Blood on the Sun

Gary MacLennan g.maclennan at
Tue Jan 16 04:42:25 MST 2001

The Irish have a proverb, Aithnieann ciarog, ciarog eile (One black beetle
recognises another).  This came to mind tonite while I was watching a 1945
movie starring James Cagney on a community television channel which
specialises in old movies.  The film is set in the twenties and tells the
story of how the American editor Nick Condon, (James Cagney) of a Tokyo
paper reveals Japanese plans for world conquest.  It is a so-so kind of
movie, yet retains some aesthetic value after over half a century.

Opposite Cagney is Sylvia Sidney born in the Bronx of Jewish parents in
1910. She was very good with an interestingly intense quality to her
acting.  I was sitting with my mind half engaged when in the middle of a
scene between the Cagney character and Sylvia Sidney, Cagney talks about
leaving Tokyo in ten days.  He raises his glass in a toast and says ,
'Here's to the ten days that shook the world'. My spot-a-redometer went
right off the scale.

I looked the film up and lo and behold the script was by Lester Cole
(1904-85) of the Hollywood Ten.  He was a union activist and one of the
founders of the Screen Writers guild. He went to prison after challenging
the notorious Anti-American Activities committee in 1947.  Subsequent to
his release, he was  blacklisted and survived by doing odd jobs and writing
occasional scripts under pseudonyms.

There is another scene in the film which is more overtly political when the
heroine says she is in Japan to do research on women.  Cagney sneers at
this but the Sylivia Sidney character affirms the intrinsic worth of
studying women and claims that Japanese women are treated in a sub-human way.

There is a "good" Japanese character in the film but over all it is
strikingly racist; hardly surprising for a 1945 film I suppose. Yet I
remain fascinated by how Cole endeavoured to sneak his politics into the
film even in a heavily coded fashion.  How many in the 1945 audience I
wonder would have caught the reference to John Reed's classic on the
Russian revolution?



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