It was a little hard getting used to Jean Gabin speaking English! This early film noir is recommendable for its beautiful cinematography.
Bobo (Gabin) is a hard-drinking dockworker with a violent temper and prone to blackouts. His “friend” Tiny (Thomas Mitchell) is Bobo’s self-appointed babysitter. As the story opens, Tiny is urging Bobo to go to San Diego for work but Bobo drinks on. Once again Bobo is completely blotto. When he comes to, he is sleeping in a waterside bait shop owned by some friendly Chinese who offer him work. He learns that one of his drinking companions from the night before has been strangled.
While walking on the beach with night watchman and homespun philosopher Nutsy (Claude Rains), Bobo spots a girl walking into the sea fully clothed. This is Anna, a “hash-house dame”. Bobo rescues her then lies to the police to prevent them taking her in for attempted suicide. Marie’s domestic care begins to ground Bobo’s life and he asks her to marry him. But Tiny is not about to lose his meal ticket, and takes drastic action.
This movie had real potential and perhaps if Fritz Lang had stayed on the project until completion it would have realized it. As it was, he was replaced by Mayo with three weeks left due to disagreements with Darryl F. Zanuck. According to the commentary, Gabin was none too pleased with Zanuck’s approach to the material either.
None of this discord was fatal and Moontide, if not great, is very watchable. The cinematography is innovative and stunning.
Hollywood wasn’t really for Gabin and by 1943 he had returned to Europe to fight with the Free French.
Charles G. Clarke was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Cinematography, Black-and-White for his work on Moontide.
Clip – Bobo’s bender – Sorry for the Russian overdubbing but you can see the crazy camera work