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W. S. Van Dyke--the lucky stiff. . . .


slaytonf
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To film White Shadows in the South Seas, he gets to go to the Marquesas in the 1920s, damn him. A little Romance/Adventure, a little travelogue, it's filled with many of the stereotypes and misconceptions about South Sea life current in Western culture. It has a patronizing attitude toward the inhabitants, which can be just as offensive as a contemptuous one. Has a bit of a downer ending, sadly, though truer to life. Compare with somethng like His Majesty O'Keefe.

 

Some nice photography, which is to be expected from Mr. Van Dyke, who was well above the average run of Hollywood directors. Not in the league of Ford and others, but he could come up with some good stuff. My favorite shot is the one which follows Lloyd and Faraway paddling in a canoe, which ends with Faraway using her wrap as a sail. Nice. The underwater photography is a surprise, I wonder if this was the first movie with it. Too bad they didn't try filming in Technicolor, even two strip. Maybe it was too expensive.

 

One thing I wonder is why so many of the drunken derelicts in movies are defrocked doctors, and vice versa. What is it about the conception of doctoring--at least before the 1930s-- that leads writers to do this?

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What is it about the conception of doctoring--at least before the 1930s-- that leads writers to do this?

 

Probably because doctors were held to a higher moral standard. If the fallen idol was some businessman, the attitude might have been "all he lost was money" - the average person isn't going to have much sympathy for some character in the same boat as they."

 

Fallen religious leaders were probably risky, back then they didn't want to offend the church. Politicians? I think that during the Depression nothing would make people happier than to see a fallen politician, but still they were probably on the same perceived moral plane as lawyers today.

 

But a doctor? He's supposed to heal others and thus the presumption is that he should be able to heal himself. Was there a profession that would have had the same fall from grace as a doctor?

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>sex clore:

> Was there a profession that would have had the same fall from grace as a doctor?

 

 

Come to think of it, sometimes lawyers were portrayed that way. But the fall from grace angle wouldn't be there, as lawyers are viewed as inherently fallen. And they weren't in action/adventure movies.

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I'm not sure you would describe him as "lucky" after learning about his death. From Wikipedia:

 

Ill with cancer and a bad heart, he directed one last film: [Journey for Margaret|http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Journey_for_Margaret|Journey for Margaret], it was a heart-rending movie that made five-year old Margaret O'Brien an overnight star.

 

A devout [Christian Scientist|http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christian_Scientist|Christian Scientist], Van Dyke refused most medical care during his last years. After finishing his last film he said his goodbyes to his wife, children and studio boss [Louis B. Mayer|http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Louis_B._Mayer|Louis B. Mayer], and committed [suicide|http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Suicide|Suicide] on February 5, 1943.^[suicide|http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/W._S._Van_Dyke#cite_note-obit-0] ^in [brentwood, Los Angeles, California|http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brentwood,_Los_Angeles,_California|Brentwood, Los Angeles, California]. At his request, [Jeanette MacDonald|http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jeanette_MacDonald|Jeanette MacDonald] and [Nelson Eddy|http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nelson_Eddy|Nelson Eddy] both sang and officiated at his funeral.

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