"Clark and I did our best work together in "Strange Cargo." ~ Joan Crawford
"Strange Cargo" 1940
Cast: Joan Crawford~Clark Gable~Ian Hunter~Peter Lorre~Paul Lukas~Albert Dekker~J. Edward Bromberg~Eduardo Ciannelli~John
Arledge~Frederic Worlock~Bernard Nedell~Victor Varconi.
Director: Frank Borzage
Box Office Figures for "Strange Cargo":
Cost: $N/A ~ Domestic Studio Gross: $ N/A. ~ Foreign Studio Gross: $ N/A
Total: $ N/A / Profit: $ N/A
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Stars: Four stars out of four
Review: "Strange Cargo" is, by far, the best of the eight films Joan Crawford and Clark Gable made together
and coincidentally their last film. An interesting allegorical film that combines mysticism, romance, high adventure and
drama, this underrated masterpiece tells the story of a group of hardbitten convicts, men who have been cast out and essentially
forgotten by life, who escape from a French penal colony on Devil's Island and undertake a perilous journey through the jungle.
Becoming both competitive with and dependent on one another for survival, they find a chance not only at physical liberation
but also spiritual. This complex theme is handled beautifully and never becomes sanctimonious. Also on the journey is the
enigmatic Christ-like figure of Cambreau (the superb Ian Hunter) and a hardened dance hall girl Julie (Joan Crawford). With
its smart, clever dialogue, superb performances and intriguing tests of inner strength, "Strange Cargo" is deliciously
moving and intense.
Crawford and Gable have their usual superb chemistry, evident even beneath their sparring. From the time Gable as Andre
Verne encounters Crawford's sexy dance hall singer on the docks and grabs her ankle, the pair's relationship evolves from
basic sexual attraction to deep emotional commitment and caring. Cambreau, through his own detachment and silent strength,
is able to influence even the most ardent disbelievers and cynics (which describes all the characters, to some degree) to
confide in him and behave responsibly. Most of the members of the jungle trek ultimately find themselves commiting an unselfish
act, an ultimate sacrifice for another, as they struggle to survive. Gable, while still a loveable rogue, shows dimensions
to his acting that are breathtaking; it is possibly his finest hour. Crawford, spending the greater part of the film in muddy
and ripped dress sans glamour and seemingly without makeup, is eloquent in her simplicity and vulnerability and still strikingly
beautiful and luminous. All of the characters become people one cares about.
One of the most brilliant moments is the one where Gable screams to a drowning Cambreau, "You said God lives in us
all! Then you're God! I'm God! We're all God!"
A rich experience, both cinematically and thematically, "Strange Cargo" is one of the all-time great films.
It deserves greater exposure and recognition as a classic film treasure.