7 July 2008 | ksf-2
Early Spencer Tracy in Panama spy thriller
M. G. opens in a restaurant somewhere in France, with the sound of people singing. Then Marie Galante (K Gallian) on a bicycle rushing off somewhere.... Lots of people speaking French, and the ship captain gets a telegram in English, with lots of orders. The movie has been playing for two minutes and i'm already lost, although it might be my own fault for forgetting so much of my high school francais. It turns out the ship cast off while she was still aboard. More francais spoken. Then we're somewhere in central America, according to the title card, and we meet Dr. Crawbett (Spencer Tracy), Plosser the nightclub owner played by the great but sarcastic Ned Sparks (ya GOTTA see him in The Bride Walks Out 1936 - Hilarious!), spies, and various other suspicious people. According to Marie, (Ketti Gallian), she just wants to get back to her homeland. Crawbett and someone who MUST be a spy are sorting out the people in the nightclub, and that is the beginning of the story. Galante ends up going in search of a Frenchman who may or may not be able to help her get home. The screenplay and acting are quite competent, but the lighting is spotty and poor at times. When the camera pans around Marie Galante's room, it zooms past posters and things that would be helpful and interesting to be able to see. It appears Gallian's film career fizzled, while Tracy's bloomed and took off. Sharp viewers will also spot Sig Ruman, who plays Brogard. He had made A Day at the Races and A Night at the Opera with the Marx Brothers. The spy plot and "foreign" locations (including the Panama Canal, whether or not we are really there...) make this an interesting, exotic story, while we try to figure out who are the good guys, and who are the bad guys.