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Saturday Late Night Cinema: I Cover the Waterfront

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Late night cinema, but I have been speaking in LA today and this evening, so forgive the late hour. A little 1933 gem — includes racy pre-code sexual situations.

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I Cover the Waterfront (1933) The Late Ernest Torrence in His Last Picture, a Melodrama of San Diego's Waterfront.

By MORDAUNT HALL.
Published: May 18, 1933

Culled from Max Miller's book, "I Cover the Waterfront," there has reached the Rivoli a stolid and often grim picture, the principal asset of which is the clever acting of the principals, particularly that of the late Ernest Torrence. Its drama is not nearly as successful as one might expect in a film directed by James Cruze. The sullen happenings are more shocking than suspenseful, and for moments of levity there are the mumblings and doings of a bibulous newspaper man and the Hollywood conception of the manner in which another reporter berates his city editor.

Instead of depicting several contrasting episodes from the original chronicle, the producers have contented themselves with concentrating on a melodramatic series of incidents concerned with a sinister fisherman who finds that there is more money in smuggling Chinese into the United States than in angling for tuna. This evil specimen of humanity is known as Eli Kirk, and it chances that he has an unusually attractive daughter named Julie, who is personated by Claudette Colbert. She, it appears, is much more simple than she looks, for while she knows that her father is a terror when drunk, she evidently believes that that is the limit of his wrongdoing. There is also Joseph Miller, one of those newspaper geniuses to be found only in motion pictures. Ben Lyon has charge of this part.

This melodrama is laid on San Diego's waterfront. Kirk is a kindly father, but he thinks nothing of dropping a bound and gagged Chinese overboard when a Coast Guard cutter pursues his fishing craft. Later a character referred to as Old Chris, who drags the harbor water for anything he can find, brings up the body of the Chinese just when the ubiquitous Miller comes alongside in another boat. It looks like a good story to Miller, who, knowing that his city editor, John Phelps, may doubt him, decides to take the body to his office. The reporter insists that Kirk is responsible for the death of the Chinese, but Phelps hazards in no uncertain terms that there must be evidence against Kirk before the story can be printed.

Miller decides to pay attention to Julie, hoping to glean from her information regarding her father's secret activities, but evidently she knows nothing, and what is more, Miller is not precisely blind to the girl's beauty; in fact, he falls in love with her. Nevertheless, he continues his investigation, and once again the Coast Guard men board Kirk's boat. He has been shark fishing this time. This is suspicious, inasmuch as it would have been to a fisherman's advantage to go South for tuna. Kirk, however, has his reason for harpooning sharks, which is disclosed in the course of this narrative. Miller is Kirk's nemesis, but after the old man passes away with a bullet through his lung, one is informed that Julie and the great reporter are to be married.

Mr. Torrence's last performance was the part of Kirk. He did, as always, excellent work. Miss Colbert does well as Julie, but she is scarcely convincing as a fisherman's daughter, chiefly because she does not look the type. Ben Lyon makes the most of his part. Purnell Pratt, Harry Beresford and Rosita Marstini are equal to the demands of their rôles.

I COVER THE WATERFRONT, based on the book by Max Miller; directed by James Cruze; a United Artists Picture. At the Rivoli.
Julie Kirk . . . . . Claudette Colbert
Joseph Miller . . . . . Ben Lyon
Eli Kirk . . . . . Ernest Torrence
McCoy . . . . . Hobart Cavanaugh
Ortegus . . . . . Maurice Black
Old Chris . . . . . Harry Beresford
John Phelps . . . . . Purnell Pratt
Tony Silva . . . . . George Humbert
Mrs. Silva . . . . . Rosita Marstini
Mother Morgan . . . . . Claudia Coleman
Randall . . . . . Wilfred Lucas

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