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A Girl in Every Port

Live Musical Accompaniment
Directed by Howard Hawks.
With Victor McLaglen, Robert Armstrong, Louise Brooks.
US, 1928, 35mm, black & white, 64 min.
silent.
Print source: GEM Entertainment

Often cited as the earliest flowering of the Hawksian ethos, A Girl in Every Port is a subversive farce of hedonism and male bonding, a story propelled almost entirely by a rowdy, freewheeling spirit. Spike (Victor McLaglen) and Bill (Robert Armstrong) are hard-drinking patrons of the high seas, sailing from port to port looking for frolics and fistfights while leaving trails of besotted dames in their wake. When the two come into one other’s crosshairs over a conspiring siren in Marseilles (Louise Brooks), the tension leads inexorably to quasi-romantic camaraderie, at which point A Girl in Every Port turns gradually from the ribald to the delicate, tracing Spike and Bill’s developing relationship as through it were the dalliance in Sunrise. Despite what might be seen as a proto-queer sensibility, however, the film broke box-office records for its loose, broad comedy, a mode naturally suited to McLaglen, whose wide frame and stomping gait practically necessitate Hawks’ master-shot approach.

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