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A merchant marine captain, rescued from the Chinese Communists by local villagers, is "shanghaied" into transporting the whole village to Hong Kong on an ancient paddle steamer.Written by
Jim Beaver <firstname.lastname@example.org>
When I watch Blood Alley it does make me wonder that if all these people are so dead set on leaving Communist China than who was it that supported Chairman Mao. My answer is a lot of people who wished they hadn't.
When Blood Alley came out in 1955 the Chinese Communist takeover was in 1949 and we in this country, rightly or wrongly, were not recognizing them. Maybe the policy was bad, didn't mean the Chinese Communists were any good.
Anyway the film is about a sea captain who gets freed from jail in the People's Republic by a village who have hit upon a plan to take themselves to Hong Kong and freedom bag and baggage. The idea is to steal an old river steamboat and have Captain John Wayne pilot the craft down the Formosa straits, or Blood Alley as its called. Lauren Bacall who is the daughter of a medical missionary is along for the ride.
Too bad that the Duke and Betty could not get a better film though they sure did do a winner later on in The Shootist. Nevertheless in her memoirs she spoke with great affection for Wayne and how much she enjoyed working with him.
One other interesting thing has always struck me. John Wayne did three films with William Wellman and this was the least of them. The other two, The High and the Mighty and Island in the Sky are classics containing two of the Duke's best performances. But for whatever reason the Wayne family estate withheld them until last year it rendered discussion about Wayne's acting abilities totally off base. This one which is just a routine action adventure film despite the right wing political message.
In addition Wayne is miscast, but in fairness he was pinch hitting for the originally cast Robert Mitchum. Back in those days Wayne and his Batjac production company did produce films with other people in them. One they did produce was Track of the Cat that starred Mitchum and was directed by Bill Wellman. Wellman also directed Mitchum in his breakthrough role in The Story of GI Joe. But Wellman and Mitchum came to a parting of the ways just before the film was to start shooting and Mitchum got canned.
That left producer Wayne in a bind and after reportedly offering the role to Humphrey Bogart and Gregory Peck, he did it himself with no changes in the script to accommodate his less cynical screen persona.
In fact according to Lee Server's biography of Mitchum, Wayne was to go on his honeymoon with wife number 3, Pilar. It was postponed and Pilar Wayne would not allow the Mitchums in the Wayne home for the time she was married to the Duke, though Mitchum and Wayne were friends. They could be friends, but Mitchum was forbidden to enter her home.
Such occidentals as Paul Fix and Mike Mazurki were cast as Chinese in this film as was Berry Kroeger. It could never happen that way again, though Mazurki in fact did have some Oriental blood in his background.
As for Communist China or Red China if you prefer, you never hear it referred to in that way any more. That's because the second Mao Tse tung couldn't fog a mirror the Chinese set about becoming good capitalist oligarchs. They pay lip service to the 1949 revolution, but that's about all.
Good for them.
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