DUST BE MY DESTINY (director: Lewis Seiler; screenwriters: Robert Rossen/novel by Jerome Odlum; cinematographer: James Wong Howe; editor: Warren Low; music: Max Steiner; cast:John Garfield (Joe Bell), Priscilla Lane (Mabel Alden), Alan Hale (Mike Leonard), Frank McHugh (Caruthers), Billy Halop (Hank), Bobby Jordan (Jimmy), Charley Grapewin (Pop), Henry Armetta (Nick), Stanley Ridges (Charlie), John Litel (Prosecutor), Moroni Olsen (Slim Jones), Victor Kilian (Doc Saunders), William Davidson (Warden); Runtime: 88; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Louis F. Edelman; WB; 1939)
“The trite script greatly benefits from the star power of John Garfield, who plays the perfect role for him–an alienated, wise guy drifter.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
A Warner Brothers standard programmer social justice pic, adapted from Jerome Odlum’s novel and written by Robert Rossen. The trite script greatly benefits from the star power of John Garfield, who plays the perfect role for him–an alienated, wise guy drifter. Lewis Seiler (“Charlie Chan in Paris”/”the Smiling Ghost”/”Guadalcanal Diary”) directs with expediency.
The embittered and cynical young adult Joe Bell (John Garfield) gets pardoned from prison after serving sixteen months for a burglary he didn’t commit. Riding the trains as a tramp he’s brought to court as a vagrant and sentenced to labor at the Rosedale Country Work Farm. Joe’s foreman is the screwy cruel drunk Charlie (Stanley Ridges), who assigns him to the rock pile when he spots Joe with his pretty stepdaughter Mabel (Priscilla Lane). She feels sorry for him and goes to the superintendent, who transfers him to a soft job. The two fall in love, but Charlie goes ape when he sees them together and gets into fight with Joe. The couple flee the work farm and get married, and then they learn Charlie died and Joe is wanted for his murder. A manhunt ensues, as no one takes into account the prison boss died from a weak heart. The downhearted and untrusting Joe receives aid from good guy newspaper editor Mike Leonard (Alan Hale) and after some far-fetched heroics of Joe with ruthless bank robbers, everything turns out honky-dory.
The routine pic is hardly interesting but catching Garfield, as the fiery innocent in action when in a jam, outweighs yawning at the pic’s moralistic theme of a life on the run is no life at all and that it’s best to trust that the justice system will eventually work for even the lowest member of society.
REVIEWED ON 3/28/2014 GRADE: B-
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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