Moontide (1942)

Jean Gabin, Ida Lupino, Thomas Mitchell, Claude Rains,
In California, Bobo and his mooching 'pal' Tiny are doing odd jobs and getting drunk and they hide a secret about the unsolved murder of sailor Pop Kelly but suicidal waitress Anna, saved by Bobo, unravels the mystery.
  • 6.8 /10.0 IMDB Rating:
  • DatePublished:
  • 2018-09-07 Added:
  • John O'Hara, Willard Robertson, Nunnally Johnson, Writer:
  • Archie Mayo, Fritz Lang, Director:
  • Mark Hellinger, Producer:

All subtitles:



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7 / 10

Ida Lupino as a Waif

Here we have the 28 year-old Ida Lupino, looking more like 19 or 20, and already the veteran of more than thirty films, being a frail, charming, and vulnerable waif. She is thoroughly convincing, and we would all like to take her in and look after her. This duty falls to the gruff Jean Gabin, a hard-drinking waterfront drifter from port to port, who has at some point arrived in the States from France. In fact, Gabin in real life had fled the Nazi Occupation and this was one of two American films which he made in exile. The film was supposed to be directed by Fritz Lang, who would have made it a moodier and darker piece. However, he was replaced by the more cheerful Archie Mayo, so we get a film whose real value is not as cinema but as encounter between Lupino and Gabin. That keeps us watching. Claude Rains gives bemused support as a California waterfront bum (hardly his usual type of role!) and Thomas Mitchell is an unctuous, scheming villain who has conned Gabin into thinking he has 'something on him'. The film is rather sinister, and in many ways pointless. If it weren't for Lupino and Gabin being so fascinating, nobody would bother to watch this movie, as it falls between many stools. But Lupino is so entrancing in this role, that presumably no one really cares about the story anyway. And listening to Jean Gabin speak heavily accented English in California is so extraordinary that one wants to watch that too. Who gives a damn about the film, we've got Lupino and Gabin, and that's all that matters. They could read the telephone directory as far as I am concerned, and I would still watch.

7 / 10

Warm, offbeat, professional...a just a bit unexceptional.

Moontide (1942)

What a surprise, and with some well known actors in little known roles. And one little known actor in the U.S., the great French star Jean Gabin. All put together in an elegant, fast, and sympathetic way.

The story is rather sweet, a love story between two unlikely loners, the charming and volatile hard drinking Bobo, played by Gabin, and the young and troubled Anna, played by Ida Lupino. Each of their pasts looms and interferes in the romance, mainly through the maliciousness of Bobo's old friend, another violent man played by Thomas Mitchell. And then there is the incomparable Claude Rains (you won't recognize him in the first scenes with his beard), who plays a truly good friend. All of this takes place in a little fishing shack at a big stone breakwater on the California Coast somewhere, and most of it takes place at night.

Archie Mayo, who made a lot of really good films and few if any masterpieces ("Petrified Forest" is his most famous, from 1936), really does show mastery of storytelling here. And with cinematography by Charles Clarke good enough to get an Oscar nomination (with some help by the more famous Lucien Ballard), you can see why this is better than most. Fritz Lang is shown as a co-director behind the scenes, and you get suspicious that the visual strength of all this is partly his doing.

But it is the story itself that might be the achilles heel here--it progresses with some twists that are suggested in the first few minutes, and that don't turn and surprise us later. The end is the end you expect, all neatly packaged.

Not that you don't mind so much--the leading characters are, if nothing else, very likable. But along those same lines, I think every scene is filmed by-the-book. Very likable, and competent, and rather beautiful all along, but lacking the edges of uncertainty, of emotional depths you would expect from these kinds of characters, even of drama in the few scenes of violence. "Moontide," with its poetic title, insists somehow that it is a just a performance and an entertainment, a light romance, even though it's just an inch from tipping into something much bigger.

7 / 10

Original Film Noir

The lonely dock worker Bobo (Jean Gabin) is a strong man that likes to drink a lot. One night, after a binge, he awakes without recollections at a barge hired to sell bait. He befriends the night watchman Nutsy (Claude Rains); rescues the suicidal Anna (Ida Lupino) from the sea and brings her to the barge to recover. Meanwhile he learns that his acquaintance Pop Kelly (Arthur Aylesworth) was found murdered strangled. Bobo and Anna fall in love with each other and decide to get married. But Bobo′s former friend Tiny (Thomas Mitchell) has always lived supported by Bobo and intends to get rid of Anna.

"Moontide" is an original film noir with a different storyline, great cast and director. Jean Gabin, Ida Lupino, Claude Rains and the uncredited Fritz Lang together are feast for any movie lover. The gloomy story and atmosphere have a melancholic happy ending and is worthwhile watching. My vote is seven.

Title (Brazil): "Brumas" ("Sea Mist")

7 / 10

a decent noir with a few really nice touches, such as the main stars

Jean Gabin didn't star in many American films, and Moontide was the only one I could find from my local library. Maybe it was for the best; his presence on screen is very (and I mean this as a compliment) French in tone and inflection and even in style of speak. In English he fares reasonably well, and gives a solid performance as the "gypsy turned peasant" Bobo who saddles up with ex-suicide-attemptee Ida Lupino on a tiny bay community. This being said it's a kind of character that works for Gabin's limitations in the language. Because Bobo is a Gypsy it works that Gabin's English is only so fluent and has the kind of facial expressions that reflect that (as opposed to say Grand Illusion where he was so natural that it was staggering). Lupino, thankfully, is a great match, and the two have some very nice scenes together as a married couple who face trouble when one of Bobo's prior troubles comes back to haunt him, even as it wasn't his fault.

The direction is competent and the writing has some moments of cleverness or tenderness or even insight. And as the drama ratchets up one gets involved if only on a perfunctory, conventional level. But the director Archie Mayo (replacing, of all directors, Fritz Lang) some moments that really stand out for me. One that I might never forget, and should stand up among some of the quintessential early 40s noir films, is when Bobo has his drunken binge the first night at port and after causing a ruckus in the bar with punching out the guy and making the girl upset goes from bar to bar. In a montage that provides a drunken angle to the camera and editing tricks, we see Bobo going further and further, hearing characters repeat things like "drink, drink" or whatever and it is purely intoxicating to see this. It's the kind of sequence, which lasts a good long 5 minutes, that almost promises this to be a great film.

It isn't, but it was worth a shot, and for those who are curious or just big Gabin or Lupino (or Claude Rains) fans, it's worth a shot.

7 / 10

Pilot Fish

One of two American made films that Jean Gabin did in Hollywood while in exile from his beloved France is this item Moontide. It's not anywhere in the class of The Grand Illusion, Pepe LeMoko, or La Bete Humaine in fact it goes over into melodrama. Still it's a good showcase for his talent and appeal.

Gabin is a happy go lucky sailor who is beached with his pal Thomas Mitchell in the small coast town of San Pablo in California. He's a nasty drunk however who can be provoked to violence and has been. Another waterfront denizen Arthur Aylesworth is killed and Gabin is tormented by the fact that he was on one big bender the night of the homicide and it could be him.

But that doesn't stop him from saving the life of Ida Lupino who tries to drown herself because of her own relationship problems. These two fall for each other and they plan to settle in San Pablo and marry. And of course there's no room for Mitchell in the new setup.

Which doesn't please Mitchell at all. He's basically a leech who's attached himself to Gabin and he doesn't want to give up his meal ticket. Claude Rains who is a droll waterfront philosopher calls him a pilot fish which is a fish that hangs around sharks and lives off the scraps they leave. Time for Mitchell to find another shark.

Given that this is the Code era and that a major studio 20th Century Fox produced Moontide the rather obvious homosexual attachment of Mitchell to Gabin is hard to miss. Perhaps that is something that the original director Fritz Lang might have explored a bit more. In fact the film could have been a classic had Lang stayed with it.

Still the cast acquit themselves well in Moontide and a film with Jean Gabin is always something special.