While carloads of bananas grow soft on the sidings the Warner Brothers have taken time out to film a crackling conversation piece on life as it is lived, presumably, on the Honduras plantations where tarantulas are plentiful, revolutions are seasonal and white men go native. In "Torrid Zone," at the Strand, James Cagney again has a role suited to his combustible temperament and Ann Sheridan steps up a notch or two in our estimation as the femme fatale of the piece. There is a punch line a minute, some of them so close to the borderline that they must have necessitated use of the Hays office censorial slide-rule. But, if the moral fiber is slack, the pace is taut. From a screen play by Richard Macaulay and Jerry Wald, and with the help of some actors who know how to flip the roustabout repartee off the tongue, William Keighley has kept the action spinning and let the gags fall where they may.
It's the old story, but considerably streamlined, of the northbound boy and the southbound girl. Mr. Cagney, it seems, as a plantation foreman of some renown among the wives of the local officialdom, is about to take his leave after Pat O'Brien, the company superintendent, has discovered that he is one of the officials thus complimented. But Mr. Cagney is indispensable and in the person of Miss Sheridan, an itinerant cafe songstress talented at cards, the Machiavellian Mr. O'Brien finds adequate inducement to keep his foreman ashore. But softly. No sooner met than fleeced of his savings, Mr. Cagney begins a running duel with the temptress that continues until another hausfrau grows restless and, being no man to deny the ladies, Mr. Cagney obliges. In no time at all the girls are in there slugging it out. The songstress loves him, you see.
As the foreman Mr. Cagney again shows that he has more tightly muscled energy as an actor than half the Hollywood leads put together; Mr. O'Brien is scowling, loud-mouthed and credible, and there should be special mention of Andy Devine's dimwitted Number One Boy, and George Tobias as the lovable revolutionist who is nearly shot a week ahead of schedule to forestall an untimely demise by hunger strike. But if the males are two-fisted, Miss Sheridan meets them blow for blow, line for line. And, quite aside from a modicum of acting ability displayed. Miss Sheridan is not an unlikely cause for tropical contretemps. When she flips the medals on the sergeant's chest and inquires sweetly: "Swimming?" even the sergeant doesn't care whether those bananas get to town on time.
At the Strand
TORRID ZONE; screen play by Jerry Wald and Richard Macaulay; directed by William Keighley; produced by Hal B. Wallis for Warner Brothers.
Nick Butler . . . . . James Cagney
Lee Donley . . . . . Ann Sheridan
Steve Case . . . . . Pat O'Brien
Wally Davis . . . . . Andy Devine
Gloria Anderson . . . . . Helen Vinson
Bob Anderson . . . . . Jerome Cowan
Rosario . . . . . George Tobias
Sancho . . . . . George Reeves
Carlos . . . . . Victor Kilian
Rodriguez . . . . . Frank Puglia
Gardner . . . . . John Ridgley
Sam . . . . . Grady Sutton
Garcia . . . . . Paul Porcasi
Lopez . . . . . Frank Yaconnelli
Hernandez . . . . . Dick Boteler
Bhaffer . . . . . Frank Mayo
McNamara . . . . . Jack Mower
Daniels . . . . . Paul Hurst
Sergeant of Police . . . . . George Regas
Rita . . . . . Elvira Sanchez