“Back again aren’t you Mr. Fresh?”
Films in the beginning of the 1930s when sound was introduced have a whole host of problems. One of the biggest problems was, naturally, sound. Sound had only been introduced two years before Way for a Sailor was made in 1930. Several films from 1929 to about 1931 have their issues with sound and their actors talking. Unfortunately sound and talking are the least of Way For a Sailor-‘s problems.
Jack (John Gilbert) and Tripod (Wallace Beery) are sailors. They have been traveling for six months when they finally return home to London. Every time Jack is London he always tries to get a girl named Joan (Lila Hyams) to go out with him but every time she turns him down. Jack, Tripod, and their buddy Ginger go out drinking and start fights. Before they leave jack goes to see Joan. She just brushes him off but they start.
When Jack returns from another trip he goes to see Joan again at the shipping office and she is not there. He finds her town. She tries to get rid of him but they begin to talk and she winds up bringing him up to her place for tea. Joan jokes with Jack that he is cheap. He gets up and kisses her. Joan is furious with Jack for kissing her and throws him out. Jack waits outside her building. She is not too mad at him anymore and they go out for a walk down by the ocean together. There she tells Jack that she is leaving London to go back home to Montreal.
Jack’s ship is in New York City. He takes Tripod’s money saying he can get the deluxe harmonica he (Tripod) wants for five pounds. He lied to Tripod and buys himself a suit. Back in London he goes to see Joan in his new suit. Jack tells Joan he quit the merchant marines after Ginger and Tripod laughed at them. He says he is working in a shipping office. Joan and Jack get married. He confesses that he lied to her he is still part of the merchant marines. Jack was going to get rum at the local pub. Tripod is there and sees Jack. He has some other guys come over and they drag Jack to pawn shop and take his clothes to get his money back. When Jack gets back to Joan’s place she is gone. Jack gets on the same ship that Joan is on. She is angry with him she never wants to see him again and gives her ring back.
News comes that the China Star, the ship Jack, Tripod and Ginger are sailing on, is sinking in a bad storm. Jack, Tripod, and Ginger survive the rescue. They have been saved by a whaler. They are made to work on the whaler in Antarctica for six months.
Joan is waiting for Jack in London when he returns. They set some clauses to their marriage that both of them can agree on.
Way For a Sailor was not that great I really only watched it for John Gilbert. The sound and the lighting were horrible. There were some scenes where the background noise drowned out the actors when they were talking. The lighting in some scenes was terrible against some objects and some of the actors. Gilbert was alright he was too hammy in some scenes. I do feel bad seeing that this was the real decline of his career because despite his hamminess here I think he was a good actor. Lila Hyams was very good she and Gilbert were good together. The ending scene with Jack and Joan setting some rules was adorable and the only good scene in the film. The story is boring. It is obvious that this was a second tier MGM production and that it was designed to bring about the fall of Gilbert’s career (Louis B. Mayer and Irving Thalberg were not too fond of him anymore by this time). I can only suggest watching Way For a Sailor if you like film history and want to see an early sound film or if you are a fan of John Gilbert.