installment of A Movie A Day. [For those now joining us, A Movie A Day is my attempt at filling in gaps in my film knowledge. My DVD collection is thousands strong, many of them films I haven’t seen yet, but picked up as I scoured used DVD stores. Each day I’ll pull a previously unseen film from my collection and discuss it here. Each movie will have some sort of connection to the one before it, be it cast or crew member.] We jump from an ailing, dubbed and a year from death David Niven in yesterday’s 1982 TRAIL OF THE PINK PANTHER to today’s young, fully voiced and energetic Niven for today’s AMAD, 1939’s THE REAL GLORY.

Set in the Philippines in 1906 this flick tells a story that has echoed throughout history and is especially loud in today’s political climate. You have an American outfit protecting the inhabitants of a key island from radical extremists living in the forest, using their violent reputation and customs to “terrorize” the people of this country. They are held at bay by the Americans there, but the time has come for the higher ups to decide if they will stay indefinitely or if the locals have been trained thoroughly enough to exit without there being a bloodbath. The film opens with arguments on boths sides, but the decision is made to pull out the main military, leaving only a small group of dedicated soldiers to train the local army. Among these men is Dr. Canavan, played by Gary Cooper, to keep them alive. You also have David Niven whose character goes by the completely awesome and appropriate name of Liet. McCool.

If you’re wondering why Niven’s playing an American soldier, you won’t be the first. He’s British through and through. So is Reginald Owen, playing the strict and proper Captain Hartley. Neither men could be more British in demeanor or attitude and the movie never addresses this, so you either roll with it or don’t. I did and dug the hell out of this flick. It’s part war story, part adventure story and part romance. Gary Cooper is all aw shucks charm, but with an Indiana Jones-like adventurous spirit to back it up. He takes on a commander as scared as the locals, trying to get him to see sense, that there’s a problem that no amount of drilling will overcome. They’re scared and until you can remove that fear, they’ll never be able to defend themselves. Cooper and his mates go out of their way to nip that problem in the bud, which causes a lot of friction with Captain Hartley. Hartley’s daughter, Linda (played by Andrea Leeds) is brought into the picture and there’s a subplot involving our three heroes (Cooper, Niven and Broderick Crawford) try to woo her. It’s a little out of place and feels tacked on to me.

Now, it did add some humor to the movie, which I liked, but the romance never went anywhere and Leeds’ character is about as boring as she can be. She doesn’t stand up to her father, she doesn’t stand up FOR her father, she has no real reason to be in the story other to have a pretty face for Cooper to kiss. The villains, a tribe called the Moro (who later became allies of the US during WW2, interestingly enough), are pretty black and white baddies, but a very interesting element is just kind of glossed over in the film. Many of the local tribesmen are Moro, but aren’t affiliated with those in the jungle sending in assassins to pick the Americans off one by one, paving the way for their slaughter of the natives.

It would have been really interesting to focus more on those who were Moro, but opposed the radical element of their beliefs in the jungle. Cooper’s boy-servant is as close as we get to exploring that element. The second half of the film has the Moro damming the river, causing Cholera to sweep through the town, which forces our guys to leave their fortified camp in order to destroy the dam and get running water back to the people. This is the adventure side of the movie and my favorite part. Cooper dons a bandolier of shotgun shells and grabs ol’ shotty to head into the jungle, complete with adventurer hat and attire. There’s a great chase scene where Cooper is being pursued by angry Moros across a flimsy rope bridge. They aren’t “movie chase” far away, but right on his ass. In one long shot, Cooper gets to the end of the rope bridge (still standing on it, by the way), turns, fires his shotgun down, obliterating it, sending it falling apart and the Moros down into the ravine below. In one long lens shot. The final attack on the fort is classic, too, if only for the use of dynamite. You don’t want to mess with Gary Cooper with a pocketful of dynamite, my friends. Henry Hathaway (TRUE GRIT and upcoming AMAD Kiss of Death) directed this flick and his work is fine, but I’d like to point out the cinematographer, one Rudolph Mate. Mate’s work is very good in the film and he also has some roots in this column, having directed one of my favorites of the 100+ we’ve covered so far, D.O.A. It’s fascinating to see his work in this context, at least it is for me. Final Thoughts: If this film were a little more well known, we would have seen a remake already. There’s enough political parallels to make it feel important and enough swaggering adventure to make it fun. If they had made Andrea Leeds more than just “woman in movie” it would be pretty damn near perfect for a fun little adventure tale. The siege at the end is really epic, a lot more so than I expected. When the Moros whipped out the human catapults I was completely taken. The final product is a damn, damn good movie that didn’t come close to losing my attention.

The schedule for the next 7 days is: Wednesday, September 17th: THE WINNING OF BARBARA WORTH (1926) Thursday, September 18th: THE COWBOY AND THE LADY (1938) Friday, September 19th: DAKOTA (1945) Saturday, September 20th: RED RIVER (1948) Sunday, September 21st: INDISCRETION OF AN AMERICAN HOUSEWIFE/TERMINAL STATION (1954) Monday, September 22nd: THE SEARCH (1948) Tuesday, September 23rd: ACT OF VIOLENCE (1948) Tomorrow we follow Gary Cooper back some 13 years to one of his first leading roles in 1926’s silent western THE WINNING OF BARBARA WORTH, directed by Henry King. See you folks then! -Quint

Previous Movies: June 2nd: Harper
June 3rd: The Drowning Pool
June 4th: Papillon
June 5th: Gun Crazy
June 6th: Never So Few
June 7th: A Hole In The Head
June 8th: Some Came Running
June 9th: Rio Bravo
June 10th: Point Blank
June 11th: Pocket Money
June 12th: Cool Hand Luke
June 13th: The Asphalt Jungle
June 14th: Clash By Night
June 15th: Scarlet Street
June 16th: Killer Bait (aka Too Late For Tears)
June 17th: Robinson Crusoe On Mars
June 18th: City For Conquest
June 19th: San Quentin
June 20th: 42nd Street
June 21st: Dames
June 22nd: Gold Diggers of 1935
June 23rd: Murder, My Sweet
June 24th: Born To Kill
June 25th: The Sound of Music
June 26th: Torn Curtain
June 27th: The Left Handed Gun
June 28th: Caligula
June 29th: The Elephant Man
June 30th: The Good Father
July 1st: Shock Treatment
July 2nd: Flashback
July 3rd: Klute
July 4th: On Golden Pond
July 5th: The Cowboys
July 6th: The Alamo
July 7th: Sands of Iwo Jima
July 8th: Wake of the Red Witch
July 9th: D.O.A.
July 10th: Shadow of A Doubt
July 11th: The Matchmaker
July 12th: The Black Hole
July 13th: Vengeance Is Mine
July 14th: Strange Invaders
July 15th: Sleuth
July 16th: Frenzy
July 17th: Kingdom of Heaven: The Director’s Cut
July 18th: Cadillac Man
July 19th: The Sure Thing
July 20th: Moving Violations
July 21st: Meatballs
July 22nd: Cast a Giant Shadow
July 23rd: Out of the Past
July 24th: The Big Steal
July 25th: Where Danger Lives
July 26th: Crossfire
July 27th: Ricco, The Mean Machine
July 28th: In Harm’s Way
July 29th: Firecreek
July 30th: The Cheyenne Social Club
July 31st: The Man Who Knew Too Much
August 1st: The Spirit of St. Louis
August 2nd: Von Ryan’s Express
August 3rd: Can-Can
August 4th: Desperate Characters
August 5th: The Possession of Joel Delaney
August 6th: Quackser Fortune Has A Cousin In The Bronx
August 7th: Start the Revolution Without Me
August 8th: Hell Is A City
August 9th: The Pied Piper
August 10th: Partners
August 11th: Barry Lyndon
August 12th: The Skull
August 13th: The Hellfire Club
August 14th: Blood of the Vampire
August 15th: Terror of the Tongs
August 16th: Pirates of Blood River
August 17th: The Devil-Ship Pirates
August 18th: Jess Franco’s Count Dracula
August 19th: Dracula A.D. 1972
August 20th: The Stranglers of Bombay
August 21st: Man, Woman & Child
August 22nd: The Little Girl Who Lives Down The Lane
August 23rd: The Young Philadelphians
August 24th: The Rack
August 25th: Until They Sail
August 26th: Somebody Up There Likes Me
August 27th: The Set-Up
August 28th: The Devil & Daniel Webster
August 29th: Cat People
August 30th: The Curse of the Cat People
August 31st: The 7th Victim
September 1st: The Ghost Ship
September 2nd: Isle of the Dead
September 3rd: Bedlam
September 4th: Black Sabbath
September 5th: Black Sunday
September 6th: Twitch of the Death Nerve
September 7th: Tragic Ceremony
September 8th: Lisa & The Devil
September 9th: Baron Blood
September 10th: A Shot In The Dark
September 11th: The Pink Panther
September 12th: The Return of the Pink Panther
September 13th: The Pink Panther Strikes Again
September 14th: Revenge of the Pink Panther
September 15th: Trail of the Pink Panther

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