Coast Guard (1939)
This Columbia “B” filler is proof positive that not every Randolph Scott film was a western though film history books rarely mention his other genre entries. It’s an Edward Ludwig film that comes off as a fun programmer rehashing a well worn chestnut of two buddies in love with the same woman and having to overcome their personal demons to triumph as heroes by the fade out.
Scott stars here with Frances Dee and in the Ralph Bellamy role of runner up in the romantic field, none other than the originator himself, Ralph Bellamy.
Ralph opens the film on a mission of rescue when a ship captained by Walter Connolly is hung up on a reef in a raging storm. What looks like a sure suicide mission turns into a heroic deed for Ralph as he and his crew bring back the stranded men and a gravely injured Connolly. As Connolly recuperates in a hospital bed, Bellamy gets to know the old timer’s grand daughter, Frances Dee and quickly falls for the dark haired beauty.
Enter Randolph Scott as Speed Bradshaw. The nickname ‘Speed” carries a double meaning. Scott is a pilot in the Coast Guard who flies recklessly and fast while at the same time is a ladies man who needs little prompting to quickly seduce any good looking female within an arm’s length. He never gets serious with women and tells Ralph to “bail out” if things are getting too serious with Dee.
Ralph’s luck in love takes a bad turn when he is shipped off for an extended duty and leaves Scott to look after his girl. Scott is quick to point out to his sidekick, Warren Hymer, “I’m cutting out this good time Charlie stuff.” after he falls for Dee himself. She makes it plain to Scott that though Ralph would like to marry her, her “heart just stops” when she’s with the cocky pilot.
Once again Ralph looks to be a second place finisher.
At seventy minutes, this is a fast moving film for the B circuit. Scott and Ralph are on the outs and when Randolph begins to stay out late, lovely Dee begins to think he’s going back to his wild womanizing ways. Perhaps a big finale and some heroic deeds by our career men in the northern tundra of Alaska can settle all their disputes and entertain the paying audiences at the same time.
Scott and Bellamy do well here fitting their assigned roles perfectly and actually display a nice banter in the earlier scenes before the fall out over Dee. Though this may have be considered a programmer in the Pat O’Brien/James Cagney mold, I wasn’t actually sure who was going to claim Dee as his own at the fade out. A bit surprising though I do like to root for an underdog.
Actually it’s the special effects that prove to be the real star attraction here in Coast Guard. Model ships tossed about at sea, toy airplanes crashing into both water and snow bound Alaska are handled with care and at one point there is some exciting real live aerial footage mixed in for some of Scott’s wild flying ways. It’s also notable that during the big rescue scene at the film’s climax, the actor’s breath could easily be seen for a bit of authenticity. I’m quite sure they weren’t filming in Northern Alaska but at least the sound stage they were likely on had the temperature lowered to give the film the look and feel of the far north.
Considering this is a Randolph Scott flick and not a western kind of makes it a rare title but if one keeps there eye on the TCM schedule as I do, then you just might catch it on occasion. Give it a shot for a diverting hour plus ten.