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The Hairy Ape Reviews

Hayward plays the vixen to the hilt in this offbeat O'Neill drama. She is a spoiled, wealthy socialite returning to America on a tramp steamer carrying refugees. First, to amuse herself, Hayward toys with the ship's second engineer, Loder, then falls in love with him. She convinces him to take her to the boiler room where the stokers feed the roaring furnaces with coal, even though this area is off limits to passengers. There, wearing an impeccable white ensemble, Hayward inspects the greasy, soot-stained, burly men, largest and fiercest among them being Bendix. He is a simple-minded, almost cretinous worker who is childishly proud of his brawn; he loves his job and the ship he works on, feeling responsible for the steam which powers it. The filthy, sweaty brute takes one look at Hayward and dumbly approaches this beautiful dream woman. She recoils in horror, screaming "You hairy ape!" With that he makes a threatening move and she flees to deckside. Neither forgets the incident. Hayward has nightmares about beast Bendix and he hates her for labeling him a jungle creature. When Bendix later goes to the swanky building where Hayward lives, he is ejected by the doorman and a cop. At a circus, Bendix watches a gorilla crushing a rubber tire and envisions himself as the ape, but crushing the life out of Hayward. He sneaks into her apartment and almost frightens her to death, but does not harm her, seeing that he has already scarred her memory. He returns to his ship, steals a whistle from Loder, the symbol of authority, and happily goes back to stoking the blazing furnaces. Though Bendix does a commendable job as the man-beast, receiving top billing, a rare occurrence, Hayward steals the film and received rave reviews which helped her climb to star status, even though she was labeled by one critic as being "Hollywood's ablest bitch-player." Comingore, who had starred in the classic CITIZEN KANE (1941), makes a brief appearance as a refugee aboard the ship. The film earned an Oscar nomination for its score, but since 19 other films were also nominated for that award in the drama/comedy category, and another 14 nominated in the musical category in 1944, that seems to be not much of a distinction.