24 February 2009 | Michael_Elliott
Guy Named Joe, A (1943)
*** (out of 4)
Well-acted drama has a hot shot pilot (Spencer Tracy) getting killed during a WW2 battle leaving his fiancé (Irene Dunne) all alone. The dead pilot eventually comes back as a ghost to help a young pilot (Van Johnson) but soon his morals come into question when the young man starts dating his fiancé. This here seems to remain a popular movie considering how many times Turner Classic Movies plays it a year. The same can't be said for the Steven Spielberg remake, Always, which seems to have already been forgotten as one of the director's minor works. This film here is certainly sappy and predictable but the wonderful cast makes it very entertaining to watch even though the running time is a tad bit long. Tracy leads the way with a very touching performance that lets the actor show off various emotions ranging from anger to sweetness to even some nice comic tones. Tracy was also great at playing the tough guy with a heart and this here is no exception. Dunne is good in her role but I was surprised to see how blandly written it was. She basically just sits around (or stands) waiting for one of the men to come up to her and considering how star level at the time it's rather shocking to see her role not juiced up a bit. Johnson steals the film as the new pilot who mirrors Tracy's character too much. The naive innocence Johnson brings to the role is quite memorable. Lionel Barrymore, James Gleason and Ward Bond all offer up nice support. Barry Nelson and Esther Williams have small roles as well. The are a few battle scenes, which look extremely well including the main battle at the middle of the film when Tracy gets killed. The aerial footage was well shot and manages to be quite dramatic as well. The cinematography is another plus as is the music score. Again, the main problem tends to be in the screenplay, which really doesn't allow for too many surprises and that includes the ending, which isn't believable and really comes off rather silly. The great cast makes it worth watching though.