January 14, 1944 [Lifeboat]

I need to see more musicals, anything bright and oblivious--jeez, even Hitchcock has made it to the front lines--stepping into a Lifeboat, the last remnant of a torpedoed ship, to remind us that all we have going for us is our contempt for Nazis--and of course that cast of survivors: Tallulah Bankhead, firm as an exclamation point, her whole body arched in calm appraisal; and William Bendix, his mouth drawn up in a Betty Boop bow, tiny eyes uncertain that his Rosie back home will want him, now that he's lost a leg; and Henry Hull, miles away from Boys Town and the Werewolf of London, chewing on his cigar, the self-made man stringy as mutton;and John Hodiak bare-chested and perpetually sneering--while the other women soften the blows of pain and death, and Hume Cronyn plays Cockney, and Canada Lee gets a chance to be not only a movie-Negro but a man, watching the white world make bad decisions.

So maybe there's more than our hatred of the Nazis--and in this picture we get one in particular to hate: Walter Slezak's Willy, the grinning beer-hall buddy who plots like Richard III to have his glorious summer--again, maybe there's simply us: More than once the survivors stare at the Nazi and ask what to do with such people. The answer hangs like cordite in the air, smokeless and sharp.


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