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On March 18, 1942, Paramount unveiled Cecil B. DeMille’s high seas adventure movie Reap the Wild Wind in Los Angeles. The film went on to earn three nominations at the 15th Academy Awards ceremony, winning in the special effects category — presumably for the giant squid attack prominently featured in the marketing. The Hollywood Reporter’s original review, headlined “‘Reap the Wild Wind’ Big in Spectacle and Box Office,” is below.
Cecil Blount DeMille, in celebration of his 30th anniversary in pictures, turns to a swashbuckling sea spectacle lavishly splashed in Technicolor. His production and direction of Reap the Wild Wind, from Thelma Strabel’s Saturday Evening Post novel, may well be treasured as the last such lush spectacle moviegoers are likely to see until the end of the war. The show, on a grand DeMille scale, is technically magnificent and will earn many times its cost at the nation’s box offices. Released as a special on the Paramount schedule, the feature has many canny showmanship angles in the best of DeMille traditions.
The giant squid sequence that climaxes the action is purely Jules Verne in its pulling power for kids of all ages. Men in the audience are given opportunity to gaze upon the charms of Paulette Goddard and headstrong Susan Hayward; the feminine portions thrilled by the heroics of Ray Milland and John Wayne. Melodramatics are ably taken care of by the contingent headed by Raymond Massey, Robert Preston, Charles Bickford and Victor Kilian, the comic interludes by the priceless Lynne Overman and the lovable Louise Beavers. Don’t you ever say DeMille short-changed you. He has packed everything into a film that runs more than two hours.
Yet it is technically that the trade will mainly discuss Reap the Wild Wind. A studied effort has been made in the photography by Victor Milner and William V. Skall to play upon contrasting moods by varying color combinations, in which respects they are enormously aided by the art direction of Hans Dreier and Roland Anderson, the Technicolor direction by Natalie Kalmus, and the special photographic effects by Gordon Jennings, W. L. Pereira and Farciot Edouart. It is a great job of underwater photography that Dewey Wrigley brings to the surface, and there is credit to Arthur Rosson for second unit direction. Striking costumes by Natalie Visart, a strong musical score by Victor Young that never intrudes, sound recording under difficulties by Harry Lindgren and John Cope, and the editing by Anne Bauchens are fulsome credits that DeMille gladly gives their due.
The screenplay brings into collaboration Alan LeMay, Charles Bennett and Jesse Lasky Jr., and the proven abilities of William H. Pine are called upon as associate producer. The script harks back to the days of open piracy along Key West. Salvage businesses such as the one conducted by Loxi Claiborne might have thrived, were not the King Cutler boats first at the scene of the wrecks. This gives rise to the suspicion that Cutler has some working knowledge of when the wrecks are scheduled to occur. Loxi, self-willed miss, rescues Captain Jack Stuart from a watery grave, falls in love with him a bit too suddenly, and goes in his behalf to plead with Steve Tolliver that the captain be given another command. Steve find Loxi desirable, follows her to the Keys, and from then on, it is principally action melodrama that breaks the Cutler salvage racket. The dialog is so salty as to be occasionally almost beyond understanding, yet the only really salty characterization to emerge is the grand work of Lynne Overman as Cap’n Phil.
Miss Goddard is Loxi, Miss Hayward her tragic cousin Drusilla, yet both actresses are far overshadowed by the vigor of Milland as Steve and John Wayne as Captain Jack. Massey and Preston are the heavy Cutler brothers, Bickford a shanghaiing expert and Kilian a double-crossing mate. You’ll find Louise Beavers as the scolding Maum Maria a joy among the colored players, which include Oscar Polk and Ben Carter. Walter Hampden has a bit, as do Elisabeth Risdon, Hedda Hopper and Janet Beecher. There are flashes of a number of old timers in conformation to DeMille’s practice of using as many pioneers as possible in his productions. — Staff review, originally published March 19, 1942.
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