SON OF FURY(director: John Cromwell; screenwriters: from the novel “Benjamin Blake” by Edison Marshall/Philip Dunne; cinematographer: Arthur C. Miller; editor: Walter Thompson; music: Alfred Newman; cast: Tyrone Power (Benjamin Blake), George Sanders (Sir Arthur Blake), Frances Farmer (Isabel), Roddy McDowall (Benjamin as a boy), Gene Tierney (Eve), John Carradine (Caleb Green), Elsa Lanchester (Bristol Isabel), Harry Davenport (Amos Kidder), Dudley Digges (Bartholomew Pratt), Arthur Hohl (Captain Greenough); Runtime: 98; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Darryl F. Zanuck; Twentieth Century-Fox; 1942)
“Crisply told 18th century ‘boys adventure tale’.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Crisply told 18th century ‘boys adventure tale.’ It’s inspired by Edison Marshall’s novel “Benjamin Blake” and is written by Philip Dunne. Under the assured direction of John Cromwell (“Victory”/”The Prisoner of Zenda”/”The Racket”) the period costume film, set in England and the South Seas, moves along at a brisk pace. It was remade as Treasure of the Golden Condor (1953).
The tall tale tells about Bristol, England resident Benjamin Blake (Tyrone Power) cheated out of his rightful inheritance to be a duke by his deceased father Godfrey’s scheming brother Sir Arthur Blake (George Sanders). It seems there’s no proof that his dad married, since he lived in Bombay, India. The young Ben (Roddy McDowall) is snatched from his kindly commoner gunsmith grandfather Amos Kidder (Harry Davenport), whose deceased daughter Bessie ran away with Ben’s father to India, by a legal writ obtained by Sir Arthur from the court. Ben is raised without the family name as a bonded servant and is assigned to be the stable boy for Sir Arthur’s estate, who takes pleasure in mistreating the lad. While working as a lowly groom Ben falls in love with his beautiful cousin Isabel (Frances Farmer), Arthur’s scheming yet lovely daughter, and when caught by her dad together receives a severe thrashing by whip. When Ben grows up, he openly feuds with his mean-spirited uncle and because of this violation of law against a nobleman faces execution. But he flees with the help of the local prostitute, also named Isabel (Elsa Lanchester), and learns that Sir Arthur has his grandfather arrested and he will not be released unless he pays a fine of 40 pounds. Ben becomes a stowaway on the tramp steamer the Tropic Star and vows to become rich and return to England to seek restitution and free his grandfather. Aboard the Tropic Star he befriends debtor seaman Caleb Green (John Carradine), who fills his head with stories about valuable pearls on an undiscovered South Seas island as told to him by Spanish sailors and maneuvers the steamer off course until it comes near that Polynesian island. The two seamen jump ship and the native chief accepts them as friendly guests. The men collect a fortune by diving for oyster pearls and wait for a passing ship to return to civilization as wealthy men. In the meantime Ben meets a guileless pure-hearted native beauty he names Eve (Gene Tierney) and falls in love in this tropical paradise.
After years living on this paradise a Dutch ship sails nearby, and Caleb chooses to remain while the kindly Eve sends Benjamin off with her blessing. In London, Ben hires with his fortune the influential solicitor Bartholomew Pratt (Dudley Digges) to reclaim his birthright and get his former criminal charges dropped. Benjamin visits Isabel, who betrays him to the king’s soldiers despite her assurances that she still loves him. Ben has already paid off his grandfather’s fine and freed him, but now must stand trial for his former charges. In the nick of time Pratt comes through, and Ben’s title is restored and he’s set free. With that, Ben leaves his wealth to his grandfather and sails back to Eve in paradise.
REVIEWED ON 2/3/2009 GRADE: B-
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
© ALL RIGHTS RESERVED DENNIS SCHWARTZ