An action-packed but somewhat fanciful screen adaptation of the life of famed American adventurer and author Jack London, based on the biography written by his wife Charmian. Beginning during London's (O'Shea) early adult life, the film details the series of odd jobs he held while living
in the Pacific Northwest. After a failed romance with Mayo, and the death of his friend Toomey, O'Shea sets out for the Yukon territory in search of more adventure. In the Yukon, O'Shea begins to mature and gain insight into his lifestyle which he decides to write about. His books prove extremely
popular and he finds himself something of a celebrity. One day the beautiful Hayward walks into O'Shea's life, she having fallen in love with him from reading his books. The two grow close and decide to marry, but when the Boer War breaks out O'Shea deserts her in favor of adventure. Leaving his
publisher, Morgan, to watch over his bride-to-be, O'Shea travels to London on the first leg of his journey to Africa. Upon his arrival in London, O'Shea is disappointed to learn that the Boer War has ended. Returning home, O'Shea and Hayward begin to make wedding plans, but he is snatched away
once again when he goes off to cover the Russo-Japanese War. O'Shea arrives in Japan accompanied by two other reporters, Earle and Conway, but they soon learn that the Japanese will not allow American reporters on the front. Not one to be stopped by bureaucracy, O'Shea manages to make his way to
the front and cover the fighting under the watchful eye of Japanese captain Strong. There he witnesses horrible atrocities committed by the Japanese army and he is arrested for taking pictures of the carnage. It appears as if O'Shea will be left in prison to rot, but US President Theodore
Roosevelt (Clark) arranges to have him released and deported back to the States. Imbued with a new sense of commitment, O'Shea returns to his country with a passionate plea to beware of the Japanese military.
Though JACK LONDON makes the usual concessions to hero worship and myth-making while ignoring the facts regarding the subject's life (London was an alcoholic, addicted to morphine, and he had a distinct self-destructive bent), it succeeds as an interesting adventure picture. Unfortunately, the
vehemently anti-Japanese segments the filmmakers slipped in date the film and seem incongruous with the rest of the movie. The other problem with the film is the casting of O'Shea as London. The role was originally slated for John Garfield, but when he proved to be unavailable the studio went with
O'Shea. Although he was up to the physical demands of the role, O'Shea lacked the personality and emotional depths needed for a truly engrossing portrayal. Hayward makes the most of a fairly thankless role in which she is supposed to be deeply in love while waiting for her man to return on short
visits. Her character could easily have slipped into that of the mindless, infinitely patient hero-worshiping spouse, but Hayward does manage to bring some intelligence and dignity to the part. A romantic footnote: star O'Shea and featured player Mayo met on the set and were married soon after
shooting was completed. The film earned an Oscar nomination for its score, but 34 other films were also nominated in that category in 1944 (20 in the comedy/drama classification and 14 more in the musical classification), that seems a modest accomplishment.
Cast & Details See all »
- Rating: NR
- Review: An action-packed but somewhat fanciful screen adaptation of the life of famed American adventurer and author Jack London, based on the biography written by his wife Charmian. Beginning during London's (O'Shea) early adult life, the film details the series… (more)