Friday, March 22, 2013

The Man Who Found Himself (1937)



The Man Who Found Himself would most likely never be known today had Joan Fontaine not been one of the leads. It is not a bad film at all it was good but the storyline has been done before and it is not hard to guess the ending.
            James Stanton Jr. is a young surgeon. He comes from a long line of doctors. He works in the same hospital as his father and is thus always under his watchful eye. In his spare time James likes to fly planes. His father does not like the fact that he flies planes he feels it is not a thing for a young man in his position to be doing. Stanton Sr. goes so far as to call the Department of Commerce to complain that James was flying to near a house.
            One night James is on his way to Philadelphia. The night is windy and rainy so he cannot immediately take off. While at the airport he sees a friend of his named Hannah. She tells him she needs to get to Philadelphia to see her mother who is not feeling well. Every plane has been grounded because of the bad weather. James takes Hannah in his plane. Unfortunately the weather is still that good and the plane crashes killing Hannah. A scandal erupts in the society pages with headlines blaring that James was running off with a married woman. No one believes him that he was just taking his friend who was a girl and happened to married to Philadelphia when she just needed a ride. James wants to run away to a small town with his fiancée Barbara. She tells him that she wants to be married to a society doctor not a country doctor.
            James takes off across the country. He becomes a hobo traveling. James is with a group of hobos one night when one of them plans to go into California. It is a risk because in California they arrest men like them. The entire group, including James, gets arrested and put to work as part of a road crew. James is put in charge to make sure cars are not going too fast through the work zone. He stops a car that his friend Dick happens to be a passenger in. Right away Dick notices James and becomes concerned. He wants to get James out of there but James is reluctant to leave he does not want anyone to know where he is.
            Dick gets James a job working at an air ambulance corps as a mechanic. James tells him to let everyone know his name is George Jones. Dick’s friend Nurse Doris King (Fontaine) is a very outgoing young woman. She talks too much for his liking but eventually they become good friends. One afternoon over the loudspeaker a call comes in that a man in serious condition needs to be picked up from one hospital and flown to another hospital. Dick is apparently nowhere to be found according to Doris who was sent to find him and knew exactly where he was. Doris knows James can fly and wanted to see him do so. On the ride back the patient is in so much pain he becomes agitated and starts going for the door of the plane. James sees what is going on. He puts the plane on autopilot and sedates the man. Almost as soon as they land Doris has a field day telling people what James did on the plane. She runs her mouth so much it catches the ear of a newspaper reporter who is always hanging around the terminal. James just tells everyone it was Doris who put the patient down not him she is stronger than she looks.

            The head of the corps tells James he is being pulled off mechanic duty so he (James) can become a pilot. The head tells James that Doris was the one who has been pulling for him. Now that James is to become a pilot he has to get his certification renewed. He cannot get it renewed under a false name so he manages to find the investigator for the Department of Commerce who spoke to him when he was at the hospital. The reporter follows James and Dick to the office and gets it out of the investigator who “George Jones” really is. The reporter runs to Doris with the news because he knows she likes James. Doris manages to get the reporter to hold the story so she can do something first. She is not mad at James at all she seems like she just wants to help.
            Doris travels out to Boston where James lived. She goes to see Barbara to try to get her to convince James to go back to being a doctor. Barbara does not love James anymore she is already engaged to another man. She gets the idea to call Stanton Sr. and have Doris speak to him about his son. Barbara takes Doris to speak to Stanton Sr. at a nightclub. At first he wants to hear nothing of his son but then Doris speaks and he listens.
            The next scene if Doris on a train with Stanton Sr. Her story of how well and courageous his son has been must have worked to make him take a train out to California. The train ride is going smoothly until a rail conductor cannot switch the tracks due them being stuck. The train runs off the track and crashes into a ravine.
            At the terminal James’s name is called over the loudspeaker to get to a plane and bring along a group of nurses to go out to a train crash. James and the nurses are the first responders on the scene. When James gets close to the wreck he sees his father and Doris helping out a severely injured boy. With Doris’s his father gets the boy to the plane to begin operating on him. James works up the courage to go onto the plane and help his father and Doris with the surgery.
            Joan Fontaine was incredibly adorable. I love watching films from her early career because she was always cast as the sweet girl with a big personality. Fontaine’s bubbly-ness was so infectious. It was cute how James did not really like her first when they first met because she talked so much. He tried to make her stop talking by ordering her coffee and several doughnuts. I always say this when I watch Fontaine’s early films but it is incredible how much she looks and sounds like her sister! John Beal as James Stanton was very good. I have seen him in another film and for the life of me I cannot remember the name of it. His character was a very nice character who calls for the audience to be very sympathetic towards. I think Beal played the character well because he did not overplay the sympathy. You can James wanted to work hard and be a doctor yet he was reserved and knew had to be to not be found out. Beal and Fontaine were a cute couple they worked well together.

            As I wrote at the beginning had it not been for Joan Fontaine being in The Man Who Found Himself I do not think this would be known. I really liked this film even the story which has been done before. Every single actor was great in their parts and I think that is what makes the film stand out among similar ones. The Man Who Found Himself is not available on DVD or on Youtube. It aired on TCM back in October and it had been on my DVR ever since! If TCM every airs The Man Who Found Himself give a watch.