Strange Cargo

Strange Cargo - 1940

Strange Cargo - Released March 1, 1940. Directed by Frank Borzage

This odd movie based on the bestseller of 1936 Not Too Narrow... Not Too Deep*, is a prison escape film that's not really about getting out, but changing the reason why you're in prison in the first-place. Director Borzage has on his hands a tale of ten escaped convicts (many are murderers) and a genial but mysterious 11th man named Jean Cambreau (he appears to be a convict, too. This impression doesn't last long.) Borzage's melodrama here is about the self-centered and nihilistic Verne (Clark Gable), weary career floozy Julie (Joan Crawford) and the convicts forced to face up to why they need each other on a desperate water-and-jungle trek to freedom from a South American French penal colony.

In the case of Cambreau (played by Ian Hunter), he doesn't appear to actually need anyone, but a significant exception is one brief instance when Clark has to provide rescue in a scene that predates a similar scene in Capra's It's A Wonderful Life.

As Strange Cargo progresses, the convicts learn that Cambreau always knows what's about to happen. He also knows why people are doing what they are doing better than they themselves know. This proves a relief for some of the convicts and quite vexing for the others, particularly the most religious and unchangeable member - Telez, played by Eduardo Ciannelli.

Peter Lorre isn't one of the convicts but plays an important role as M'sieu Pig. Like many a Lorre role, everyone is supposed to despise (with good reason) this character, but he proves useful when the chips are down, unless he is trying to sell someone out to the authorities, which is his usual full-time occupation. Incidentally, Pig is always pining for Julie, and trying to manufacture some situation that will get her to sell-out to him. Eventually, he will get his chance.

It's hard-headed (and hearted) Verne that is the real challenge in the reformation sweepstakes. The crew of ten escapees present additional difficulties, too, however, it appears to be nothing that Monsieur Cambreau can't handle. Not even death proves too difficult for this clever stranger.

*Not Too Narrow... Not Too Deep by Richard Sale

Strange Cargo – 1940 - AMAZON

Joan Crawford Films

Tramp Tramp Tramp - 1926

Sadie McKee - 1934

The Women - 1939

Strange Cargo - 1940

A Woman's Face - 1941

Flamingo Road - 1949

The Damned Don't Cry - 1950

Sudden Fear - 1952

Original Page May 16, 2016
Starring Miss Barbara Stanwyck [Illustrated with 310 Photographs] -

Sophia Loren: A Life in Pictures - 192 Pages -

Letters from Hollywood Book

Letters from Hollywood: Inside the Private World of Classic American Movemaking

352 pages - Published by Harry N. Abrams

"This is, quite simply, one of the finest books I’ve ever read about Hollywood." Leonard Maltin

Reproduces in full color scores of entertaining and insightful pieces of correspondence from some of the most notable and talented film industry names of all time—from the silent era to the golden age, and up through the pre-email days of the 1970s. Annotated by the authors to provide backstories and further context. Greta Garbo, Alfred Hitchcock, Humphrey Bogart, Frank Sinatra, Katharine Hepburn, Marlon Brando, Elia Kazan, Cary Grant, Francis Ford Coppola, Tom Hanks, and Jane Fonda.

Letters from Hollywood: Inside the Private World of Classic American Movemaking

What's Recent

Creating the Illusion - Cotuming Hollywood

Creating the Illusion: A Fashionable History of Hollywood Costume Designers (Turner Classic Movies) - Amazon