Urban Cinefile
"All I know is that sooner or later I've got to have some babies. I'm in baby mode like you would not believe"  -Russell Crowe, 1995
 The World of Film in Australia - on the Internet Updated Tuesday September 15, 2020 

Printable page PRINTABLE PAGE



When Captain Jack Stuart's ship is wrecked on the rocks off Key West, ruthless salvage operator King Cutler (Raymond Massey) is suspected of conspiracy. The head of a rival salvage firm, Loxi Claiborne (Paulette Goddard), nurses the injured Stuart (John Wayne) back to health and falls in love with him. When Stuart is stripped of his command by an ailing commodore, his heir apparent, sea lawyer Steve Tolliver (Ray Milland), comes to Florida to build a case against Cutler but he too is smitten by Loxi's charms. Stuart and Tolliver have always been bitter enemies and now they have a real fight on their hands over Loxi; over Cutler and over 50 fathoms deep with a giant squid.

Review by Keith Lofthouse:
You get a sense of Reap The Wild Wind's storybook romantics when you realise that this is Bill Collins' favourite Cecil B DeMille epic...no-one else's mind you, but it is Bill's. This from the Fox Classics guru who in 1977 wrote that his Ten Favourite Films of all time were released in the 10 years from 1936-46 and included Brief Encounter, Waterloo Bridge and Duel In The Sun, but did not include 1941's Citizen Kane! Pauline Kael, the influential New York critic, once most famously wrote that DeMille "made small-minded pictures on a big scale" and the director did not shirk from that. He knew exactly what Joe Public wanted and the DeMille philosophy ("I'll trade you 40 gorgeous Hawaiian sunsets for one good sock in the jaw") appeases the hoi polloi to this day.

Rich in spectacle and lush in technicolor, Reap The Wild Wind is what used to be known as a "rollicking good yarn:" a swashbuckling romantic adventure of brave, lusty, and treacherous men; of spirited women, storms, shipwrecks and sea monsters lurking off the Florida coast in 1840. Two men, rough, tough Captain Jack Stuart and lace-liveried sea lawyer Stephen Tolliver vie for position within the ailing Commodore Devereaux's Charleston shipping line and fall in love with Loxi Claiborne, a salty sea-girl who really knows her clippers from her cutters. Other than Vivien Leigh, Paulette Goddard got closer than anyone to playing Scarlett O'Hara and here we get a taste of what she might have been like at Tara...fresh, warm, flirtatious and flighty in her Southern finery with a mischievous tongue and a dazzling beauty. Another Scarlett aspirant, Susan Hayward, supports as Cousin Drusilla ...Hayward unconvincing as a love-struck coquette, but she is crucial to the plot.

In a role Katharine Hepburn declined, Goddard brings out the best in Wayne, who never wanted to work for DeMille after he was snubbed by the director when The Duke came looking for a job some years earlier. "You only want me here to make Ray Milland look more like a man," he snapped. But DeMille did not disagree and the two became firm friends, Wayne underplaying in an unusually relaxed and focused way that is blessed with immaculate timing. While dealing with the devilry of Cutler (Massey in another chilling show of snarling skulduggery), the deep diving heroes, like marionettes strung up by their ropes and breathing hoses, lock tentacles with a giant squid.

One smartarse critic cracked that the rubbery monster gave the best performance in the film (the special effects were duly awarded an Oscar) but the creature, static and clumsy with great goo-goo eyes reminiscent of Disney seems more like cartoon than killer these days. As usual, the director had big ideas. He had intended to use a real octopus and a real whale, but to paraphrase Norma Desmond, sometimes it's the pictures that grow small. Instead, for amusement, we have a chirruping monkey (rescued from the sea), a yapping lap dog (that Tolliver seems to make talk) and serpentine swirls of inflated hose.

Published June 16, 2005

Email this article


CAST: John Wayne, Ray Milland, Paulette Goddard, Raymond Massey

DIRECTOR: Cecil B DeMille

SCRIPT: Alan Le May, Jesse Lasky jnr, Charles Bennett

RUNNING TIME: 124 minutes




DVD RELEASE: March, 2005

Urban Cinefile 1997 - 2020