Friday, November 14, 2008

The Hairy Ape (1944): "How Naive Age Makes One"

I caught The Hairy Ape (1944) this afternoon, but he proved to be pretty tame.
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Ostensibly concerning the dangerous flirtation between a first class passenger and a stoker on a coal powered ship at sea, this film bore only a passing resemblance to the skeleton of Eugene O'Neill's 1923 play of The Hairy Ape, which touched on the meaning of work, identity, class and sexual politics, but much of that was off-limits thanks to the Production Code, especially during wartime, (can't have men of the sea abandoning their work to seek out their doom on land at the hands of an ape or a bad girl, can we?). The more upbeat ending tacked on here with the little guy reconciling himself, however feebly and synthetically, with his fate, might be expected in that creative atmosphere. I looked for a few flashes of O'Neill's theatrical poetry, but scraps of it survived only momentarily among the denizens of the boiler room.

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