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Fair Wind to Java (1953);
Flame of Barbary Coast (1945)

Fair Wind to Java (1953)
August 2, 2006 - 7:30 pm

Preservation funded by The Film Foundation and Robert B. Sturm

Fair Wind to Java (1953)

Directed by Joseph Kane

What would a Hollywood South Seas adventure be without the cultural-historical gaffes, racial stereotyping and plot improbabilities to spice up the recipe of romancing and action in an exotic locale? This postwar Republic Pictures production—directed with B-movie proficiency by the studio's mainstay and western specialist Joseph Kane—delivers on all counts.

Fred MacMurray—ever the versatile leading man, here about midpoint between his cynical insurance adjuster of Double Indemnity (1944) and the TV paterfamilias of My Three Sons (1960-1972)—plays Captain Boll, an up-by-the-bootstraps American commanding the scrappy crew of the sailing ship, Gerrymander. The year is 1883, and Boll is plying the waters off the island of Java, trying to steer free of the law (the Dutch enforcing their colonial monopoly on trade) and pirate lawlessness. (Standing in for the Dutch East Indies [present-day Indonesia] is Hila, Hawaii and Point Dume in Malibu.)

While in pursuit of a hidden trove of diamonds, Boll rescues Kim Kim (Vera Ralston), a Eurasian beauty with a secret all the movie's men are after. The wife of Republic studio chief Herbert J Yates and an ice-skater in her native Czechoslovakia, Ralston slinks through Fair Wind in sarong-clad glamour, and—as Martin Scorsese, a fan of the movie, has reportedly noted—"did everything in the same accent. Czechoslovakian."

There's plenty of manly brawling, briskly paced, from an attempted mutiny and pirate attacks to an escape from an island prison. A pretend Javanese dance sequence and Ralston's frequent costume changes provide the sole feminine diversions. Then in the climactic special effects spectacular, Krakatua erupts, unleashing a tsunami. All this matinee fun and more is now restored in Trucolor.

–Cheng-Sim Lim

Republic Pictures Corp. Producer: Herbert J Yates Screenwriter: Robert Tregaskis Based on the novel "Fair Wind to Java" by Garland Roark Cinematographer: Jack Marta Art Directors: Frank Arrigo. Frank Hotaling (uncredited). Asoka (uncredited) Editor: Richard L. Van Enger Music: Victor Young Special Effects: Howard Lydecker. Theodore Lydecker Cast: Fred MacMurray, Vera Ralston. Robert Douglas. John Russell. Victor McLaglen

35mm. color. 92 min.

Preserved in cooperation with Paramount Pictures from a 35mm acetate Eastman Color interpositive and from a set of 35mm acetate separation master positives. Laboratory services by YCM Laboratories. Special thanks to: Bany Allen.

Preceded by:

Preservation funded by The Stanford Theatre Foundation

News of the Day, Vol. 24, No. 251 (2/20/53)

Featured stories: President Eisenhower meets with Adlai Stevenson, holds first press conference; gay climax to New Orleans Mardi Gras.

35mm, 7 min.

Preserved from a 35mm acetate composite dupe negative. Laboratory services by Film Technology Company, Inc. Special thanks to: King Features. Ted Troll.

Preservation funded by the American Film Institute/National Endowment for the Arts Film Preservation Grants Program

Flame of Barbary Coast (1945)

Directed by Joseph Kane

Republic Pictures was created in 1935 out of the merger of three Poverty Row movie studios: Monogram, Liberty and Mascot. During its first decade, the fledgling studio was best-known for its low-budget serials and B-westerns. Republic's first star was John Wayne, who made a string of westerns there in the late '30s. Most of these were directed by Joseph Kane, who also worked with Gene Autry and Roy Rogers.

As Republic approached the end of its first decade, priorities shifted to more A-pictures with bigger stars and larger budgets. The studio opted for a reunion of actor and director when it re-teamed Kane and Wayne in Flame of Barbary Coast. which Republic announced as its "Tenth Anniversary Film." The film also introduced an important screenwriter of westerns: Borden Chase. Flame is one of the first screen credits for Chase, who would go on to write Red River and several of Anthony Mann's classic westerns.

Wayne plays a cowboy who comes to the wild and woolly Barbary Coast and falls for a singer (Ann Dvorak). The singer in turn loves Tito Morell (Joseph Schildkraut), who runs the casino and nightclub where she sings. This love triangle fuels the dramatic tension in a film that builds to a doozy of a climax. (Hint: the setting is 1906 San Francisco.) Schildkraut got the most praise in contemporary reviews, and his likeably smooth villain still steals the show today with the help of Chase's snappy dialogue.

–David Pendleton

Republic Pictures Corp. Screenwriter: Borden Chase Cinematographer: Robert DeGrasse Art Director: Gano Chittenden Editor: Richard L. Van Enger Cast: John Wayne, Ann Dvorak, Joseph Schildkraut. Wil liam Frawley, Virginia Grey

35mm, 91 min.

Preserved in cooperation with National Telefilm Associates, Inc. from the 35mm original nitrate picture and track negatives and from a 35mm nitrate composite fine grain master positive. Laboratory services by Film Technology Company, Inc.