.">The Straitjackets: Books Into Films: Reap the Wild Wind
The Straitjackets
page 3

by Thelma Strabel
(Triangle Books, New York, 1941. Forward by Cecil B. DeMille

reviewed by Jim Hitt
1953 reprint paperback

Reap the Wild Wind
Paramount, 1942, 123m., directed by Cecil B. DeMIlle, screenplay by Charles Bennett, Jesse Lasky, Jr. , Alan LeMay , and Jeannie Macpherson

Ray Milland (Stephen Tolliver)
John Wayne (Capt. Jack Stuart)
Paulette Goddard (Loxi Claiborne)
Raymond Massey (King Cutler)
Robert Preston (Dan Cutler)
Susan Hayward (Drusilla Alston)
Lynne Overman (Capt. Phillip Philpott)
Charles Bickford   (Bully Brown, Mate of the "Tyfib")
Walter Hampden (Commodore Devereaux)
Martha O'Driscoll (Ivy Devereaux)
Louise Beavers (Maum Maria)
Elizabeth Risdon (Mrs. Claiborne)
Hedda Hopper (Aunt Henrietta Beresford)
Keith Richards (Capt. Carruthers)
Oscar Polk ((Salt Meat)
Wee Willie Davis (The Lamb)
Lane Chandler   (Sam)
Davison Clark (Judge Marvin)
Frank M. Thomas (Dr. Jepson)
Milburn Stone (Lt. Farragut)
Ben Carter  (Chinkapin)
Richard Alexander (Stoker Boss )

Available on DVD

DVD cover for Reap the Wild Wind

In a foreword to Thelma Strabel's Reap the Wild Wind, director Cecil B. DeMille praised the novel and its author, but the remarks deMille made concerning adaptations in general seem far more relevant.

"Those who read the book and see the picture," DeMille wrote, "will discover certain radical differences between the two, differences as to characters and situations as well in general storyline. For that, no apology is necessary, if you believe in dramatic license. Miss Strabel wrote a narrative; I have made a play. Novels and plays are two quite different   forms of storytelling, and what is good for one may not at all be good for the other.

""Then, too, the great amount of research that was done for this picture...developed a good deal of rich material that gave us a somewhat different concept of our subject....."

In defending his right to change source material (which must also include the Bible, considering he filmed The Ten Commandments twice), DeMille seems to be saying that film is more important than literature. "Miss Strabel wrote a narrative; I have made a play," he says.

Raymond Massey threatens Paulette Goddard while a wounded John Wayne watches helplessly

The changes from book to screen are indeed many, most for the better. In the novel, Loxi, the heroine, has a brother, Dan, but in the film he is brother to King Cutler, the villain of the story.The changes from book to screen are indeed many, most for the better. In the novel, Loxi, the heroine, has a brother, Dan, but in the film he is brother to King Cutler, the villain of the story.

These examples are but a few of the many changes. Certainly in the case of Reap the Wild Wind , no one

Paulette Goddard impresses Ray Milland

can argue with the decisions made by DeMille and his writers. The novel, while relatively short, fails to create much tension, and the characters resemble cardboard.

The novel is melodramatic hogwash, and no amount of rewrites could make it anything else. The story takes place in the Antebellum South circa 1840. Loxi Claiborne is in the salvage business with Capt. Phillip Philpott. Their main competition, King Cutler, uses unscrupulous and illegal methods to gain advantage.   When Loxi saves Capt. Jack Stuart, she believes she falls in love with him. Stephen Tolliver prevents her marrying him, and then pursues her for the rest of the film.   When Stephen   goes over to Cutler, she sees that she really loves Tolliver. The conclusion of the film finds Tolliver and Captain Jack fighting off a giant squid. Captain Jack saves Tolliver's life but looses his own . Together he and Loxi defeat Cutler and find happiness together.

  As in most of DeMille's films, the acting is often over the top, yet it does contain a few good performances. Paulette Goddard gives one of her better efforts as Loxi Claiborne. Early on Ray Milland as Stephen Tolliver appears a real dandy, but before the film ends, he shows he is all man.   Originally DeMille wanted Gary Cooper for the part of Capt. Jack Stuart, but settled for John Wayne, whose delivery is bland at best.   Robert Preston and Susan Heyworth are scrappy as a pair of doomed lovers, and Raymond Massey manages an evil presence as King Cutler.

Lane Chandler, Paulette Goddard, Lynne Overman, and Ray Milland looks for a ship in the fog

The Technicolor appears bright and colorful, and the costumes and sets evoke a fine sense of period, far better than the novel. Most of the film was shot on sound stages, and occasionally rear screen projection presents an intrusive image. Some of the small scale modeling, especially those involving ships, fails to convince (Republic Studios could and would have done a better job).   In addition, the film, as did most of the time, lacks any awareness of stereotypical pandering. The African Americans are either maids or servants, although toward the end, one freed slave testifies at the trial Jack Stuart. Even so, he talks slower than molasses and appears rather slow in the head.

Despite all these drawbacks, Reap the Wild Wind ranks high among DeMille's films. It lacks the bombastic preaching of his Biblical epics, which is all in its favor. If the acting is a bit broad, if the story is a bit implausible, if the dialogue sounds a bit stilted, the film nevertheless emerges as a stirring adventure. The scene leading up to the climax involving the giant squid resonates with suspense, and the special effects, better than one might expect, add to the illusion of danger.

Print quality : Extremely sharp. The Technicolor is vibrant.

Sound : Dolby 2.0 mono

Extras : Production notes, bios, theatrical trailer, web links

Summery : Not quite as good as Unconquered, probably the best by this director, but highly enjoyable DeMille and without the preaching.

Rating: B

Paulette Goddard and Lynne Overman listen to the tale of Ray Milland

Jim Hitt is a graduate of North Texas State University and holds a BA in English and history and a MA in history.   He taught high school in the California public school system for over thirty years, the last sixteen at Ventura Community College in Ventura, California.   In addition he has also lectured for the Gene Autry Museum. He is also a member of the Western Writers of America and the author of THE AMERICAN WEST, FROM FICTION TO FILM (McFarland Publishers, Jefferson, North Carolina, 1990) and WORDS AND SHADOWS, (Citadel Publishers, New York, 1993). In 2001 Adventure Books published his novel THE LAST WARRIOR.
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