Saturday, April 26, 2008

Joan Woodbury Returns Again

I recently watched "A Yank in Libya," another movie starring Joan Woodbury, thanks to Archive.org. This 1942 "B" picture an amiable piece of fluff designed to raise American morale. Walter Woolf King plays Mike Malone, a jive-talking go-getter American reporter determined to blow the lid off a Nazi plot. Here he is ditching his pursuers and leaving the evidence with a very surprised Nancy Brookes-Graham (Joan Woodbury).


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Notice how Duncan Rinaldo plays the character of Shiek David. He's basically channelling Rudolf Valentino's performance in "The Sheik." The portrayal of Arabs in this film demonstrate how much America (or at least Hollywood) knew about the Muslim world in the 1940's -- which wasn't much. Some of the cliches may have changed, I wonder if modern film depictions of Middle Eastern culture are any less ignorant.

While Sheik David embraces Western culture (and Nancy), Sheik Ibrahim (George J. Lewis) wants to have nothing to do with it. So of course he turns to the one person who want to help throw the British out of his country -- Yussof Streyer, Nazi spy (Wilhelm von Brincken).


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Malone runs into "Parky" Parkyakarkus (Harry Parke), who serves as his sidekick (and later turns out to be an American agent).


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Our brash American fast-talks his way into the British Consulate. And while they may appear somewhat stodgy, the Brits aren't quite as clueless as Malone thinks.


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As it turns out, the British know all about Herr Strayer's plans, and for me the film took an unexpected turn. The real dramatic tension came not from Malone thwarting the Nazis, but from the British trying to keep this headstrong American from upsetting the applecart and forcing them to act prematurely.

It's a fun film, and Joan Woodbury again turns in a solid performance.

"A Yank in Libya" might not be a great movie (it was never meant to be), but it's an hour's worth of solid entertainment. And it provides an interesting glimpse into the attitudes and culture of the period -- at least the version filtered through Hollywood's sensibilities.

- Ralph

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