John Forrester is sailing on an ocean liner that collides with an abandoned ship. Bravely (stupidly?) offering up his life jacket to a woman he doesn't know, Forrester has a panic attack when the images of his wife and five year-old son appear before him. Naturally, this gives him the impetus to grab an abandoned fur coat, pass himself off as a woman and make his way onto a lifeboat. And don't tell me you wouldn't do the same thing, guys, even if you didn't have hallucinations of your wife and kid.
By the time Forrester quietly makes it back to New York, he discovers that he's been hailed as a hero for sacrificing his life in order to save another's. Fearful of being found out as a phony, he changes his identity, grows a beard, and works at a diner for five years, then at a puppet theatre for another twelve. (Drowning at sea or working at a puppet theatre for over a decade -- which sounds like a worse fate to you?) Meanwhile, the now-grown son Jack quits college in order to follow in his father's footsteps by writing, producing and directing a Broadway show. Only the difference is, Jack's play sucks, big time. Forrester introduces himself to Jack as a friend of his father, and urges him to try again. Summoning all his talent, Forrester helps to shape Jack's new play into a triumph, never once revealing his real identity. Like anyone in the theatre would ever refuse credit for anything.
|You can tell he's a Communist;|
he's got a cool haircut and hipster overcoat.
|That's no lady!|
Ah ha, I thought once again. Forrester is going to be treated to a hero's welcome by family and strangers alike, only to look nervously over his shoulder for any witnesses during the next six reels!
No, this is definitely not a headline
he wants to see.
|Keep it up, laughing boy, see how|
funny things are when the reviews
Well, one person eventually recognizes Forrester -- his wife, Margaret, to whom Jack insists on introducing on the opening night of his second, successful play. While Jack goes out for Champagne, John and Margaret reunite for the first time in almost two decades. In a genuinely touching moment, they reignite the love they once shared, while Margaret desperately tries to understand her husband's motives. John convinces her that their son must never know the truth, yet promises to see her from time to time "for the few years we have left."
|Ol' Sparky, circa 1934.|
|The title for its Swedish|
release translated as
The Great Disaster,
leaving it wide open for
|Big deal -- you can still see the strings!|
And just to show how Broadway has changed over the years, the curtain-closing scene of Jack's successful play consists of the lead character blowing her brains out on a church altar. I don't see a play like that opening in Broadway's Disneyfied world any time soon. Bring on the marionettes, boys!