Review: ‘A Guy Named Joe’

In taking a fling at the spirit world, Metro doesn't quite succeed in reaching the nebulous but manages to turn out an entertaining and excellently performed picture. Had the fantasy been interpreted wholly in terms of the sharp wit and dry humor which Spencer Tracy, as a ghostly visitor, only occasionally injects, instead of investing it with spiritual counselling, the film [from an original story by David Boehm and Chandler Sprague] might have attained smash proportions.

In taking a fling at the spirit world, Metro doesn’t quite succeed in reaching the nebulous but manages to turn out an entertaining and excellently performed picture. Had the fantasy been interpreted wholly in terms of the sharp wit and dry humor which Spencer Tracy, as a ghostly visitor, only occasionally injects, instead of investing it with spiritual counselling, the film [from an original story by David Boehm and Chandler Sprague] might have attained smash proportions.

As it is, there hovers over too many scenes in the cloudy strata a fogginess that isn’t made any more acceptable by the final solution. The latter only changes the mood of the film from one of light cockiness to the realm of metaphysics.

Tracy is cast as a squadron commander at an English base who’s in a constant jam because of his foolhardy heroics.

Fulfilling a premonition felt by Dunne, he crashes on his last heroic stunt, proceeding to the land where all dead pilots go. There he meets up with The Boss, and is assigned to guide and instruct the new pilots in the earthly world who are making a bid for their wings. It’s at this point that the serious overtones of the picture intrude themselves, with the offering of the matter-of-fact solution that ‘life must go on for the living’ too abruptly thrust into the story’s continuity.

1944: Nomination: Best Original Story

A Guy Named Joe

Production

M-G-M. Director Victor Fleming; Producer Everett Riskin; Screenplay Dalton Trumbo; Camera George Folsey, Karl Freund; Editor Frederick Brennan; Music Herbert Stothart

Crew

(B&W) Available on VHS, DVD. Extract of a review from 1944. Running time: 120 MIN.

With

Spencer Tracy Irene Dunne Van Johnson Ward Bond Lionel Barrymore Esther Williams

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