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Monday, June 11, 2018

Ty Is Done For The Duration

Crash Dive and Technicolor Go Deep

There was a USC instructor I bonded with in summer 1975 over shared reminiscence of a scene in Crash Dive where Tyrone Power and Dana Andrews dig into fruits, vegetables, milk, and lots of butter after a sub mission in the North Atlantic. Where the prof and I parted was how/when we’d seen Crash Dive, me on UHF broadcasts in a dorm room, him at first-run shortly after Power donned Marine uniform and checked out of movies for an interminable (for fans) three years. I’d nominate Crash Dive among immortals for that dining scene alone. Ty and Dana are just back to New London (location shots abound) from “clean sweep” disposal of a German freighter. They repair to sun lamps for restore of a “Palm Springs” tan, then it’s straight to the Officer’s Club for bountiful produce they’ve missed for those weeks undersea. Never has a movie made dairy look so good. Power wraps a chunk of butter large as a billiard ball in white bread, and then down the hatch. Crash Dive is a celebration of fresh food to make us appreciate proximity to super markets where such stuff can be easily got. For 1943 patronage laboring under ration points, Crash Dive was a banquet the stuff of dreams. Anne Baxter as romantic partner never looks so good to Ty as that pitcher of cow, and butter-butter sandwich. It is this portion of Crash Dive that scores highest today (maybe then too), but add Technicolor, below-surface fx (Academy recognized), and Power coming off more as stalker than sweetheart, and you’ll have a 40’s vivid enough to, among other things, illustrate man-woman politics incorrect now to the nines.

We may presume that Tyrone Power offscreen was more chased than chasing. Crash Dive, however, has him in ardent and persistent pursuit of Anne Baxter, lately off The Magnificent Ambersons and draped to matronly affect in wartime fashion that in this instance does not wear well. They meet when train-traveling Ty mistakes her lower berth for his own. From there, Power does pretty much a stalk on Baxter, following her on the train, to her hotel suite, finally to her place of employment, a girl’s school where he ignores a ban on male consorts. Crash Dive challenges the notion of no means no. It was acknowledged that servicemen would need fast push to make closer acquaintance of females, access and opportunity fleeting things in wartime. Women probably made allowance for approaches on a street, soldiers far from home at times pathetic in their bids for attention. It seemed somehow unpatriotic to turn down a man in uniform. At least movies made it appear so. The Human Comedy, also 1943, had three girls welcoming attentions of combatants on leave, an OK pick-up in view of circumstance. What pushiness Tyrone Power applies in Crash Dive was norm at the time, at least by Hollywood reckoning. Was the same behavior as common in real life? Did Crash Dive encourage young men to be obnoxious at courtship? Tyrone Power was obviously an idol for women, a role model perhaps for men (they would in any case envy his success re romance). Crash Dive scores for exhibit of attitudes put in question since or altogether discredited. Conditions at the time were unique, wrong then-wrong now too hasty a brand to burn onto Crash Dive. Suffice to say it is rich in gender grenades lots more potent for present-day toss than would have been when Power got mass audience endorsement for his coyote chase after Baxter.

Was ever an allied submarine sunk in a war-made movie? We suffered depth charges but never succumbed to them. It would have been unthinkable for a US sub to go down with all hands. German craft did so, and often, personnel drowning aboard and screaming against onrush of water. Inherent danger of the undersea branch is never addressed in Crash Dive, nor is casualty rate of twenty percent which made this a most dangerous duty in the US military. The Germans had it worse, a 75% loss rate. Against this statistic, depth-men Power and commanding officer Dana Andrews could credibly whip the enemy without so much as a pinhole in their craft. Games of possum on the ocean floor outwit the Germans each time, and I had to wonder if real-life warriors used such tricks to advantage, or did U-Boats entertain and instruct crews with confiscated prints of Crash Dive on-board? Again there is U.S. personnel returned to serve from the last war, James Gleason aboard to expiate guilt for chickening out on a WWI cruise where all his comrades died. Having played sick then, he will redeem the white feather twenty-five years later by helping blow up a German shore installation, making the expected supreme sacrifice. World War Two was, among other things, an opportunity for such unresolved issues to be ironed out. Were wars fought largely to put right what had been bungled before? Many recruits could engage two scraps if birth-dates qualified them for both (and later, Korea as encore after WWII, and even Vietnam for a triple in a few instances). The past century gave plentiful chance at courage testing and remove of yellow stains, at least as movies saw it. Crash Dive stood for all such men getting their second chance.

Crash Dive and Destination Tokyo were made a year apart and cut from same cloth. In both instance, our subs sneak into perfect spots to knock out bases from which seeming whole of German and Japanese navies operate. Set-pieces like these, wisely saved for a third act, gave crowds vicarious joy of wasting entire shores of opposition shipping, paybacks for Pearl Harbor and then some. We’d not cheer in front of our televisions as patronage did in 1943-44, but then we didn’t need the hypo like they did. One thing sure: Explosions would not be put to such promiscuous use again until numbing action cycles took hold in the 80’s (or was it sooner?). Wholesale annihilation of the enemy became not just desirable, but essential. Newsreels would not, could not, present death close-up, but fiction of a Tyrone Power and commandos raining fire on massive German installations gave distance the Production Code and Office Of War Information could permit. Shackles were off screen violence to at least some extent once we realized pretend combat had to keep pace with headlines and increased losses overseas. This could not be a sanitized war we were fighting.


Blogger DBenson said...

Been digging through some old cartoon collections to find a remembered postwar magazine gag: First panels show a soldier whistling at women on the street. He's rewarded with a smile each time. He steps into a tailor shop and emerges in a civilian suit. He whistles at a woman. She slaps him with some force.

A few others showed accelerated romance on the home front: One shows a sailor talking on a pay phone while a girl in full bridal gown waits. He says, "Mom, okay if I bring a friend home for dinner?". Another shows an older couple noticing a girl snuggling with a soldier on park bench. The older woman says, "I hope someone else's daughter is being as nice to our son".

2:40 PM  
Blogger Reg Hartt said...

Don't assume that because Tyrone Power was good looking he was more chased than chasing. Many a good looking guy has found women afraid to approach him because he is so good looking. Men tend to think physical beauty is what attracts women however when we look at pictures of men throughout the ages who had real charisma few of them were "beauties." You guys who think you are out of the running 'cause you don't look like a movie or TV actor should not be in such a hurry to dismiss yourself. Real sexiness in both men and women comes from a strong sense of self plus a sense of humor. For example George Bernard Shaw (not a looker by any means) was approached by an actress who said to him, "Imagine a child with your brains and my looks," to which Shaw replied, "Imagine a child with your brains and my looks." Aldous Huxley (again no Tyrone Power when it came to looks) liked women, lots of women. He married lesbians 'cause they liked women too (and were better at getting rid of them after). The movies and television have created a very false picture of sexual attraction which leaves too many men and women thinking they are out of the running just as some people thought themselves not part of the Pepsi generation. Why would anyone want to be part of that? Truth is, many did want to be part of the Pepsi generation.

5:45 AM  
Blogger radiotelefonia said...

For war films, I like this particular compilation of documentary footage of the battle of the Marne. I replaced the original soundtrack with the tango inspired by the events.

12:48 PM  
Blogger Kevin K. said...

Using leading men as role models for wooing women never works unless you possess the identical looks, charm, and writers. And even then, after a certain age, most women get bored with trying to live the fantasy and wind up preferring the real thing.

My writing professor in college served in the same battle unit as Tyrone Power. When asked if it was true if rumors about Powers' sexuality were true, he shrugged and said, "He didn't seem homosexual to me." Make of that what you will.

12:48 PM  
Blogger stinky fitzwizzle said...

From what Stinky has heard, he agrees that Power was more chased in the hibbedy-jibbedy department, not because of his good looks, but because of his charm and his passive and compliant nature.

Stinky can also attest that many women have been afraid to approach him because of his extreme good looks. That is his story and he is sticking to it.

3:56 PM  
Blogger Mr. White said...

FXM Retro showed Crash Dive this morning (6/13). What impressed me the most was the quality of the print, especialy compared to the third generation dupe of Sherlock Holmes Faces Death) TCM had on at the same time. Seriously, who is running that channel now?

11:37 AM  
Blogger Beowulf said...

A friend of mine and I play a series of movie trivia games with each other. We still cannot reconcile ourselves to the fact that TP died at the age of 44. There is something about his career that seemingly belies that short span of life. Did he start making films as a fetus? The Wolf, man.

1:44 PM  

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