|A Girl in Every Port: Victor McLaglen and Louise Brooks.|
US © 1928 Fox Film Corp. Presented by: William Fox. P+C: Howard Hawks. SC: Seton I. Miller ‒ associate writers: Sidney Lanfield, Reginald Morris ‒ screen story: James Kevin McGuiness ‒ written by Howard Hawks ‒ titles: Malcolm Stuart Boylan. CIN: Rudolph J. Bergquist / Berquist, L. William O’ Connell. AD: William S. Darling. Cost: Kathleen Kay. ED: Ralph Dixon.
C: Victor McLaglen (Spike Madden), Robert Armstrong (Bill, "Salami"), Louise Brooks (Marie / Mam'selle Godiva, girl in Marseille / formerly known as Tessie in Coney Island), Maria Alba / Maria Casajuana (Chiquita, girl in Rio de Janeiro), Francis McDonald (circus manager), Leila Hyams (widow in San Pedro, Belize), Natalie Joyce (girl in Panama City), Dorothy Mathews (girl in Panama City), Elena Jurado (girl of Panama City), Eileen Sedgwick / Greta Yoltz (tandem cyclist girl in Amsterdam), Michael Visaroff (Maria Buenjolla's lover), Sally Rand (girl in Bombay), Natalie Kingston (girl on a South Sea island), Phalba Morgan (Lena Vanderschmoltz, girl in Amsterdam), Felix Valle (Lena's husband), Myrna Loy (Jetta, girl in Singapore), William Demarest (man in Bombay).
1677 m / 20 fps/ 76 min
The film was not released in Finland.
Viewed at Cinema Orion, Helsinki (Howard Hawks), with Ilari Hannula at the piano, 31 March 2017
Revisited a key Howard Hawks film, his first personal film with real relevance for his future career, the film that launched his reputation as a master of modern art, with a breakthrough role for Louise Brooks.
Two sailors are on "an endless cruise" around the world with a girl in every port, but on every girl Spike (Victor McLaglen) discovers the same anchor-inside-a-heart brand. Having landed into a fistfight with Bill (Robert Armstrong) Spike discovers the same brand on his own jaw. The brand belongs to Bill.
Having sailed on separate ships so far, at San Pedro the "two friends are signed as shipmates for life".
In Marseille Spike meets a stunning high diver, Marie (Louise Brooks), and when it's time to leave Spike tells Bill: "I ain't sailing. I'm in love". But he discovers the anchor-inside-a-heart brand even on Marie. Bill had known her while she was still Tessie back in Coney Island. Spike leaves Marie and makes up with Bill. They sail away together. Nothing will separate them again.
A Girl in Every Port is a fun picture, a display of Hawks's natural talent for comedy.
A tale of sailors living an eternal youth, sheiks with a harem around the globe. A film about arrested development, emotional immaturity. The Don Juan story starts with an embarrassment in Amsterdam, at the first stop based on Spike's little book of addresses of girls. Lena, the girl in Amsterdam, now turns up with three babies and a husband sporting a giant pipe. The second girl in Amsterdam takes Spike to a tandem bicycle ride, and when they topple over next to a windmill, Spike discovers her anchor-inside-a-heart bracelet.
Another disquieting revelation takes place at San Pedro when Spike and Bill are looking for a girl "with a figure like an eel". Having first erred on the door of a formidable matron they land upon a room with a three year old boy, who tells that "my daddy is a sailor" but that he is dead. He may or may not be Spike's son. The single mother returns and before leaving Spike and Bill discreetly stuff the son's hands with wads of cash. It is an emotional moment.
But the most emotional moment of the film is when Spike bursts into tears watching from his window the departure of a ship in which he believes Bill is parting from Marseille. Hawks always called this "a love story between men", and A Girl in Every Port is the first Hawksian tale of male camaraderie. They argue, they quarrel, they compete, they fight, but there is never any resentment when they make up.
Victor McLaglen was a veteran actor when he starred in this film. For Robert Armstrong (Denham in King Kong) A Girl in Every Port provided one of his first film roles.
A running gag in the film is Spike having to pull Bill's middle finger after a fistfight.
Hawks always rejected suggestions of homosexuality in his films. But already in this film the question is inevitable in the sequence in Central America in which Spike and Bill are looking for privacy so that they can fight. Policemen are observing their dubious behaviour in an atmosphere that brings to mind Liberty (1929) the comedy classic where Laurel and Hardy are trying to find a place where they can switch trousers.
I agree with Robin Wood and Todd McCarthy that there is a strong unconscious current of bisexuality in Hawks's films. Hawks who started his career as a film director in the roaring twenties was open-minded about life and unafraid of bringing bisexuality close to the surface. According to McCarthy Hawks's last film project was a remake of A Girl in Every Port, in the last scene of which Spike and Bill, as they are again called, share a bed.
That the Louise Brooks revelation took place in such circumstances makes sense. The collaboration of Howard Hawks and Louise Brooks evolved in conditions of mutual admiration and respect that lasted for life. On the strength of this role G. W. Pabst hired Brooks for Die Büchse der Pandora and Das Tagebuch einer Verlorenen. Hawks made a lasting contribution to a timeless star image, the polymorphic, ambivalent and androgynous Louise Brooks phenomenon.
The role of Marie is stereotyped but Louise Brooks transcends it and becomes a predecessor for all the classic Hawksian women played by Frances Farmer, Carole Lombard, Rosalind Russell, Katharine Hepburn, Jean Arthur, Barbara Stanwyck, Lauren Bacall, and Angie Dickinson.
A fascinating film although not a great one. There is a lack of emotional gravity except in a couple of scenes. True gravitas in Hawks emerges in The Dawn Patrol, although Fazil, made just before A Girl in Every Port but released afterwards, is a special case, unique and memorable.
The duration is sometimes given as a little over 60 minutes, but 20 fps seems a good speed, making prints run 76-78 min.
A print with good visual quality, sometimes good to fair, for a minute or so in low definition. This seems to be the standard U.S. version since in the intertitles the pal is called Bill, never Salami.
BEYOND THE JUMP BREAK: OUR PROGRAM NOTE BASED ON DONALD C. WILLIS: