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Saturday, August 3, 2013

Jack London (1943)

In 1890, an aspiring writer (Michael O'Shea) is determined to lift himself out of poverty. After a series of odd jobs, he travels to the Yukon where trapped by the snow in his cabin, he writes THE CALL OF THE WILD and he's on his way as one of the most popular writers of the early 20th century. As with most film biographies of this period, this is a mixture of fact and fiction with fiction winning out. The very early parts of the film featuring his black foster mother (Louise Beavers) and his waterfront mistress (Virginia Mayo, who would become Mrs. O'Shea four years later) have a basis in fact then it goes off the track. It totally eliminates his first marriage and two children and jumps to his second marriage to his publisher's reader (Susan Hayward in her ingenue period). Worst of all, the film's last third which is set in Japan during the Russo-Japanese War of 1904 becomes a stand in for WWII with London writing articles with predictions and warnings of Japan's plans for world domination. As London, O'Shea seems rather innocuous and anachronistic, never giving the viewer the sense of a creative mind. Directed by Alfred Santell. With Osa Massen, Harry Davenport, Ralph Morgan and Regis Toomey.

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