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  • This largely forgotten short, which features a very young Sheldon Leonard as a "man of mystery" was recently released on DVD as an additional feature for the film "Operation Tokyo". The package says it is a "wartime short", but that is not true, for "Gem of the Ocean" was made years before the war started. It is surprisingly entertaining, though "dated". What is remarkable are the marvelous art deco sets of the several production numbers. If you like the Busby Berkeley films, you will love this one!
  • The Gem of the Ocean (1934)

    ** (out of 4)

    Two-reeler from Warner/Vitaphone has a French woman (Jeanne Aubert) being blackmailed on board an ocean liner by a man (Sheldon Leonard) who wants a valuable jewel that she owns. The man plans to get the jewel away from the woman because her brother is in trouble with the law but also on the ride she finds love. THE GEM OF THE OCEAN really isn't a very good movie but there are enough interesting moments to make it worth viewing by film buffs who enjoy watching these rare films when they pop up on Turner Classic Movies. I think the main appeal of this is going to be those wanting to see Leonard in an early role. Most will remember him as playing Nick in IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE and he's pretty good here playing a character you really wouldn't expect to see him play. Aubert isn't too bad in the lead, although she's really not given too much to work with and the love story things just never add up. The mystery of what the brother did or didn't do never add up either for that matter. I was a little surprised to see a couple musical numbers thrown in because they really don't mix too well with the "story" trying to be told. Both numbers are pretty forgettable musically but visually there's an interesting one that takes place on the ocean floor.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Made in 1934 and issued as an "extra" feature on the DVD for "Destination Tokyo," this is a short feature. Several musical numbers are wrapped around a kind of "drama" -- not to be taken seriously -- about a French woman trying to help her brother out of a jam. Sheldon Leonard, in one of the most remarkable Turkish accents ever imposed over working-class Brooklyn phones, is the Pasha who urges the French lady to give him his ring in return for his help.

    I was unable to watch until the end. The suspense was too gripping. Somewhere near what I judged to be the middle, I suffered a serious cerebrovascular accident and today, as a result, I am only able to speak one single word over and over -- and that in a language I don't understand. I think it's Inuit.

    The two songs that I managed to get through lack anything of value. What I mean is that they haven't been entered into the Great American Songbook. The dances, though, aren't bad. A dozen dames in slacks and sailor hats to some neat steps. They're photographed simply, from eye level, without the maddeningly surrealistic effects of Busby Berkeley. I enjoyed the dance but to tell the truth I kind of missed the overhead shots of unfolding chrysanthema too.

    Overall, it's strictly B-movie fare, made at a time when there was no television to serve as an alternative visual medium. If you wanted to see moving pictures, you went to a moving picture theater. It was probably a joy for the audience because the shorts weren't routinely advertised, only the two features. So, when the titles pop up, the viewers probably kvelled because they were getting something unexpected for free, a kind of present. And we don't want to denigrate easy rushes like that. They're hard to come by.
  • Not that it would have been all that much better but The Gem Of The Ocean had it just been presented as a short musical revue would have been improved remarkably had they jettisoned the so called plot. I truly did not understand what was going on other than Sheldon Leonard in his second screen role was blackmailing French singer Jeanne Aubert over something involving her brother. Not sure how, but his plans are foiled over the course of this 22 minute short subject.

    Some forgettable songs by some forgettable performers are featured in this film. Leonard whose New York City speech pattern would become unmistakable makes him recognizable even under that false beard. The film just doesn't cut it with music and less with plot. And Sheldon Leonard is the only person you'll recognize.

    Despite that he had a successful career both acting and later producing.