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Four Men and a Prayer (1938) - directed by John Ford

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MissGoddess
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Four Men and a Prayer (1938) - directed by John Ford

Postby MissGoddess » March 22nd, 2008, 10:50 am

I had the pleasure of watching a rollicking "studio" film by Pappy/Zanuck: FOUR MEN AND PRAYER. It feels in its setting some kinship to other Anglo/Exotic adventures of the period, like Gunga Din and The Four Feathers, but is far less known (I only heard of it through books on Pappy that only mention it in passing).

It was very entertaining and I enjoyed myself with this amusing and exciting diversion. If you know where to look and you enjoy a good 'treasure hunt' as I do, you can find "Fordian" moments in even the most seemingly studio-manufactured production.

The premise of the movie is that the gallant miliatry man C.Aubrey Smith has been framed and kicked out of the service nefariously and it's up to his four sons (Richard Green, William Henry, David Niven and Georgie Porgie Sanders) to find out what's behind it and clear their father's name. The adventure takes them all over the globe and along for the ride is radiant Loretta Young, who quite honestly never seemed so spunky and energetic as she is here. I also noticed a few suspiciously ravishing close-ups, which makes me think a director had a crush. David is given plenty of opportunities to be charming, flirtatious and amusing (his three chief talents) and the business with the "Donald Mouse" voice is one of the wackiest things I've ever seen, especially in the context of an adventure! (I also think it's bemusing that Ford chooses not to explain what the heck they are doing it for. Sanders' expression when he witnesses this absurdity is worth "the price of admission").

It's fun, beautifully photographed---in fact, the cinematography is gorgeous and the production values quite high so I don't quite understand why it's so little known. I think it's also quite startling in its violence---I wasn't prepared for one particularly brutal massacre and Loretta deserves credit for her realistically horrified reactions. It's perplexing though, how quickly she got over it. I guess she was her father's daughter alright.

The topic of (illegal) international arms smuggling is still with us and it's interesting to see it developing in this context and time. It's intelligently handled, though of course "carefully" so.

Richard Greene is very handsome but I think he is the one cast member who holds things back a bit; no emotional expressiveness at all. But here's a delight! I actually saw George Sanders get emotional in a movie! And I also got to see him stripped to the waist and what a great physique he had at this time---yuuuuuuuuuuuuuuummmmmmy!

It's a good Saturday Matinee movie, made a little better than it would have been by a great director and an enthusiastic cast.

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Postby moira finnie » March 22nd, 2008, 1:01 pm

It's a good Saturday Matinee movie, made a little better than it would have been by a great director and an enthusiastic cast.

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A "good Saturday Matinee movie"--that's a perfect description of this film. I agree that as lovely as Richard "Dimples" Greene always was to see, he didn't have much range. I liked David Niven very much in this film too. It's as though he was warming up for his great, endearing role as Errol Flynn's compatriot and mischief maker in The Dawn Patrol. Niven, as you probably know, was taken under the wing of Loretta Young's family when he first arrived in Hollywood without a dime, (he actually lived at their house for a time as an unpaid boarder). I suspect that Niven may have been one of those people who could get ol' Gretchen (Young's real name, said to have been used by all who knew her well) to unbend and have fun. While I agree that Young looked her "usual" seraphically beautiful self here, I had the impression that the screenwriters and director lost interest in her after establishing that she had alot of spunk, she's sort of sidelined.

Btw, according to the McBride and Eyman bios, Ford did not think much of this movie, but liked being a "working director" not one like his friend Lewis Milestone, whom he admired, but who Ford believed fussed too much over the script. The great director just kept this ball rolling along at breakneck speed during the entire running time, preventing viewers from analyzing the non-existent logic of the story too much. I bet Ford liked the idea of warning audiences about nefarious arms syndicates in this prelude to the war.

Say, if you think that George Sanders is pleasant to look at in this film, please find the recent dvd of Son of Fury, which also shows Mr. Sanders' in all his hubba-hubbaness. Sanders is, unfortunately a malefactor in this one, but holy cats, was he built or what? Oh, yeah, some guy named Tyrone Power isn't too hard on the eyes in that one either, (not to mention two of the greatest distaff beauties ever, Frances Farmer & Gene Tierney). I do prefer it when GS is allowed to be a more heroic figure rather than a baddie.

Speaking of Ms. Young, you might be interested to know that Man's Castle (1933), the Frank Borzage movie that we've discussed here before, is being shown on TCM on 6/30 at 10am eastern time!! This is great news.
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Postby MissGoddess » March 22nd, 2008, 2:12 pm

I thought it was interesting that Young's character was the one that provided the necessary information and contacts to the boys' investigation not once, but a few times. Definitely not the usual girl waiting in the wings role. And she still got to dress in couture. :wink:

Son of Fury has been a movie I truly enjoy for ages and I bought the Ty Power swashie set last year. George is great, though his character is thoroughly scoundrelish. I thought his part in 4M&aP was refreshingly straightforward. He proved himself a capable and adaptable actor, incredibly, if one is to take his oft professed disdain for the whole business of acting seriously. I love the guy, he was divinely full of contradictions, full of himself.

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Re: Four Men and a Prayer (1938) - directed by John Ford

Postby ken123 » July 4th, 2010, 1:21 pm

" Merchants of Death " aka " The Military - Industrial Complex " is alive & well. :(

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Re: Four Men and a Prayer (1938) - directed by John Ford

Postby knitwit45 » July 4th, 2010, 3:10 pm

ken123 wrote:" Merchants of Death " aka " The Military - Industrial Complex " is alive & well. :(


what does that have to do with Four Men and a Prayer?

focus, Ken, focus!!! :D :D

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ken123
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Re: Four Men and a Prayer (1938) - directed by John Ford

Postby ken123 » July 4th, 2010, 3:12 pm

Isnt the Four Men & a Prayer about Merchants or is that some other Ford film that starred Loretta Young circa 1939 ?

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Re: Four Men and a Prayer (1938) - directed by John Ford

Postby ken123 » July 4th, 2010, 3:19 pm

Four Men and a Prayer DOES deal with a conspiracy by the munitions industry, as a major sub plot. Please check it out ! www.imdb.com.title/tt030150/plotsummery

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ken123
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Re: Four Men and a Prayer (1938) - directed by John Ford

Postby ken123 » July 4th, 2010, 3:29 pm

Also please see Moiras review of this film and you will see that the arms syndicate is clearly mentioned, its just about four threads up.

feaito

Re: Four Men and a Prayer (1938) - directed by John Ford

Postby feaito » August 8th, 2010, 9:35 pm

April,

Your views on the film pretty much reflect my own; while not one of Ford's masterpieces it's definitely a very entertaining adventure film (à la "Beau Geste", "Gunga Din" and "Four Feathers") and it has beautiful cinematography. Richard Greene is indeed the weakest of the leading actors and Loretta is very lively and lovely to look at; she's got oomph here! She's something to behold wearing that black evening gown in the midst of a Revolution! And it was fine to see George Sanders playing a lightweight character for a change!

The print I watched was sharp and pristine (a Spanish Zone 2 DVD Release) and it was fun to see Barry Fitzgerald and Lina Basquette (The Godless Girl) -playing an exotic Indian girl- in small roles.

It's unfair that this fine film is not better known....and yes the "Donald Mouse" stuff going on between David Niven and Alan Hale's butler, kept me guessing.....so offbeat!

feaito

Re: Four Men and a Prayer (1938) - directed by John Ford

Postby feaito » August 10th, 2010, 9:47 pm

I plan to show this great adventure film to my parents because I know they are going to enjoy it immensely!


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