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  Without Reservations Progressive Romance
Year: 1946
Director: Mervyn LeRoy
Stars: Claudette Colbert, John Wayne, Don DeFore, Anne Triola, Phil Brown, Frank Puglia, Thurston Hall, Dona Drake, Fernando Alvarado, Charles Arnt, Louella Parsons, Frank Wilcox, Jack Benny, Cary Grant
Genre: Comedy, RomanceBuy from Amazon
Rating:  4 (from 1 vote)
Review: All over America, in the wake of the Second World War, people are talking about "Here Is Tomorrow", a bestselling novel with uplifting ideas about solving the nation’s social problems alongside a heart-warming love story. Now Hollywood wants to make the book into a movie, but its feisty author Miss Christopher ‘Kit’ Madden (Claudette Colbert) is aghast when Cary Grant proves unavailable and the studio wants to cast an unknown in the role of her beloved hero, Mark Winston. On a train journey to Hollywood, Kit meets affable marine pilot Captain 'Rusty' Thomas (John Wayne) along with his pal Lieutenant 'Dink' Watson (Don DeFore). Noticing how much Rusty resembles her literary creation, Kit hides her true identity so she can get him to Hollywood for a screen test. Problem is, Rusty thinks her book stinks and so do all its "progressive" ideas. As they journey across the country, the fun-loving marines teach Kit the error of her ways.

This muddled, meandering romantic comedy has a staunchly anti-intellectual message that may grate on some modern viewers nerves. In the immediate post-war period, America, like most of the world, was torn between "progressive" and "reactionary" ideas on how to build a better world. Kit clearly falls into the former camp. She expresses her belief in the need for radical social reform through rather nebulous statements about how people should "let down their barriers" and "embrace a world without borders." Rusty on the other hand believes the world is just fine the way it is, thank you, and folks ought to avoid intellectualising and let America’s next generation of rugged pioneers just get on with what’s natural. In other words, meet a girl, have babies and build homes. It is a point of view that seems to be shared by the hitherto silent majority Kit meets throughout her misadventures. From pushy Consuela Callaghan (Anne Triola) who advises Kit to give up the books and grab herself a man, to the grumpy hotel manager who snorts "I don’t read books" whilst casting disdain on his wife and her friends who are all big fans of "Here Is Tomorrow."

At one point Rusty makes a frankly odious speech about how the early pioneers had the god-given right to murder all those Indians and take their land, concluding with the declaration: "Thanks, God! I’ll Take It From Here" which was the name of the novel by Jane Allen and Mae Livingston on which this film was based. This speech was one reason why John Wayne became a liberal hate figure in later years, but the reality of the man was more complex and the words need to placed in context of the times. The fact is, after the war, Americans were suspicious of broad social ideas, be that socialism or communism. After all, it was the wave of fascism sweeping across Europe that sparked the war in the first place. The post-war period was marked by a push towards normality, with people eager to just settle down, raise a family and continue that pioneer spirit that made America great. Problem is, while rugged individualists like Rusty were out having a good time and falling in love, big business corporations were stealing America from under their nose.

The bulk of the film is a rather rambling road trip, high on incident but low on laughs and at times - as when a Mexican farmer (Frank Puglia) tells Kit domestic violence is all part and parcel of being in love - downright absurd. It is vastly overlong, with the last twenty minutes bogged down in Kit’s misadventures around Hollywood including rather pointless cameos from Jack Benny, satanic gossip queen Louella Parsons and yes, Cary Grant. Kit abandons her principles pretty quickly. In an unlikely turn of events it is the Hollywood producer who wants to stay true to the book while the writer wants to make changes. Eventually, Kit rejects all her old ideals and admits what she really wants is to wear pretty dresses and raise babies. Which gets her a big thumbs up from Louella, for what that’s worth. Possibly the most perverse aspect of the film is having John Wayne, one of the biggest movie stars of all time, look like he wants to throw up at the thought of becoming an actor.

Reviewer: Andrew Pragasam

 

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