Gun Cargo (1949 TVM)

US / ~55 minutes cut to 48 minutes / bw / Irwin–Dyer Productions, Favorite Films Dir, Pr & Scr: Jack Irwin Cine: Edward Kull Cast: Rex Lease, Smith Ballew, William Farnum, Gibson Gowland, Robert Frazer, Gilbert Holmes, Allene Ray, Harry Allen, John Ince, James Irwin

If ever a movie had a tortured genesis, Gun Cargo was it. Production started on what was initially called Contraband in the early 1930s, probably in 1934, although sources are divided as to exactly which year. Money ran out soonish, and the project was abandoned until 1939, when initial footage was added in the form of the Board of Inquiry hearing that forms the frame story, the main story being told in the form of flashbacks from here. Seemingly at the same time, in 1939, a barroom sequence was imported from the (very much more interesting) 1930 Lupe Velez movie Hell Harbor to pad out the running time a bit and in a desperate attempt to provide the main plot with some resolution and a link to the framing device of the hearing.

Another addition that seems to have been made in 1939 was an appallingly dubbed barroom rendition of “I Dream of Jeanie” by cowboy crooner Smith Ballew, who appears nowhere else in the movie yet gets second billing. Go figure. Presumably Ballew’s agent insisted on the prominent billing and then the pair of them watched their “win” backfire.

Rex Lease as Jim

The movie seems to have been finished (if finished it can be called) in 1941, at which time, according to the AFI, it was approved for theatrical release—at least in the state of New York; at that point Continue reading

Hell Harbor (1930)

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An early role for the “Mexican Spitfire” in a tale of Caribbean derring-do!
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US / 83 minutes / bw / Inspiration, UA Dir & Pr: Henry King Scr: Fred DeGresac, Clark Silvernail, N. Brewster Morse Story: Out of the Night (1925) by Rida Johnson Young Cine: John Fulton, Robert M. Haas, Mack Stengler Cast: Lupe Velez, Jean Hersholt, John Holland, Gibson Gowland, Harry Allen, Al St. John, Paul Burns, George Bookasta, Ulysses Williams, Ruth Hall, Rondo Hatton, Sextetto Habanero.

hell-harbor-0

Velez’s second talkie—after Tiger Rose (1929) dir George Fitzmaurice—is a comedy- and music-laced melodrama that, despite suffering some problems of pacing, is really quite entertaining, primarily because of Velez’s effervescent presence.

Hell Harbor, a colony somewhere in the Caribbean, is largely populated by the descendants of pirates. One of these is Anita Morgan (Velez), daughter of Henry Morgan (Gowland), the several-times-great grandson of the famous pirate likewise called Henry Morgan. Anita’s dream is to escape from her often abusive father and the cesspit of Hell Harbor to live in Havana, Cuba, which she regards as a sort of heaven on earth:

Anita: “I want to see Havana now! Havana, with its music, its riding carriages . . . and wash all over every day!”

hell-harbor-1-peg-leg-strikes-a-bargain-with-horngold-for-the-perals

Peg Leg (Harry Allen) strikes a bargain with Horngold for the pearls.

Her father is not just a brute but a murderer. In the movie’s opening scenes we see an English drifter called Peg Leg (Allen) sell a Continue reading