Crisis (1950)

Crisis was Richard Brooks’ directorial debut, and is an interesting thriller. An American neurosurgeon Gene Ferguson and his wife Helen (Cary Grant and Paula Raymond) are on vacation in an unnamed Latin-American nation during a time of unrest and revolution. The dictator Farrago (Jose Ferrer) is dying of a brain tumour, but as he’s unable to get help in or leave the country during the crisis, he detains the Fergusons, holds them at luxurious gunpoint in his villa, and demands that Gene saves his life. Also caught up in the turmoil are Farrago’s wife (Signe Hasso, in a good Eva Peron-ish role) an American oil company bigwig and unofficial ambassador (Leon Ames), and charismatic revolutionary Gonzales (Gilbert Roland). Gene bristles at being forced into this situation, but agrees to do the surgery for a steep fee. The revolutionaries tell him to botch the operation, and to ensure Gene’s compliance they take Helen hostage, but an intercepted message means the doctor has no idea his wife’s life is at risk if surgery succeeds.

Since we’re confident that Dr. Gene will do the right thing, and he assumes Helen took a train to safety, there’s little suspense about what choice he’ll make; it’s all about what the results will be. Along with the thriller plot there are revealing political discussions and debates about leadership styles between the idealistic American and the pragmatic tyrant. Farrago argues that liberty and democracy are easy where people are educated, civilized and orderly. Not so in his nation, he says, where a movie ticket lineup becomes a riot in no time. Opposition leader Gonzales sounds no better when he laughs about the people being children who need to be told what to do. Both leaders promise miracles but see their followers as useful idiots, and caught in the middle are people like the famous guitarist who protests by refusing to play.

It’s interesting to see Grant play such a stern, prickly and guarded character who fears for his wife’s safety and doesn’t trust either side in this coup. He has a special loathing for the Colonel who apprehends them (Ramon Novarro), mainly because the man was rude enough to cut into a phone call between Gene and Helen. There’s a great bit where Gene does a complete run-through of the surgery with the medical team, a translator, a mannequin and lots of diagrams. Farrago looks on proudly, initially using the demonstration to show off his power over an American expert, but the dictator soon gets queasy as he watches Gene slice and drill his way into the “dummy’s” skull.

This post is part of the the Cary Grant Blogathon hosted by Phyllis Loves Classic Movies. Click on over to see all the other Cary movies being spotlighted.




17 thoughts on “Crisis (1950)”

  1. A medium kind of effort, I thought. The premise is a good one – it reminded me a little of the better British movie State Secret, which I think is actually from the same year – and offers lots of scope for drama and suspense. The cast were all fine as I recall and did good work but the script isn’t really all it could or should be. Worth a look for all that.

    1. Yup, that’s pretty much how I feel about it, interesting to see for something serious with Grant. I read how it originally had his character with a daughter taken hostage, sort of the TAKEN approach. STATE SECRET sounds good, I like that cast, Fairbanks Jr, Lom, Hawkins…!

      1. Yes, it’s a good one, in my opinion. It’s been a good few years since I last saw it now, and it’s not the easiest to source either. There seems to be a DVD out in Spain but I couldn’t say how that looks. I’m surprised it’s never surfaced in the UK, I would have thought Studio Canal or Network would have the rights.

  2. A Cary Grant film I’ve never heard of! Sounds like a neat story…and anything with Signe Hasso in it is watchable in my book!

    1. Political stories like this always feel relevant– every leader thinks they’re right and that the idealist is impractical. Kind of an interesting take, and time with Cary is never wasted

  3. Wow, I wasn’t aware of this one either… And after seeing A DOUBLE LIFE and HOUSE ON 92ND STREET recently, I’m eager to see more films with Signe Hasso.

    1. Yes I like those films too, she doesn’t get that much to do but does the most with her imperious, ruthless first lady part. Dramatic death scene too!

  4. Wow, I had never heard of this movie before… sounds quite thrilling, and it’s a chance to se a different side of Cary Grant. I’ll put it in my watchlist!
    By the way, I think it was you who wrote about Witness to Murder. I wtached it last month, it was so good!

    1. Great to hear! Crisis has a good concept that, even with things I might have liked to see done differently, looks at a dilemma and tyrant in an interesting way. Worth a look for Cary fans for sure. Thanks!!

  5. This certainly sounds like an unusual Cary Grant film. It’s one of the few of his post 1937 films that I haven’t seen. I hope I get a chance to soon!

    Thanks for writing about this film for the Blogathon!!

    1. It’s always interesting to find one of those unusual titles, from someone you feel you’ve “seen it all” from! Different for him too. Thanks for hosting, great idea and always fun to take part.

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