With an Oscar nomination for Best b/w Cinematography and a fantastic cast, Moontide (1942) is a relatively quiet noir drama. Like Key Largo, setting and atmosphere are central, as well as war-inspired malaise and characters longing for a literal and figurative “home.” But unlike the Bogart/Bacall vehicle, Moontide has no malicious gangster, no symbolic storm. Instead of Edward G. Robinson, we have only Thomas Mitchell, anxious best pal of the protagonist Bobo (Jean Gabin).
The story centers around Bobo, a wandering longshoreman down on his luck. A drinker and a brawler, he ends up selling bait and wondering what he’ll do next. Then Anna (Ida Lupino) appears, and saving her from suicide brings the two together despite their age difference.
Tiny (Thomas Mitchell) resents the way Anna has inspired Bobo to stay put, but a larger conflict arises when Bobo fears he may have murdered a man in a drunken stupor.
If the plot doesn’t excite you, never fear: keep an eye out for Claude Rains playing the atypical but wonderful role of Nutsy, a drunken philosopher.
Moontide was originally slated to be directed by Fritz Lang, a volatile emigre who fled the Nazis. Gabin, too, was in self-exile during the war, but this shared experience was not enough to keep the director on board. Disillusionment with the film and Gabin led Lang to quit; he was replaced by the more reliable but less risk-taking Archie Mayo.
Please join the #BNoirDetour live tweeting crew on Sunday, June 21 at 9pm ET for this unusual noir drama.