Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh

***

Reviewed by: Caro Ness

This film is a hard one to assess. It is like a Western taken out of context, replacing the cowboys and Indians with coal miners and steel impresarios.

Ostensibly two coal miners, Pittsburgh Markham and Cash Evans, best friends, chance upon Josie “Hunky” Winters a high-class “countess” and both men fall in love with her. She persuades them that they need to take chances if they are to get anywhere and they do, by shaving three cents off the price of coke and persuading a steel company owner, Morgan Prentiss to sign a contract with them to provide it.

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In doing so, they become millionaires but Pittsburgh’s will to succeed has him leaving Hunky behind and marrying Prentiss’s daughter so he can further his ambitions. These actions divorce him from both his family and friends and tear him from his roots and push him into a society that makes him uncomfortable. However, he comes to his senses in time to fulfil the promises he made to his workforce, to improve plant productivity and to help win World War II.

This is an unashamed propaganda film to inspire workers to work harder in order to help the War effort. The story is predictable and dated and it is hard to ignore the message that is driven home: that the greater good (ie the war effort) is more important than individual wealth and petty entanglements.

I can’t say I’ve ever been a John Wayne fan but he puts in a solid performance and it is refreshing to see him playing the bounder for a change. Randolph Scott can always be relied upon to give good support and he doesn’t disappoint in this movie. And what can one say about Marlene? She is undoubtedly striking but the romantic plot is so underdeveloped that it is almost an incidental subplot. That is a shame because she illuminates every film she is in, just with her presence on set. As John Wayne himself put it she was and is “the most intriguing woman I’ve ever known.”

This film is worth seeing for curiosity value more than anything else and also for the cinematography which depicts the hard life of the coal miner particularly well. It is well-made and as long as you see it for what it is – an attempt to get the nation firmly behind the war effort – then it is a diverting yarn.

Reviewed on: 29 Nov 2006
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A high-class "countess" helps two coal miners make a mint... but what is the price of success? Out to own now as part of Marlene Dietrich: The Movie Collection 18-disc box set.
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Director: Lewis Seiler

Writer: Kenneth Grant, Tom Reed, based on a story by George Owen and Tom Reed

Starring: Marlene Dietrich, Randolph Scott, John Wayne, Frank Craven, Louise Allbritton, Shemp Howard, Thomas Gomez, Ludwig Stossel, Samuel S Hinds, Paul Fix

Year: 1942

Runtime: 175 minutes

BBFC: PG - Parental Guidance

Country: US

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