Now I have an odd opinion about Four Frightened People… it was not terrible the story was interesting but the characters and the acting got on my nerves so bad that I wanted to punch my computer! I was hoping for it to be a good film because, one, it is a Cecil B. DeMille film and the guy made great films and, two, Claudette Colbert is one of the lead characters and the films I have seen her in so far I adore her. I did not have any expectations going into the film, well maybe I did to some extent, but I felt a little let down when it ended.
A ship traveling from the tropics has become infested with the bubonic plague. Two men happen to have overheard some of the crew talking about how two other crewmen have already died. Arnold Ainger (Herbert Marshall), a rubber scientist, and Stewart Corder (William Gargan), a newspaper reporter, are the two men and they manage to get a small boat. They take along an older woman named Mrs. Mardick (Mary Boland) who speaks the native language fluently. They had to grab a young school teacher named Judy Jones (Colbert) who almost had a screaming fit and created a panic.
The “four frightened people” land on an island. Each of them needs to get back to New York within a certain amount of days. They learn from a native named Montague who speaks English that he can get them through the jungle to the other side to a ship in three or four days. Stewart, Arnold, Mrs. Mardick, and Judy walk and crawl through the treacherous jungle. For the first day and a half things go somewhat smoothly. Then things go from bad to worse and what was supposed to be a three or four day walk turns into weeks. The group comes up against dangerous animals and even more deadly natives.
As with all films from the 1930s and classic Hollywood the story does end happily if incredibly cheesy.
The biggest issues I had with the film was the acting and the crappy romantic story with Colbert and Marshall’s characters. The acting was so over dramatic it just got in the way and made the whole film laughable. As I said I love and adore Claudette Colbert but she was so bad! There were a few scenes where she had to be scared and sad and what she came up with was just a mess. Then to top the whole bad-acting bit off was the ridiculous romantic handle between Judy and Arnold. Blah! I mean I understand they each found a new confidence in themselves and the two had that in common but it was so silly. The very ending was a load of garbage. Oh and I also cracked up with how Colbert's clothes were all matronly and by the time they got out of the jungle she was sexily clad in animal skins.
Besides the over acting in moments of calm the acting was not bad. Colbert was great at the beginning when she was this nerdy, timid woman who never lived her life. It was a shock to see her look so demur and timid after seeing her as the seductive Cleopatra and the feisty Ellie in It Happened One Night. Herbert Marshall I have seen in other films and to me he always seems to be the gentleman who just stands aside or gets walked all over. Seems to me that every classic film needs to have that one obnoxious woman who has an annoying voice and constantly talks about nonsense. Four Frightened People has Mary Boland as Mrs. Mardick. Boland was not incredibly annoying she was actually good and her character was interesting to some extent. All I think of her as is one of the yappers in The Women. William Gargan fit his role of a tough newspaper reporter perfectly.
Four Frightened People is not one of Cecil B. DeMille’s greatest films. Compared to his epics and other well known films this is very tame. As I started off this post I have a weird opinion of the film. I did not necessarily love it or really hate it but for some reason I wanted to punch it… it is better not to ask, it is just how I feel. If you ever happen to come across Four Frightened People I say watch it but do not expect anything too great.