GIRL OF THE PORT
(director: Bert Glennon; screenwriter: Beulah Marie Dix/from the story The Firewalker by John Russell; cinematographer: Leo Tover; editor: Arthur Roberts; music: Roy Webb; cast: Sally O’Neill (Josie), Reginald Sharland (Jim), Mitchell Lewis (McEwen), Gerald Barry (Cruce), Arthur Clayton (Burke), Duke Kahanamoku (Kalita), Barrie O’Daniels (Blair), Renee Macready (Enid), John Webb Dillon (Cole), Hugh Crumplin (Wade), William Burt (Toady), Donald MacKenzie (MacDougal); Runtime: 69; MPAA Rating: NR; producer; William LeBarron: RKO/TCM; 1930-B/W)
“Early talkie that’s too melodramatic, its dialogue is stilted and its main characters are all one-dimensional.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
The American filmmaker Bert Glennon(“Paradise Island”/”In Line of Duty”), known for his cinema craftsmanship, directs this early talkie that’s too melodramatic, its dialogue is stilted and its main characters are all one-dimensional. It’s a frenetic island romance adventure film, that’s enjoyable despite being so flawed. Girl of the Port is based on the 1929 short story by John Russell called The Firewalker that was published in Far Wandering Men. The exotic drama is written by Beulah Marie Dix.
On the Fiji island of Suva, the wisecracking and feisty showgirl from Brooklyn Josie (Sally O’Neill) is stranded. One of the locals, Kalita (Duke Kahanamoku), takes her in his wheel-barrow to the rough-house MacDougal’s bar, where she lands a job as a bar-maid hoping to make enough for passage home. She meets there the rummy Englishman Jim (Reginald Sharland), who unbeknownst to her is a decorated war hero from World War I. He is haunted by his fear of fire. During the battle at Flanders, the Germans attacked with flame-throwers and killed everyone in his army unit with fire but him, their captain leader. He has since become an alcoholic with deep psychological issues.
The richest and meanest man on the island is a detestable jerk named McEwen (Mitchell Lewis). He’s a half-caste posing as a bigoted white man, who advocates white supremacy. McEwen develops a hatred for Jim and bullies him. Josie, who has a heart of gold, can’t stand the cruel way he’s belittled by McEwen, so she lets live in her apartment where she tries to keep him sober and to recover from his bad war experience.
Spoiler in next paragraph.
McEwen calls Jim a coward for not fighting him. Thereby Jim tries to escape by going to the nearby Benga Island. One night while watching the natives in their fire-walking ritual, he meditates on achieving mind over matter and when he reaches that stage he thinks he has overcome his fear of fire. Jim then succeeds following the natives walking over the fire. He’s soon joined by Josie and three upper-class Brit Navy men arriving on their own boat, who were searching all over for the aristocrat they call Sir James. The now fully recovered war vet asks the flabbergasted Josie to marry him and she happily accepts.
REVIEWED ON 6/4/2022 GRADE: C+