REAP THE WILD WIND ——ships are being wrecked off the Florida Keys in the 1840s. It takes Men With Guts to head into the raging wind and roaring waves to salvage the booty. Big Men–with ham-fists, sideburns, burrs and brogues, belaying pins and knuckle dusters, and—last but most— the proverbial Clankers.
Leave it to producer-director Cecil B. DeMille to round-up a hearty crew, clock ’em in seafaring duds and douse ’em with water from every point of the compass. Leave it to DeMille to Shanghai some lusty, busty wenches to complicate the double-dealings. And leave it to DeMille to make sure his writers give his dudes and dames dialogue that could alter the course of any hurricane. He commanded them “I want to smell the brine and hear the creak of rigging. I want to feel the bite of hurricanes. I want the birth of Americas’s lifeline on the seas—and to see it threatened by the toughest tribe of murdering pirate wreckers that ever gutted a ship to steal a cargo!…I want to see the teeth of a reef bite through a ship’s bottom—photographed from underwater!”
Irresistably gaudy color and free-wheeling fisticuffs decorate this big-budget 1942 hit, with enjoyable performances from the stars, though the Concept of Subtlety goes overboard right away. Four of the six leading players get drowned, shot or squished to death by the time the wind stops blowing, plus you get to ogle a giant squid. What isn’t good here is so bad that it’s good, so kick back and have a few laughs.
124 minutes of escapism won an Oscar for Special Effects, topped by that 38-foot long squid, its exoskeleton of wires and hydraulic pistons covered by foam rubber tentacles. Nominations went up for Cinematography and Art Direction. Cecil poured $3,132,000 into it, and saw returned $7,000,000, the years 5th biggest hit.
Reaping the wildness: Ray Milland, John Wayne, Paulette Goddard, Raymond Massey, Robert Preston, Susan Hayward, Lynne Overman, Walter Hampden, Louise Beavers, Elizabeth Risdon, Hedda Hopper, Charles Bickford, Milburn Stone. *
* Wayne had earlier been spurned by DeMille six years earlier in 1936 when he cast The Plainsman (Gary Cooper) as just a B-movie plodder. Signed here after showing his mettle in Stagecoach,The Long Voyage Home and The Shepherd Of The Hills, Wayne won DeMille over with his detailed observations on improving the script around his character, helping with fight scene choreography and general do-it-right attitude. When C.B. assured Wayne that he’d never have him lose dignity on screen, Duke replied that getting “beat up by Ray Milland would lose anybody’s dignity.”