Garfield and O’Hara
in The Fallen Sparrow

John Garfield the Original Rebel blogathon

Welcome one and all to the John Garfield the Original Rebel blogathon hosted by Phyllis Loves Classic Movies. Our host Phyllis posted a clever reimagining of Conspiracy Theory (1997) using stills of Garfield and O’Hara. It’s recommended reading but back to the film that RKO actually made.

The Fallen Sparrow (1943) stars Garfield and Maureen O’Hara in a story of murder and intrigue set in New York with flashbacks to Spain. Screenwriter Warren Duff adapted the novel by Dorothy B. Hughes [In a Lonely Place (1950)]. It’s a film that isn’t discussed very often but one that should be celebrated as a classic film noir and for the pairing of Garfield and O’Hara.

This is the only film of director Richard Wallace that I’ve seen. He’s been described as a journeyman director. Here, he’s aided by the camerawork of the highly regarded Nicholas Musuraca [Golden Boy (1939), Cat People (1942)] and editor (later director) Robert Wise.

Garfield’s street guy personae contrasts perfectly with the regal O’Hara, very different from his two-of-a-kind chemistry with Lana Turner in The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946).

In The Fallen Sparrow, he plays, John ‘Kit’ McKittrick a veteran of the Spanish Civil War that took place between 1936 and 1939. He’s suffering from what today would be called PTSD from torture at the hands of fascists. American veterans of that war who participated on the side of the Spanish loyalists, without the approval of the U.S. government, were considered “premature anti-fascists.” The film doesn’t delve into the politics in any depth and sticks with a murder mystery of what happened to Kit’s best friend while he was away. O’Hara is Toni Donne, a society woman who may or may not have figured in his death.

with Patricia Morrison

In He Ran All the Way: The Life of John Garfield, Robert Nott describes the film as “top notch entertainment although it is no more politically and historically effective than a tourist brochure guide to Spain. No mention is made of the fascists being Spanish: It turns out they are Nazis working in Spain. Still, at least one movie studio was willing to acknowledge that there had been a civil war in Spain and despite its vague political message, the film moves along well and remains an early example of noir with Julie [Garfield] in a Philip Marlowe-type role.” Watch for the villainous Walter Slezak and Patricia Morrison who are also excellent.

Thanks to Phyllis for hosting. Click on the image below for the complete lineup.