Son Of Fury Directed by John Cromwell. Costume Romance. The heir to a great English estate vows to take his rightful place presently occupied by a selfish Uncle. 94 mintues Black and White 1942.
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In those days, the male stars were more beautiful than the female stars, but the female stars were better actors. Joel Macrea, John Wayne, John Payne, Cary Grant, Henry Fonda, Clark Gable were gorgeous guys, and the most gorgeous of all was Tyrone Power. His looks were black Irish with Garbo-long eyelashes – along the lines of George Clooney, except Power, of course, was better looking. Clooney has one advantage over Power in that Clooney is now alive and Power is not, which means that Power is no longer seen as sexually attractive by those who grew up with him in the 30s, people whose sexual development is simultaneous with his own. It’s what makes a star and keeps a star a star. In Power’s case, he also had talent, but, because of his scripts, it was banked – right into Zanuck’s account, for Power was the biggest star at Fox. Zanuck assigned him role after role the same. You can see the responsibility a superstar of that era had to meet by the dumbing down of their range, while George Sanders and Dudley Digges especially savor the scenery. Diggs really has a good time; playing a mercenary lawyer, he gobbles up the camera like roast beef and Yorkshire pudding. In the scene Power has the want; Digges want is to deflect the want, but just imagine what Digges comes on with in this scene. Sits behind a desk the whole time, and plays, not a particular action or want, but rather a way of life, all-powerful and impressed by nothing. What a perfect choice to make to play the key moment in the scene. And later on, to make his entrance into court and dress himself in court. Also check out George Sanders’ opening moment when he has to oblige a ruthless close-up to tell us that his long-lost nephew has been discovered. His response is conventional; what lies behind it is the genius to have created the energy of a man who enjoys his own greed. And that, not his technique and not his want or intention, is the force that drives the truth of the moment into life. And so we have the great character actors of the movies doing the same thing forever and also in this film, Henry Davenport as the loving gramps, John Carradine (who was a bad actor but an understandable one), and Elsa Lanchester (who is also a bad actor, because self-conscious of her effects, but believable here). And Tyrone Power was just such a type-cast actor. He played the Tyrone Power type, and film after film duplicated the format, including an early childhood, here played by little Roddy MacDowell, completely devoid of sentimentality, firm in his energy, and fascinating to watch in his withheld ruthlessness. Power was a master at mediating the unbelievable lines he was given in these costume shows. He never overplays his hand, and so the lines sound believable. It is not that he believes in them, so much that the decency he summons plays off a certain challenge to carry him through them. He was a romantic actor par excellence, which means that his sexual instrument is not lustful but lyrical. In wooing a lady he is not rapacious but fun and kind and heart struck. Bolder with Frances Farmer as milady and more bowled over by Gene Tierney doing a South Seas hula-hula, but always respectful of the lady. If you can look beyond his mesmerizing beauty, into his eyes you can see how he comes alive and in what ways. The direction by John Cromwell is discrete, the filming by Arthur C. Miller is narratively helpful, unintrusive, and, in the London rather than the South Seas scenes, spectacularly convincing, as are the fight scenes between Sanders and Power, for they are cunningly performed by bewigged stunt extras. The score by Alfred (too-many-violins) Newman is intrusive, the exact opposite of Power’s presence, and the perfect model of what not to do while performing balderdash.