Sunday, February 13, 2011

'Out of the Fog' Not a Night to Remember

The fog machine on the Warners Brother lot must have worked overtime for “Out of the Fog,” an enjoyable if not always successful 1941 drama set along the New York waterfront.

Based upon an Irwin Shaw play “The Gentle People,” the film centers on racketeer Harold Goff (John Garfield), who bullies the waterfront folks into pay $5 per week for protection for their boats. His latest victims are Jonah (Thomas Mitchell) and Olaf (John Qualen).

Meanwhile, Jonah’s beautiful daughter Stella (Ida Lupino) is sick and tired of her predictable life, including both her job at the telephone company and her sweet yet dull boyfriend George (Eddie Albert). She’s attracted to the dangerous excitement that Goff projects and begins to secretly date him (both are pictured below), even after Jonah discovers the romance and tries to warn his daughter.

This is where the movie stumbles. The screenplay is co-written by Robert Rossen, who would go on to make some hard-hitting dramas as “All the King’s Men.” It’s also directed by Anatole Litvak, so it’s surprising that the film goes awry. If Garfield succeeds in making Goff loud and obnoxious, he fails to allow the audience to see any charm that would attract and keep Stella. She seems like a smart girl, but it’s so obvious what this guy is about. The fact that he’s different from her perceived dull life may be enough for the initial attraction. But is she really that weak or dim-witted? I don’t think so. She adores her father, and she has brains, so the fact that she insists upon this relationship with Goff and not someone else who can whisk her away doesn’t fly except that the story needs this to be so. Without seeing Goff’s charm – regardless of whether it’s real or not – it’s hard for the audience to identify with Stella, which is crucial for the film to work.


So the focus really turns to Olaf and Jonah, the latter hatching a scheme after Goff tries to shake the duo down for their life savings. Yet while the local cop would love to take down Goff, Jonah remains oddly silent at times. This makes no sense, either, except that the story needs this to be so.

What does work is the ensemble cast. Mitchell is best, with veteran character actors Qualen and George Tobias working well. The wonderful Aline MacMahon plays Stella’s mom, but I get the feeling her part may be larger in the play, as the movie shows her overbearing nature in a few scenes and little more, which is a waste of MacMahon’s talent.

There’s so much promise in “Out of the Fog.” Considering Warner Brothers’ reputation for atmospheric, hard-edged stories, my expectations were probably set too high. I enjoyed many moments of the film, but as a whole “Fog” lacks conviction.

8 comments:

  1. Nice review! I agree, the cast was fabulous (as well as Litvak's direction), but I didn't like Garfield's character at all. I thought he was charming in the beginning; much more interesting than her original boyfriend, but then he lost me when I couldn’t see any redeeming qualities.

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  2. Classifilmboy,

    Your title had me laughing!

    Although I'm a big fan of Lupino and Eddie Albert's early work (Roman Holiday comes to mind) I have never been a huge fan of Garfield. With that being said this film needed your subtle wit to give it the review it was due!

    Your write ups are always a fun read. And I may have to borrow the description 'dim witted' for my future reviews as I seem to choose films where that description applies perfectly. : )

    Page

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  3. It's been years since I've seen it, and don't remember much of it, but I do remember thinking the same thing you brought up in your review. What does she see in this guy?

    Still, I'll happily watch John Garfield in anything and look forward to seeing this one again.

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  4. Hi Jean, Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment! Hope to see you again soon.

    Hi Page, glad you enjoyed it. Read below for my admission of a faux pas in the review :)

    Hey Kevin, I do in general like John Garfield, but it was too much in this film.

    OK, folks, here's my fun faux pas in this review, which I've since corrected: Lately when I watch a movie, I have my laptop handy and take notes while watching the film. It makes it easier to write the review later. Anyway, if I can't remember a name, I'll substitute the actors name -- but for whatever reason in this review, I kept calling Garfield's character "Gimpy." I thought I had stripped all of the "Gimpy's" out and replaced them with "Goff," but I just found two "Gimpy's" and have since deleted them. :) I think Gimpy's a better name, perhaps??

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  5. Gimpy may describe this character better since he is so unpleasant! LOL. I am a John Garfield admirer, but this did not showcase him at all. Ida Lupino is always luminescent, and she is one of my favorite actresses. I will say that the idea of a woman picking a man about whom everyone else says "What does she see in him" is not unusual for the female sex! I really enjoyed your take on this film.

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  6. Thank you! I kept thinking Garfield's performance would have been great in a harder-hitting gangster drama rather than in this.

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  7. I have not seen this film noir yet. I love both actors, so I will put it on the top of my "gotta see list" of films.

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  8. When you see it, let me know what you think of it!

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