21 February 2011 | pitcairn89
A pleasant surprise
I echo what a number of other reviewers have said about this film, that they were pleasantly surprised by it. Most of the books about Flynn pan the film, and put it on the list with his lesser- quality pictures. It may not be in the top rank with his swashbucklers, but it really isn't a bad film at all. He gives a fine performance, and shows what a good actor he was, in just about any role he tackled. I like the fact that it isn't an action film, as we get to see what he could do in a different kind of part. I think he carries it off very well. He still gets to be the handsome rogue (with a piano instead of a sword), but also shows that his character is deeper than that, and has some real sensitivity for his lady friend and her baby. Some reviewers say that he was miscast, but I don't agree. A handsome, charming guy like Flynn is just what the part demands. A flirtatious character, but one with some deeper feelings, too. That could almost be a definition of the real Errol Flynn. Flynn succeeds with a difficult task here- making a selfish cad somewhat likable. You find yourself rooting for Sebastian in spite of yourself.
It's nice seeing Flynn work with his real-life friend, Ida Lupino. Flynn, Lupino, and director Raoul Walsh reportedly spent a lot of time together, and were very close pals. In fact, Ida and her mother Connie (who also loved Flynn) are buried right next to Flynn in Forest Lawn Cemetery in Glendale, California. One gets the feeling that Ida always loved Errol, and, in an alternate universe, you wonder if they might have gotten married, or had some kind of long-term relationship. Flynn was a wanderer, though, so perhaps that wouldn't have worked out so well. Anyway, they play well together, and you sense that they really liked each other.
Gig Young and Eleanor Parker are also very good in this film. Both were excellent actors, though their later roles perhaps provided them with more range than this film does. As in all Old Hollywood movies, this one is chock full of great character actors. Reginald Denny, Frank Reicher, Anthony Caruso, Albert Bassermann, Doris Lloyd, Leonard Mudie, and many others. Reicher is one of my favorites, in all kinds of films. I think he is best remembered as the captain of the ship "Venture" in King Kong. Caruso was great, too, and should have had a bigger career. He always projected sincerity and believability.
I'm guessing Flynn had some coaching on the piano for this. There is at least one shot where you can see his hands on the ivories. Most of the other scenes show him from behind. Films have always been good at faking the playing of musical instruments, as it had to look good and seem believable. Pianists might poke holes in what looks like Flynn really playing, but it looks pretty good to me.
Anyway, this film is worth a look. It shows that Flynn's talents really did go beyond playing the swashbuckler. All of us fans have always known that, but it might be an eye-opener for some people. Supposedly, the bad reviews for this film, and for his performance, upset him greatly. Many think that the criticisms of his acting, combined with the effects of his rape trial, and inability to serve in the military during the war, led to the downward spiral his life soon took. If you look at him just two or three years after he made this film, he looks ten years older. Everyone knows how it all finally played out. But here, he still seems young and full of life. And he has a perfect partner in Ida Lupino, who was always good in these kinds of dramas. It's too bad they didn't make more films together.