Old Dave Belasco, who was responsible for most of the platitude and superficiality that haunts the American theatre to this day, had a very apt pupil in Cecil B. DeMille. The satellite moved to Hollywood to prove that any extravaganza the master had put over on the stage could be made twice as gaudy and twice as profitable on the screen. DeMille succeeded--time and again--and his latest nightmare, mercilessly entitled "Reap the Wild Wind," is now in its second week at the Met.
Ostensibly the saga of honest vs. ruthless salvage-masters off the treacherous Florida Keys of a century ago, the film is actually just a vehicle for every trick of camera and color, every bluff of gargantuan settings, every cliche of plot and dialogue in DeMille's too familiar repertoire. "Reap the Wild Wind" lacks even the barest spark of originality; it is slow, sticky and indescribably dull. Its possibilities as melodrama are almost completely submerged in an orgy of gross spectacle.
We won't accuse poor Mr. DeMille of doing its casting; thirty minutes of this opus will convince anyone that its parts were dished out by either the neighborhood horsedoctor or Mickey Rooney. Paulette Goddard, whom we recall quite pleasantly as a sweater-girl from her native Bronx, is made-up into a Southern belle with absolutely ghastly effect. John Wayne plays the dumb-but-honest-lug-who-goes-wrong--a part admirably in-harmony with his facial expressions; and Ray Milland, completing the triangle, is thoroughly helpless with lines that no Booth could have carried.
John is a lawyer and Ray a sea-captain and Paulette doesn't know which she prefers, so she lets a giant squid decide for her in a climactic undersea-fight to end all undersea fights. The music gets much more frantic at this point, but it hardly matters since we know that Wayne, having sinned, must perish.
Raymond Massey is wasted in a thin role as head villain and Mammy Hattie McDaniel (also wasted) is dragged in by the car with the rest of the romantic accoutrements identified in Hollywood with the Old South.
In a minor part, Lynne Overman is infinitely more amusing than any possible second features of which, fortunately, there are none.