22 November 2006 | bkoganbing
The Fury of Nature
It took John Ford another 18 years to get back to the south seas as a film location after his award winning The Hurricane. He had an incomplete trip with Mister Roberts in 1955, but then made it back for Donovan's Reef in 1963.
Both The Hurricane and Donovan's Reef deal with racism and have as their settings, French colonial possessions in the south Pacific. Of course Donovan's Reef takes a far more light hearted approach. In both films Ford feels that colonialism is at best a mixed blessing for the native populace.
Jon Hall is a happy and content resident of the small island of Manakoora with a new wife. He's a sailor by trade, first mate on a ship captained by Jerome Cowan. While in Tahiti he defends himself in a barroom brawl, but gets sentenced for assault because he struck a white man. An obnoxious lout with political influence. His lot is made worse with repeated attempts to escape adding time on his sentence and all kinds of torture, physical and psychological, by a cruel guard played by John Carradine.
Meanwhile back on Manakoora wife Dorothy Lamour gives birth to a child and Hall becomes something of a native folk hero. That's most unsettling to the Governor Raymond Massey. Massey is one uptight dude with a lot of issues. He says he's defending the law, but he knows he's defending the concept of white supremacy and that fact isn't escaping any of his peers including his own wife Mary Astor.
Thomas Mitchell got nominated for his performance as a doctor with a bit of a thirst problem on Manakoora. A decent man, he's revolted by a lot of what he sees. As is C. Aubrey Smith the priest. Both Mitchell and Smith take comfort where they can, Mitchell in booze, Smith in his Catholic faith. Mitchell lost to Joseph Schildkraut for Best Supporting Actor, but two years later won with essentially the same role in Stagecoach.
The Hurricane won the very first Oscar given out for Special Effects and the hurricane which should have been called a typhoon in that part of the world even today is something to see. You will not forget the fury of nature that destroys C. Aubrey Smith's church. This ain't your Wizard of Oz type storm.