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Wednesday, December 14, 2011

China Girl (1942)

In the month before the Japanese attack Pearl Harbor, a photographer (George Montgomery) and a soldier of fortune (Victor McLaglen) escape from a Japanese prison in China. The Japanese are eager to recapture the photographer as he mistakenly took a notebook with information on the impending Pearl Harbor attack. Directed by Henry Hathaway (TRUE GRIT) from a screenplay by Ben Hecht (NOTORIOUS), this is an unexceptional WWII propaganda piece gussied up with a romance between Montgomery and a Eurasian girl (Gene Tierney). I think she's Eurasian because she has a Chinese father (Philip Ahn) but no attempt is made to make her look Asian. The film casually features some unpleasant racial aspersions, one character complains "What's wrong with these buck toothed babes, they always play hard to get!". That's one of the milder smears. While Tierney is always a welcome presence, Montgomery's brash performance becomes tedious after awhile. The score is an early effort by Hugo Friedhofer (BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES). With Lynn Bari as the "bad" girl who turns good for the hero, Myron McCormick, Sig Ruman and a young Robert Blake (IN COLD BLOOD) as the Hindu boy Montgomery takes under his wing.

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