It is 1947, and Bogart is a soldier of fortune, a one-time American fighter pilot who has crashed in China and thrown in his lot with warlord Cobb, living in the mountains with the bandits and taking a Eurasian girl, Porter, as his mistress. Bogart is uncomfortable in his role of adviser
and captain of Cobb's ragtag army. When one of Cobb's men kills a priest, Bogart decides to escape, knowing that Cobb has given orders to shoot all deserters. He takes on the priest's identity, making his way to a village where missionaries Marshall and Moorehead take him in. He is attracted to
stunning mission nurse Tierney but can do nothing about it and is even forced to perform some religious rites in order to preserve his disguise. Bogart falls in love with Tierney, but she feels uncomfortable in his presence, ashamed by the attraction which she feels. Bogart writes to the bishop,
confessing that he is an impostor, but Cobb arrives to insist that Bogart rejoin him, threatening to destroy the village unless he does so. Bogart then appeals to Cobb's considerable sporting blood, offering to roll the dice. If Bogart wins, he goes free and the village remains unmolested. If he
loses, he will return with Cobb and serve five years as military counsel. Cobb loses graciously. The bishop's emmissary arrives and chastises Bogart for his sacrilege, but Marshall and Moorehead, who were originally hostile to Bogart, come to his defense and point out the good he has done for the
village. Bogart is ordered to report to higher authorities on the coast. When he leaves, it is understood that Tierney will follow him, and the two of them will make a life together.
The story is improbable, but Bogart's fine acting and Tierney's luscious presence enliven the tame script, which is directed with great energy by Dmytryk and beautifully photographed by Planer. Tierney had not appeared in films for several years, having suffered from mental illness. Zanuck, who
had made her a star at Fox, asked Bogart and Dmytryk if they would consider her as their leading lady, and both agreed. Bogart's performance, as usual, is flawless, though he was in considerable pain, having recently suffered a slipped disc which was exacerbated by lengthy horseback riding scenes.
At 4:00 PM, when the major portion of shooting was completed for the day, Bogart would ask Dmytryk if he had any more important scenes for him to shoot. If the answer was no, Bogart would go to a small refrigerator in his dressing room and pull out a bottle of scotch. His endless chain smoking
had begun to take its toll, so before doing a scene, he would force a paroxysm of coughing to avoid doing so on camera. (He would be dead of cancer of the esophagus by 1957.) For Bogart enthusiasts, this film remains a high camp production; it is obvious that the expansive Cobb played his part for
laughs, but it is nevertheless entertaining. Fox made much of the Bogart-Tierney priest-lover relationship in their ads. At the film's premiere, an interviewer trapped Bogart coming out of the theater and asked how it felt to be a priest. Bogart snapped back: "How would I know?" and walked off.
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- Rating: NR
- Review: It is 1947, and Bogart is a soldier of fortune, a one-time American fighter pilot who has crashed in China and thrown in his lot with warlord Cobb, living in the mountains with the bandits and taking a Eurasian girl, Porter, as his mistress. Bogart is unco… (more)