MGM could put some incredible casts together, but I find it especially odd that they teamed Clark Gable, Greer Garson and Joan Blondell in a screwball comedy. For one thing, Gable’s brand of swagger and bravado would seem to be too much for Garson’s style of reserved class. But 1945’s “Adventure,” directed by Victor Fleming, casts Garson as a strict librarian and Gable as a tough and overbearing merchant seaman. Blondell plays Garson’s sincere, lovely but unappreciated roommate (in a role she seems to play often in films).
Gable’s sailor, Harry Paterson, plays a tough, no nonsense boatswain who acts mean with his men but nevertheless commands their respect — both of his leadership on the ship and his womanizing at the ports. The movie begins with Harry’s romance with Latina beauty Maria (Lina Romay), who obviously loves him but realizes she’ll spend most of her time waiting “like a statue on the dock” until Harry returns infrequently from the sea. Harry and his crew soon ship off from Maria’s port, but a Japanese submarine bombs his ship and strands them in the open sea. After their rescue, Harry lands in San Francisco, where the story really begins.
Harry’s friend and shipmate, Mudgin (Thomas Mitchell) discovers he no longer has a soul, saying it “left in the fog down Powell Street.” Harry can’t talk Mudjin out of his silliness, so the two go to the public library for research, where Harry meets Emily Sears (Greer Garson). Emily shows a lot of patience with Mudjin’s strange story, attributing his condition to battle fatigue. In the process, the rude, loud and belligerent Harry and and the studious Emily become enemies. However, the lovely and vivacious Helen Melohn (Joan Blondell) shows up at quitting time — and she’s definitely Harry’s type.
Despite very capable dialogue, an interesting cast, an easy to follow plot, and the wondrous background of San Francisco, the movie’s success hinges on the chemistry between Garson and Gable. Unfortunately, I kept thinking Harry would be better off with Blondell’s Helen. Garson is charming as usual as Emily, but I wonder why she didn’t realize that Harry would eventually return to sea. As in “It Happened One Night (1934),” Gable’s character whines about the injustice heaped on him by women, and he’s not the least bit convincing in this film. A couple of unbelievable things happen at the end to help redeem the Harry character, but they didn’t add up to total redemption. But the film is still interesting because of the cast and especially Joan Blondell.