Moonrise (1948)

Moonrise (1948) Front Cover DVD
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Moonrise (1948) Back Cover DVD
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The movie opens with an expressionistic sequence, using only shadows and striking visual details, that lays out the story's premise: a man is hanged for murder, and his son is tormented and bullied throughout his childhood because of his "shameful" parentage. Danny Hawkins (Dane Clark) grows into a tortured adult, lonely and gentle, but also prey to uncontrollable rage and the fear that his "bad blood" destines him to repeat his father's crime.

The first scene, set at an outdoor dance held near the swamps, introduces a nasty Southern small town community in which young people laughingly taunt a retarded deaf-mute, Billy Scripture (Harry Morgan). Danny gets in a fight in the woods with his lifelong nemesis, Jerry Sykes (Lloyd Bridges), and in an ambiguous combination of self-defense and revenge, crushes his skull with a rock. The remainder of the film follows the gradual unraveling of this crime, and Danny's growing relationship with Gilly Johnson (Gail Russell), a beautiful and civilized schoolteacher who is initially put off by, then irresistibly drawn to, this rough and troubled man.

Dane Clark never quite made it out of the B-list, but in Moonrise he got the role of a lifetime, and no one could have played it better. He has a fist-clenched fighter's stance and dark wounded-animal eyes, a rugged face softened by long, thick eyelashes, and a deep, husky, sorrowful voice. Though we identify with him completely, Danny often behaves irrationally and badly; in one wrenching scene, he nearly strangles the deaf man he has always protected, and is horrified at himself. Gail Russell, an actress famously crippled by stage-fright and dependent on alcohol, makes the loveliest of Noir's "good angels," her dark beauty lit by an intense, melancholy stillness. In the latter part of the film she looks like a heavenly messenger of mercy in her white trench coat, but she is also a believable and fully-rounded character, especially charming in the exquisite scene where the lovers meet in a derelict plantation mansion. Gilly pretends they are attending an old Southern soiree, and they waltz without music in the dark, cobwebbed parlor.

Danny's only friend is Mose, one of those saintly African American characters who often turn up in films of the forties. Rex Ingram's strong performance transcends stereotype; though all-wise, he is also a lonely, somewhat embittered character, who says he has "resigned from the human race," and who addresses his hunting dogs as "Mister," because, "There's not enough dignity in the world." Harry Morgan is flawless in the mute role of another outcast, the retarded man who looks up to Danny. And Lloyd Bridges, though he is only on screen for about five minutes, makes an indelible addition to his collection of loathsome, cowardly bullies.

Did director Frank Borzage ever make a film that wasn't about the redemptive power of love? If so, I haven't seen it. But Moonrise is also about the persistence of hate and the way people can be robbed of their humanity by degrading treatment. It demonstrates as well as any film Borzage's two great gifts: his expressive and dynamic visual sense, and his ability to draw intensely heartfelt performances from his actors. In a love scene shot in silhouette against lace-curtained windows, Borzage proves that the transcendent romanticism of the silent screen isn't incompatible with sound. And with help from Dane Clark, he creates a portrait of a mind haunted by the past and at war with itself, the essential Noir predicament.


Dane Clark as Danny Hawkins
Gail Russell as Gilly Johnson
Ethel Barrymore as Grandma
Allyn Joslyn as Sheriff Clem Otis
Rex Ingram as Mose
Harry Morgan as Billy Scripture
David Street as Ken Williams
Selena Royle as Aunt Jessie
Harry Carey Jr. as Jimmy Biff
Irving Bacon as Judd Jenkins
Lloyd Bridges as Jerry Sykes
Phil Brown as Elmer - Soda Jerk
Harry Cheshire as J.B. Sykes
Lila Leeds as Julie
Tom Fadden as Homer Blackstone
Charles Lane as Mr. Chandler - Man in Black
Clem Bevans as Jake - Coroner
Harry Lauter as Man Dancing with Gilly
Stephen Peck as Danny - Age 7
Tommy Ivo as Jerry - Age 7
Johnny Calkins as Danny - Age 13
Michael Dill as Jerry - Age 13

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The cost of this item is $9.99. This is good quality picture and sound. This DVD comes with artwork, label and case. See provided images above, these images are of the actual items.

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