STRANGE CARGO (1940)


Frank Borzage  directed  this MGM controversial Joan Crawford final pairing with Clark Gable in 1940.

STRANGE CARGO is the  story of  Julia, cafe entertainer  played by Crawford who is fired  for  consorting with prisoner  Verne  who is played  by Gable who breaks into her rooms during an  escape attempt.   Later  along with a  group of fellow convicts  other prisoners including one  who claims to a  “Christ”  figure (Ian Hunter) is called  a  gentle  Cambreau  who has influence on the others. He reads Bible passage to the people  as  they make their escape  along a  treacherous   jungle  trek and  a  open  sea  journey.

Verne scoffs  at the spirituality of  it  all at first   even saves him from drowning in  gale.  in a  rather uncharacteristically  non happy Hollywood ending  but still the one  dictated by the morals code the prisoners  do not make good their escape. In fact they all return to finish there sentences even Crawford’s  character  who has  grown to love  Verne and will wait for him

Why the controversy in the  picture?  Well  the  subject matter of  a  “Christ” like  figure  for one thing that  was  not  all powerful.  The  moments  when  Clark Gable character has  a  real  “acting chops”  moment  as  he  rages  about on deck during  storm.

Some have  said  that Joan Crawford’s  character of  Julie  was  just a redo Sadie Thompson  from RAIN  that she  did in 1932 which set in motion the other roles  such as Sadie McKee in the the  film of the same name in 1934 even roles in  FLAMINGO ROAD (1949).

Gable got to do something with some substance after  GONE WITH THE WIND (1939) even if  the  role is similar to  RED DUST (1932).

STRANGE CARGO (1940) features a strong cast of supporting players such as  Peter Lorrie, Albert Dekker and Paul Lukas in a slightly off beat  yet satisfying story.   You get to see the  characters have  a type of  redemption as the survivors  return to finish their sentences or  find  love.  One wonders how this got through at  MGM  which also produced the  wholesome ANDY HARDY series of  pictures with Louis B. Mayer still the head of the studio.

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