Storm Warning (1951)

“Without us, a girl like you wouldn’t be safe on the street at night.”

Synopsis:
A woman (Ginger Rogers) witnesses her brother-in-law (Steve Cochran) participating in a killing by the Ku Klux Klan, and must decide whether to stay quiet or talk.

Genres:

Response to Peary’s Review:
This tragic social drama does indeed “keep you on the edge of your seat”, as Peary notes in his review. I was impressed to see such an early film dealing with the Ku Klux Klan, though I was more than a little disappointed to find that nothing was mentioned about the Klan’s racist ideology — indeed, no African-Americans ever appear on-screen or are referred to. Instead, the Klansmen are presented as simply a white-hooded version of small-town mob mentality. Fortunately, the genuine tension between the primary protagonists carries the film, and Rogers’ dilemma — whether to tell what she saw, or keep quiet for the sake of her sister’s happiness — is authentically compelling.

As an added note, the dynamic between Marsha (Rogers), her sister Lucy (Doris Day), and Lucy’s husband Hank (Cochran) reminded me of the claustrophobic tension between Blanche, Stella and Stanley in A Streetcar Named Desire — though Cochran’s hunky Hank is infinitely more idiotic than Stanley, and Marsha far less fragile than Blanche.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Ginger Rogers’ “gutsy” performance
    Storm Warning Rogers
  • Doris Day in a sympathetic early screen role
    Storm Warning Doris Day
  • Ronald Reagan as a local journalist determined to expose the Klan
    Storm Warning Reagan
  • An effective tale of loyalty versus justice
    Storm Warning Trio
  • Atmospheric “noir” cinematography
    Storm Warning Cinematography
  • A rare mid-twentieth-century American film to address the Klan
    Storm Warning Klan

Must See?
No, but it’s definitely worth watching.

Links:

2 Responses to “Storm Warning (1951)”

  1. First viewing. I agree; not a must, though interesting and film noir fans should take note. I also noticed what seems to be the influence of ‘Streetcar’: Williams’ play took Bway very much by storm in 1947, and this film (an original screenplay) was released in 1951; it’s conceivable that something of Williams filtered through. It’s kind of funny, too, that there are role reversal moments in which Rogers seems as aggressive as Stanley and Cochran appears as dizzy as Blanche. Strangely, their ultimate private confrontation (very ‘Streetcar’-esque) is edited oddly, as if parts of it were censored. Aside from the trademark gutsiness of co-writer Richard Brooks, ‘Storm’ is most notable for the casting of (and not bad performances by) two stars turning tables on their musical comedy reps. It has recently been given a DVD release as part of a Reagan set (and is one of his better performances as well).

  2. Thanks for the update on DVD status. Always gratifying to hear about this!

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