Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

Torrid Zone


Entertaining, and forgettable. Hollywood used to churn out these sort of between A and B pictures by the scores, every year. Pick out a few of your best stars, assign a writing team to craft a story about whatever theme some producer thought up that week (in this case: “Bananas! Give me a movie about bananas!”), and in a week or two, start building the sets or use standing sets and begin shooting. In this case it was a fairly large operation, involving a big choo-choo, some large “tropical” sets with lots of palm trees, and the planting of 950 banana trees on five acres of the Warner Brothers backlot. For stars, they got Cagney, Ann Sheridan, Pat O’Brien, Helen Vinson (who Lee informs me was born in Beaumont, Texas, about five miles from my home town), and for comic relief, Andy Devine. I used to love his TV show, “Andy’s Gang.” “Plunk your magic twanger, Froggy!” “Hiya, kids, hiya, hiya, hiya!”

So Pat is the hard-nosed operator of a banana plantation in a literal banana republic, where the company not only owns the law, they are the law. There is an amiable revolutionary, the infamous Rosario (played by George Tobias, a Jew!) who wants the land back for the people … but doesn’t work too hard at it. He’s about to be shot by a firing squad when he makes a friendship with Ann, the singer-card sharp in the next cell. He easily outwits the local soldiers, who are beyond stupid (well, they’re spics, who are all lazy and stupid, right?). Cagney shows up. He has a history with Pat, who usually ends up conning him into going back to work for him. Cagney and Ann fall in love, surprise, surprise, and Cagney ends up working for Pat. Rosario escapes once more. This movie is lighthearted fluff, no politics about the evils of fruit companies who stole the land and exploit the peasants so Americans can have their fresh bananas on their morning cereal. In case you didn’t get it, the poster shows Cagney playing a guitar. He never touches a guitar in the movie. There is a small role for George Reeves (Superman!) dressed up as a peasant. Wouldn’t have recognized him without the billing.