The Spanish Civil War was never a popular subject to begin with for Hollywood, but in 1943 two films would come about it. The first was Paramount's big budget For Whom The Bell Tolls and the second made for considerably less was The Fallen Sparrow about a veteran of that conflict's and the quest after him.
Before just membership in the Abraham Lincoln Brigade blacklisted you from all kinds of places after, people returned after the loss of the war by the Republic to the Falangists without any of the problems that John Garfield faces in The Fallen Sparrow. But it seems as though Garfield managed to cop a battle flag from some old European house that is in sympathy with the Nazis. Believe it or not, Adolph Hitler is going through some really unbelievable lengths to get it back.
Maybe if Garfield had some secret chemical formula stashed somewhere I might have gotten the plot of this film. But for the life of me if it weren't for Garfield's strong performance as a veteran who underwent all kinds of sophisticated torture, the film would have been laughable. So while the plot premise was ridiculous, Garfield's performance anticipates by several years other films about brainwashing techniques on prisoners and the readjustment to civilian life which Garfield never quite makes.
In any event back from the Spanish Civil War and before America gets into World War II, Garfield finds himself involved with some strange foreign refugee types as he goes looking for the murderer of a New York City cop and pal of his who arranged his escape from the clutches of the new Falangist government under Francisco Franco. The most sinister of them and he usually is in these films is Walter Slezak.
In her memoirs Maureen O'Hara said that Garfield was a delightful person to work with even though she was far from sympathetic with his politics. She had no hesitation in labeling him a Communist. In point of fact Garfield was a strong New Deal Democrat who in his years growing up poor and later in the Group Theater made some friends who unashamedly were Communists. They called people like him 'fellow travelers' back in those old bad old days.
The Fallen Sparrow would have been a lot better film had it been given a stronger plot premise.
25 out of 30 found this helpful