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Category Archives: January 1945

Objective, Burma! (Jan. 26, 1945)

Objective, Burma! (1945)
Directed by Raoul Walsh
Warner Bros.

Errol Flynn was rejected for military service due to his enlarged heart, tuberculosis, morphine addiction, and bouts of malaria. But that didn’t stop him from making some kick-ass war movies.

Raoul Walsh, who made a number of fine films, directed this patriotic World War II action film starring Flynn as an Army Captain named Nelson. World War II junkies will enjoy the fact that Objective, Burma! features weapons, gear, and uniforms that are all original and accurate.

Of course, the story itself is not all that accurate. The British apparently objected when the film was released, since it took the basic story of an operation by British Chindits and retold it as an American operation. (Flynn, an Australian, seems to be playing an American in the film, though his accent is hard to place.) One of the producers, however, said that the film was also largely inspired by the 1940 film Northwest Passage, which took place during the French and Indian War. So, like a lot of Hollywood productions, it’s a war film that could just as easily have been a Western.

If you’re looking for historical accuracy (or, for that matter, Japanese soldiers who don’t look suspiciously Filipino and Chinese) look elsewhere, but if you’re looking for a gritty war movie that delivers the goods, Objective, Burma! fits the bill.

The Jade Mask (Jan. 26, 1945)

Phil Rosen directed this rather strange entry in the rather strange Charlie Chan series. The mystery writer Earl Derr Biggers created the Chan character as a Chinese-American, Honolulu-based police detective. The character was in some ways a corrective to “yellow peril” characters like Fu Manchu who represented only menace and danger.

Chan was a benevolent figure, but he was still a neutered, sycophantic “other,” the yellowface equivalent of the “good slave” archetype. The Swedish actor Warner Oland starred in a number of successful Chan films in the ’30s. I’ve only seen one of them, Charlie Chan in London, from 1934, and aside from the strange, stereotypical, “ah so” performance by Oland as a Chinese detective, the film is a typical drawing-room mystery with static camerawork and a predictable “whodunit” plot.

In 1938, Sidney Toler took over the role, and his portrayal of Chan (at least in the films I’ve seen) is more interesting than Oland’s Chan. He is less sycophantic to white authority and his humor has an edge. He’s still a white man in yellowface makeup, though, and the faux Confucian aphorisms are still stupid. Also, Mantan Moreland’s performance as Chan’s black driver, Birmingham Brown, is pretty stereotypical, and may offend modern viewers. Moreland is actually black and none of his scenes are meant to be mean-spirited, but a scene in which he outruns a moving car because he’s that afraid of ghosts is still kind of offensive.

Oh, and The Jade Mask is a seriously strange film aside from all the racist anachronisms. The plot concerns a scientist who has discovered a way to make wood as strong as steel. Naturally, the world’s superpowers want to get their hands on his secret, and his murder is what draws Chan in to the case.

This film has some great set pieces, such as corpses strung up and manipulated like mannequins, but there are a few things that are hard to figure out, such as the numerous billowing clouds of supposedly poisonous gas that the characters blithely stand around in while investigating the mystery. Oh, and Edwin Luke plays Chan’s “Number 4 Son,” and doesn’t make much of an impression.

I’ll Be Seeing You (Jan. 5, 1945)

I'll Be Seeing You
I’ll Be Seeing You (1944)
Directed by William Dieterle and George Cukor
Selznick International Pictures / United Artists

William Dieterle directed this film, which is a David O. Selznick production starring Joseph Cotten as a shellshocked Army officer on leave and Ginger Rogers as a prisoner on an eight-day furlough.

Based on a radio play called “Double Furlough,” I’ll Be Seeing You is bittersweet and beautifully acted. The nature of Rogers’s crime is not explained until well into the film, and Cotten’s mental condition is hinted at, but not made explicit until the viewer has gotten a chance to know the characters.

The film overall is great, but there’s one scene in particular that really stayed with me. Cotten and Rogers go to a flag-waving war movie and the camera stays on his face while the viewer hears the sounds of explosions, gunfire, and screaming. Cotten holds his hand to his chin, desperately trying to keep his composure during the date. It’s an upsetting scene, and it’s surprising to see such a realistic, sensitive portrayal of post-traumatic stress disorder in a film made while American involvement in World War II was at its peak.

I’ll Be Seeing You beautifully depicts a fragile, growing romance between two likable people who each have something they desperately try to hide from the other. Not only is this a beautifully told love story, it’s also a great story about how hard it is to trust someone else, even when your happiness and sanity both depend on it.