Thursday, August 29, 2013


I had never seen THE LEFT HAND OF GOD (1955) until a couple of weeks ago when it ran on TCM. I recorded it, watched and really enjoyed the film. Although I must confess, for some reason, I was expecting more of an action adventure film than a straight drama. Don't know where I got that idea.

Bogart stars an American pilot flying supplies over The Hump (the Himalayas) during WWII. When his plane crashes, he falls in with General Yang, a Chinese warlord (Lee J. Cobb!) who makes the American his second-in-command and de facto prisoner. Bogart yearns to escape and when the warlord's men murder a priest, he sees his chance.

 Bogart assumes the identity of the dead priest and leaves the warlord's camp. He makes his way to a small Chinese village where he hopes to hook up with a trade caravan and escape from the country. While waiting for the caravan to arrive, Bogart becomes a priest by default to the villagers. He's befriended by three Americans (E.G. Marshall, Agnes Moorehead and Gene Tierney) who work in a small clinic in the village.

Although not a priest, Bogart knows enough to play the part and minister to the villagers. Everyone comes to love him including Tierney who knows that falling in love with a priest will never end well. When General Yang appears and threatens the villagers, Bogart confronts his former employer and plays a game of dice to decide the fate of everyone involved.

Bogart wins (of course) and his true identity is revealed to everyone. Even though everyone knows he isn't really a priest, everyone acknowledges the good work he did in the village and the redemption that he earned. The trade caravan finally arrives and Bogart leaves the village with the traders. The village is a better place for him having been there and he is a better man for the work that he did while he was there.

THE LEFT HAND OF GOD was directed by Edward Dmytryk who had directed Bogart previously in THE CAINE MUTINY (1954). By the way, I met Edward Dmytryk when he spent as a semester at the University of Texas film school as a guest lecturer. He spoke to my film class one afternoon and he was quite an interesting man.

Gene Tierney was suffering from mental health issues during the filming of LEFT HAND and after completion of the film, she suffered a nervous breakdown and attempted suicide. She withdrew from films for a few years before making a comeback in a handful of productions.

Bogart had only 16 months to live while he was making LEFT HAND. He made two other films afterwards, THE DESPERATE HOURS (1955) and THE HARDER THEY FALL (1956) before succumbing to cancer.

THE LEFT HAND OF GOD is a handsomely mounted, CinemaScope production that features an engrossing, compelling story and good performances by a solid cast. Recommended for Bogart fans and film lovers.

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