As I said a few days ago on Hollywood Yesterday’s Twitter page, I am in the midst of a glorious Dorothy Dandridge movie binge. With TCM, DVDs, and YouTube, finding movies that were once all but impossible to find is relatively easy these days.
I’ve loved Dorothy Dandridge for YEARS – since I saw her in Carmen Jones on late night tv many, many moons ago. Finding her movies has been a bit of a challenge, but as I said, that has gotten a lot easier of late.
I recently watched The Decks Ran Red on TCM. When I saw it in the listing, I basically moved my entire day around to spend a few hours with Dorothy Dandridge.
I honestly didn’t know what to expect from this film. To say I didn’t have my hopes up is an understatement. I don’t mind so much that you don’t hear about the movie often (I’ve found some of my favorite movies aren’t at all well known or “popular”). I also didn’t mind that the cast wasn’t filled with household names. Again, that often means buckus.
Maybe my knee-high hopes and expectations came from the fact that this movie had BOTH of the so-called strikes above going for it. You seldom (if ever) hear about this movie and the cast doesn’t exactly read like a who’s who among film stars. Aside from a few stars, even the most devoted film buffs would need to look up a few names.
I grabbed my popcorn and tea as a few of my cats found their favorite spots in the den. I settled into my favorite chair and readied myself for one of my favorite pastimes in the world – watching an old movie. I tried to push my low expectations aside… then one of the worst opening graphics I’ve ever seen in my life appeared on the screen! Someone apparently thought the splash of red in the word RED (as well as the drops of “blood”) would be pretty cool in an entirely black and white movie and graphic.
Heck, they may have even called it “the bee’s knees.” It wasn’t.
(That would be it in all of its glory below…)
I think even my cats were astounded.
Fortunately, the ugliness disappeared as fast as it came.
As a Dorothy Dandridge fan, I’m delighted to say the movie was good – darn good, in fact. It overcame the low expectations and ridiculous graphic right off the bat.
By the end of the very first scene, I knew this would be a fun ride. You know how some movies take a while to win you over – sometimes as much as half the movie? The Decks Ran Red was one of those delicious rare treats where you know from the first scene that you’re about to have a great time.
There was suspense, outstanding acting, and a healthy dose of intrigue. Funny how you forget the word intrigue even exists until a great book or film comes along and reminds you how much you love it.
James Mason (possibly best-known from starring alongside Judy Garland in A Star is Born) is outstanding as Captain Edwin Rummill. It’s a role that would have been easy to “overplay” but Mason brilliantly stayed allowed the writing to be the star. I can’t say enough about him – he was just wonderful. You found yourself pulling for him in every conceivable way – ready to fight anyone (aside from Dorothy Dandridge, of course) who gets in his way.
PLOT: Captain Rummill has been made a Ship’s Captain for the first time in his life. Very eager to prove himself, he sets out to do right by his ship and crew. He’s a great man, but is (of course only human), so he can’t help but notice the cook’s gorgeous wife, Mahia (played perfectly by Dorothy Dandridge) when she steps on board. He knows she will, undobutedly, cause trouble on a ship filled with (even more human than the Captain) men, but he doesn’t intervene.
Of course, trouble arises for Mahia and her husband.
There is more trouble than this aboard for the Captain. A few scoundrels on the crew plan and launch a violent mutiny.
Broderick Crawford (the leader of the scoundrels) and Stuart Whitman (his number one guy) give wonderful performances, but make no mistake about it, James Mason and Dorothy Dandridge are the stars of this surprisingly good film.
One of the things I really appreciate from the film is the fact that Dorothy Dandridge’s character played a pivotal role in the ending. She wasn’t, by any means, window decorations in this movie. She was vital to the entire movie and, as a huge Dorothy Dandridge fan… I applaud it long and loudly.
Stuart Whitman (Leroy) is an especially good actor – he plays a bad type beautifully. Like he was born to do so! He’s one of those actors who, when you see him in a movie or an episode on tv, you think, “I know you! Why do I know you?! Where do I know you from…”
Took me about half the movie to realize that I know him from everywhere. Seriously, his filmography and guest-starring roles are very impressive.
The full episode of The Decks Ran Red is below. I think you’ll love it as much as I did.
INTRIGUE… DOROTHY… what more could you ask for?!