It’s been a little while since I’ve updated everyone on my journey in discovering my favorite actor’s filmography. When I initially started this column, I had intended on reviewing each film of Ty’s fully in separate posts as I crossed each new-to-me movie off of my list. I started doing this by killing two birds with one stone with Alexander’s Ragtime Band (1938), which I reviewed in January for The Made in 1938 Blogathon hosted by Crystal of In the Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood and Robin of Pop Culture Reverie. I had a wonderful time writing about Tyrone Power’s performance in that film and I could certainly go on and on about each of Ty’s pictures that I discover, but I soon came to the realization that if I wrote a lengthy post about each movie I watched, I would likely feel less motivated and ultimately watch fewer films before the year is out. So, I’ve decided to instead update you all monthly by reviewing and compiling all of Tyrone’s movies that I’ve seen over the previous month, starting now with the two Tyrone Power films that I discovered in February!
Crash Dive (1943)
Crash Dive (1943) sheds some light on the life of Lieutenant Ward Stewart (Tyrone Power), a Navy officer who’s taken from the position that he adores, commanding swift and surreptitious PT boats, and placed on a much slower and larger submarine under the authority of Lieutenant Commander Dewey Connors (Dana Andrews). It’s obvious that Ward enjoys living life in the fast lane, and doesn’t see the point of even having submarines in the war. He finds distraction from his troubles not only in becoming Dewey’s crony, but also in romancing the alluring schoolteacher Jean Hewlett (Anne Baxter), who continuously rejects his smooth advances during her field trip to the nation’s capital with her honor students. Once he helps save her trip, she begins to let her walls come down and the two fall in love, but little does Ward know that Jean is engaged to none other than Dewey, now not only his best friend, but also his superior. When Ward and Dewey leave Jean to face their most dangerous mission yet in the south Pacific, will they work it out and decide who gets the girl, or will it take one of them not coming home to make Jean’s decision for her?
This film was near the top of my Tyrone Power watchlist for a variety of reasons. For one thing, this was the last picture that Ty would make in Hollywood before joining the war effort himself, enlisting in the U.S. Marine Corps in August of 1942. His vast flight experience before entering the military allowed him to quickly rise up to the rank of First Lieutenant, but the Corps considered Ty too old for active combat duty, so in February of 1945 he became a part of one of the most daring aspects of the war outside of the front lines: the Marine Transport Squadron (VMR)-353, where he flew in necessary supplies to the Battles of Iwo Jima and Okinawa and flew out wounded soldiers. From there, Power returned to the US in November of 1945, and was released from active duty in January 1946. Crash Dive (1943) was released while he was in active duty on April 22, 1943, and it’s the only film of his that gives him screen credit with his name along with his title, “Tyrone Power, U.S.M.C.R.” (United States Marine Corps Reserve), and the movie served its purpose in recruiting countless men for the Allied cause.
After his return from the war, it was clear that his days as a charming and youthful romantic lead were over, and from that point forward, he was given more dramatic and adventurous roles that were rougher around the edges. In addition to how special Crash Dive (1943) is in relation to Ty’s life and military service, this was also only his third Technicolor picture after Blood and Sand (1941) and The Black Swan (1942). As fascinating as it was, as always, to see Power in the glorious full scope of color, I was actually more astonished at seeing Dana Andrews that way. I had only seen him in black and white, and because I’m most familiar with his work as an iconic noir actor, the contrast is quite definite here. The film, like many made around the same time whose purpose was to advertise the benefits of enlisting, is cheesy to the core, but I admired it immensely. I think Power, Baxter, and Andrews all give some great work here, especially Andrews who probably smiles in this film more than all of his others combined. When I think of preachy World War II pictures starring Tyrone Power, I have to admit that I prefer This Above All (1942), but this is one of my favorite films about the Naval forces that I’ve seen.
Girls’ Dormitory (1936)
Let’s all be honest with ourselves: Tyrone Power is barely in this movie despite its inclusion in the Tyrone Power Matinee Idol Collection, what I consider to be the supreme compilation of Ty’s work on DVD so far. I decided to give it a try not only because I own the collection (of course) and had never taken the time to watch the film, but also because I was already aware of just how miniscule his part was and initially wanted to get Girls’ Dormitory (1936) out of the way so I could spend the rest of the year focusing more on Power’s leading roles. In reality, despite Ty’s lack of screen time the film turned out to be better than I could have ever imagined. In Simone Simon’s American film debut she portrays Marie Claudel, an eighteen-year-old student who’s just shy of graduating from Switzerland’s esteemed Montreaux School for Girls. As soon as we’re introduced to her character, it’s glaringly obvious that she has a crush on her professor, Dr. Stephen Dominick (Herbert Marshall). Stephen, on the other hand, is oblivious not only to Marie’s feelings, but also to those of another of Marie’s teachers and Stephen’s colleague Anna Mathe (Ruth Chatterton), who’s known him for years and is co-authoring a textbook with him.
Marie spends as much time with Stephen as she can, even asking him to dance during a school outing to the fair, much to the shock of Stephen and the rest of the staff. He refuses her invitation on the spot, and in her disappointment and embarrassment she flees and misses the bus back to school. Her infatuation for him culminates in a private romantic letter that she writes detailing an imaginary rendezvous between the two of them, though she doesn’t specify him by name. This letter is fished out of the trash bin by the uptight Professor Wimmer (Constance Collier), who immediately insinuates that what took place in the letter actually occurred between Marie and a nameless beau during her time away from the group at the fair. After an inquisition from the school’s staff, Marie takes Anna aside and reveals that the note was a fantasy about Stephen, but a few of the more conservative teachers still demand Marie’s expulsion only two days before she’s set to graduate. Fearing the shame that the scandal will bring to her invalid mother who had previously graduated from the school, Marie attempts to jump from a cliff, but Stephen saves her and brings her in from the rain to a nearby cabin, where she admits her love for him and explains that he was the subject of her letter.
I’ve seen my fair share of media involving a student’s infatuation with her teacher. In every case that I’ve viewed, the student forgets their crush and the teacher finds romance with someone more similar in age. That’s precisely the direction that I assumed this picture would follow as well, especially after Anna was offered as an admirable adult alternative for Stephen’s affections. I actually spent the majority of the movie feeling sorry for Marie because she was so devoted to Stephen, and because a case was made that they could be a great couple due to their similar interests and emotional connection. That’s why I was absolutely floored when I watched him reciprocate her feelings, and when I witnessed the pair ultimately end up together! It was undoubtedly one of the most shocking turn of events that I’ve seen in a classic film for quite some time, but I have to admit that I adore this movie for that reason, though normally I could see why this would repulse modern audiences. It’s a problematic ending for sure, but I admire how a film of this time could really test its limits, even after the enforcement of the Production Code. Where does Ty fit into all of this, you might ask? Unfortunately he only steals a couple of brief moments as he plays Marie’s cousin, who attends her graduation towards the end of the film. His part is so fleeting that this could definitely not be considered a “Tyrone Power” picture, but as unpopular of an opinion as this might be, I will definitely be seeing Girls’ Dormitory (1936) again.
As of this update, I’ve now watched these twenty-eight Tyrone Power movies:
- Girls’ Dormitory (1936)
- Lloyds of London (1936)
- Love is News (1937)
- Thin Ice (1937)
- Cafe Metropole (1937)
- Alexander’s Ragtime Band (1938)
- Marie Antoinette (1938)
- Jesse James (1939)
- Rose of Washington Square (1939)
- The Rains Came (1939)
- Day-Time Wife (1939)
- Johnny Apollo (1940)
- The Mark of Zorro (1940)
- Blood and Sand (1941)
- A Yank in the RAF (1941)
- Son of Fury: The Story of Benjamin Blake (1942)
- This Above All (1942)
- The Black Swan (1942)
- Crash Dive (1943)
- The Razor’s Edge (1946)
- Nightmare Alley (1947)
- Captain from Castile (1947)
- The Luck of the Irish (1948)
- The Black Rose (1950)
- I’ll Never Forget You (1951)
- The Eddy Duchin Story (1956)
- Abandon Ship! (1957)
- Witness for the Prosecution (1957)
Let me know if there’s a Tyrone Power movie that you’d like me to watch next! See you in April with next month’s update!