28 February 2015 | AlsExGal
Somewhat like a bad imitation of a John Ford movie
It is circa 1900 in Cuba, and after quickly winning the Spanish American war, the American military is finding more casualties and danger in the mysterious "Yellow Jack" or Yellow Fever than it ever found in the easily dispatched Spanish troops. There are multiple theories as to what causes the disease, and Walter Reed (Lewis Stone), a group of physicians, and a group of ordinary soldiers are set to the task of determining the actual cause.
The dialogue that is written for the ordinary enlisted men which is supposed to demonstrate camaraderie, personal dreams, personal fears - the kind of scenes that John Ford excelled at directing - is just awful. It drifts between boring and silly, especially the lines Buddy Ebsen is stuck with. Among the soldiers is Irish American John O'Hara (Robert Montgomery), in probably one of the worst roles MGM ever gave him.I wonder who exactly thought that Robert Montgomery playing this role with an Irish Brogue was a good idea?
For some reason absolutely beyond me, O'Hara is just mad about nurse Frances Blake (Virginia Bruce). Granted, O'Hara's approach is not at all smooth nor conscientious, but nurse Blake is just plain awful to the guy. When she's not being condescending to John O'Hara, she's trying to use her feminine wiles to get him to volunteer for what could possibly be a deadly experiment in such an obvious way that even the rather thick O'Hara gets that she did not decide to meet him in the moonlight because she suddenly found him irresistible.
When O'Hara does volunteer for Reed's experiment on the cause of Yellow Jack, Nurse Blake probably makes him wish he would die of the disease just so he wouldn't have to listen to her droning speeches and pontificating that are supposed to be encouragement and flattery?? He probably liked her better when she didn't like him, because she talked less! So what's good about this movie? Lewis Stone as Walter Reed, and believe it or not, I really liked Virginia Bruce here. MGM often cast her as demure likable girls, and she really has me disliking her here, so her performance was good and showed she had range as an actress, it was just a bad role. Also, although everyone has probably heard about Walter Reed, this film tells you his role in eliminating a common killer that was a problem not just in Cuba, but in the U.S. southern states until the cause was found.
Probably worth it just for the historical angle.