Monday, January 16, 2017

Alan Ladd Betrayed in "Captain Carey, U.S.A."

The studio sets are pretty convincing.
Webb Carey (Alan Ladd) provides intelligence to the Allies while hiding out on an island off the coast of Italy during World War II. The local residents know about the Americano and a fellow officer, but not the location of their base of operations. It turns out that Webb has discovered a secret room belonging to the de Cresci family, where valuable art has been stored for centuries.

Webb has also fall in love with Giulia de Cresci, whom he calls Julie. Tragedy strikes when the Nazis somehow discover the secret room and shoot Webb, kill his friend, and drag Julie away--as Webb hears a gunshot.

Years later, long after the war has ended, Webb finds a de Cresci-owned painting--one once stored in the secret room--for sale by an art dealer in New York. That causes him to return to Italy to find out who betrayed him and who murdered Julie.

Made in 1950, the blandly-titled Captain Carey, U.S.A. is a post-war drama in the same vein as The Third Man (1949) and Cornered (1944). It most closely resembles the latter, which is a far better film than Captain Carey. That's not Alan Ladd's fault. He carries the first half of the film on his shoulders admirably. His disillusioned character reminds me of a watered-down version of the noir anti-heroes he played in classics like This Gun for Hire.

Alan Ladd and Wanda Hendrix.
It should come as no surprise that Julie is not dead and, even worse, she is married to another man. When she finally confronts an embittered Webb, he quips: "What do you want from me? A wedding present?"

Any hopes for a post-war noir vanish, though, when Webb and Julie team up to find a killer who has been covering their treasonous tracks. Wanda Hendrix, who portrays Julie, never convinces the audience that she is a strong-willed survivor equally obsessed with the truth. She's certainly no match for Ladd's driven hero and she somehow manages to make him seem less interesting.

Ladd listening to "Mona Lisa."
There are still some bright spots in Captain Carey, U.S.A. The film introduced the popular Ray Evans-Jerry Livingston song "Mona Lisa," which won an Oscar. It was not crooned by Nat King Cole in the movie, though. Instead, it's sung by the partisans as a warning for the approach of the Nazis. The film also boasts an early screen appearance by Russ (billed as Rusty) Tamblyn, who gets a chance to show off his acrobatic skills.

If you're searching for a gripping post-war revenge drama, then I recommend watching Cornered, which features one of Dick Powell's best performances. However, you could do worse than Captain Carey and, if you're an Alan Ladd fan, then you'll likely enjoy it.


3 comments:

  1. Here's another "new" film you've introduced me to, Rick. Thanks! I'll be on the lookout for it, even though it may not be another "The Third Man". ;)

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  2. I'm a Ladd fan, but never could keep this title in my head. Always think of this as "the Mona Lisa movie". You are right, could have been better - Ladd was fine, but sometimes all you want is Alan Ladd.

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    1. Well, "The Mona Lisa Movie" is probably a better title. I agree with your assessment and Ladd is pretty good in it.

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