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let's talk about BLOOD ALLEY (1955)


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i think this film works on SO many levels.

among the BEST (that is, entertaining) roles played by John Wayne and Lauren Bacall. He's gorgeous---she's gorgeous.

Absolute coolest catch-phrases (MOST spoken by John Wayne---"Are you hungry, Baby? You're going to get hungrier.)

("Patience-thy name is China")

Best "imaginary friend" in a Hollywood thriller (perhaps the ONLY imaginary friend---Baby)

Even the non-Chinese actors playing Chinese are darned good.

Stunning setting and sets, and costuming.

Great livestock.

Looks at the Chinese "communist" takeover from a new perspective---was it true that the RICHEST village family threw their fates in with the Communist party to save themselves? I have a sneaking suspicion that this probably happened---RICH folks were survivors, always.

Perhaps the best promotion (cross-media) at the time---John Wayne appeared on an "I LOVE LUCY" segment when she and Ethel steal his footprint slab from the Grauman's Chinese Theatre. At the time, he was supposedly shooting BLOOD ALLEY, and he is shown in his trailer dressing room, etc.

John Wayne appeared in an episode of I Love Lucy  to promote this film. In a scene when Lucy is hiding in Wayne's trailer on set, a worker brings in the large poster for "Blood Alley" for his approval just before he is about to receive a massage. As Lucy tries to sneak away, he hears her, thinks she is the masseuse he sent for and makes her give him a massage without ever seeing her.
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I really like Blood Alley too, though I only became familiar with it later in life. As a young man in the late 1960's I had a prejudice against John Wayne based on political views and wouldn't watch his films, though as a kid I'd liked things like North to Alaska and Hatari!. Thankfully I've gotten over that and have enjoyed catching up with many of his films.

I noticed that Blood Alley was done by Batjac, his production company, so it was an example of some of the good choices he made when looking for material. I don't know whether or not he personally sought Lauren Bacall as a costar, but it was a good pairing (though I think she could have paired well with almost any of the male leads of that era). He was less successful, in my opinion, with the casting of Lana Turner in The Sea Chase; I didn't really feel chemistry there. 

I know a lot of people think he was dreadfully miscast (by himself, I would imagine) in John Huston's The Barbarian and the Geisha, but I think that's a beautifully realized film and he was really good in it. America was still a relatively new nation, also new to diplomacy, so that his seeming discomfort seemed natural to the character and not a reflection on John Wayne the actor in a period role. 

The asides to "Baby" were an interesting device and I particularly liked the fact that in the final scene he transferred the term to Bacall, so that she would henceforth be his "Baby" and his need for fantasy was over. (Weren't she and Bogart referred to as Bogie and Baby, so maybe it's an inside joke too?)

I can't vouch for the accuracy of the political subplot either, but you're right that it seems to ring true. 

These were good roles for both Wayne and Bacall and I was happy to see it show up on her SUTS day.

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