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.
Forrester laughs it off, observing, "Some day we'll read a news item about him saying he's been hanged." Ah ha, I thought, we're going to see the commie swinging from a noose at the climax!
Well, no. When he's later prevented by Forrester from escaping the sinking ship with the women and children, Korotoff pulls a knife on him, only to be shot by the Captain. His whole purpose, then, is to provide the cruel irony of Forrester successfully pulling off the same stunt. Commies and capitalists, they're all the same.
|That's no lady!|
Only one villager cares for the sickly Forrester, restoring him to health over the next several months. Together, they cook up a fancy tale explaining how Forrester survived the sinking, thus allowing him to return home with his head held high and his gut still hanging low.
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.
Stumbling around in the rain -- you knew it would be raining, right? -- and mumbling to himself, Forrester is picked up by a cop and taken to court, where the judge throws him in the pokey for, well, stumbling around in the rain and mumbling to himself. If that was a crime, I'd have served a life sentence by now.
|Keep it up, laughing boy, see how|
funny things are when the reviews
From that point on, my heartstrings were plucked without success, thanks to that enormous plot hole. All there was left to revel in was the sight of Jack Forrester -- played by Robert Young -- getting the smirk wiped off his smug face when his play bombs on opening night.
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.|
I discovered that apparently all of the prints of Whom the Gods Destroy currently in circulation leave out the scene that originally followed afterwards: John, suitcase in hand, sneaking away from his family forever, believing that any kind of a relationship with his wife is impossible under the circumstances.
Thus I was deprived of an unhappy ending for which I was craving. Maybe if Columbia Pictures made the complete Whom the Gods Destroy available legally instead of forcing screwballs like me to troll the "grey market" for my fix, we wouldn't be disappointed by someone's scissor-happy hackwork.
|The title for its Swedish|
release translated as
The Great Disaster,
leaving it wide open for
But by no means is Whom the Gods Destroy a bad movie. The sinking of the ship is appropriately terrifying, featuring all-too realistic panic and, as with Forrester's later scene in New York, a surprisingly lengthy montage. Walter Connolly's performance as Forrester is emotionally believable even when the story isn't. (Even less believable is that the portly actor was only 47 years old at the time.) As usual, Robert Young is Robert Young, which isn't necessarily the worst thing.
|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!