9 July 2005 | Bunuel1976
Tiger Shark (1932) ***
I had once taped this one off Italian TV (during a lengthy Howard Hawks season of films shown in English but with Italian subtitles) but my VCR developed a fault and the recording was subsequently unwatchable! I sure am glad to have caught up with it now
First of all, Edward G. Robinson is the whole show here: his portrayal of the central character, a Portuguese fisherman who sees himself as the best in the business and speaks in amiable broken English (his catchphrase is: "Absolutely indeed") is first-rate and it was also quite funny to watch him sporting an earring. The plot is predictable enough (a woman comes between two best friends and the situation is resolved through tragedy) but that may be because the same elements were recycled so many times, even by Warner Bros. themselves, over the years: SLIM (1937), THE WAGONS ROLL AT NIGHT (1941), Raoul Walsh's MANPOWER (1941; with Marlene Dietrich coming between Edward G. Robinson and George Raft), etc.
Even more importantly, however, the imprint of director Howard Hawks is all over it: the vivid recreation of a man's world, the bonds which grow stronger through the everyday adversity which that entails, the invasion of a woman into this enclosed world which sets about the inevitable tragedy, etc. In fact, the brotherly (or even father-son) relationship seen here between Robinson and his younger protégée, Richard Arlen, is reprised in many another Hawks film Pat O'Brien and James Cagney in CEILING ZERO (1935), Thomas Mitchell and Cary Grant in ONLY ANGELS HAVE WINGS (1939), Walter Brennan and Humphrey Bogart in TO HAVE AND HAVE NOT (1944), John Wayne and Dean Martin in RIO BRAVO (1959), etc; the unceremonious intrusion of the female character onto a perfectly ordered way of life is also seen enacted by Katharine Hepburn in BRINGING UP BABY (1938), Jean Arthur in ONLY ANGELS HAVE WINGS, Barbara Stanwyck in BALL OF FIRE (1941), Lauren Bacall in TO HAVE AND HAVE NOT, Joanne Dru in RED RIVER (1948), Margaret Sheridan in THE THING FROM ANOTHER WORLD (1951), Angie Dickinson in RIO BRAVO, Elsa Martinelli in HATARI! (1962) and Paula Prentiss in MAN'S FAVORITE SPORT? (1964); early on, the "boys" in TIGER SHARK are gathered around drinking and singing to their hearts' content a similar instance occurs also in ONLY ANGELS HAVE WINGS, RIO BRAVO and HATARI! Besides Robinson's performance and the fascinating early look at the Hawksian themes elaborated on more fully in his later films, TIGER SHARK is also notable for its exciting fishing sequences especially the rather grisly (for their time) shark attacks; the scene where Robinson loses his hand to one of the marauding beasts is particularly effective.
Actually, this viewing of TIGER SHARK has reminded me of several notable films which Robinson appeared in around the same time but with which I'm not all that familiar having watched them only once years ago, namely TWO SECONDS (1932), THE MAN WITH TWO FACES (1934), John Ford's THE WHOLE TOWN'S TALIKING (1935), Hawks' own BARBARY COAST (1935), THE LAST GANGSTER (1937), A SLIGHT CASE OF MURDER (1938), THE AMAZING DR. CLITTERHOUSE (1938), CONFESSIONS OF A NAZI SPY (1939), THE SEA WOLF (1941) and MANPOWER!