Oscar Movies: Hurricane (1937)–Ford’s Spectacular Disaster Movie

Adapted by Dudley Nichols and Oliver H. P. Garrett from a novel by Charles Nordhoff and James Norman Hall, The Hurricane was one of John Ford’s most popular and most entertaining picture of the 1930s, based on spectacular visual and sound effects (which won an Oscar).

Ford was reportedly intrigued by the issue of individual freedom versus institutional colonial oppression, which he will explore in several of his seminal Westerns.

The sexy Jon Hall, replacing Joel McCrea, who was originally assigned to the role, plays Terangi, a tempestuous native of the French-controlled island of Manakoora.  After marrying childhood sweetheart Marama (Dorothy Lamour in sarong), Terangi takes a job on a ship.  Thomas Mitchell, in an Oscar nominated part, plays the boozy doctor (which will become his specialty).

While docked in Tahiti, Teragni gets into a fight by a white man, an offense punishable by prison term. The strict French governor DeLaage (Raymond Massey) is dedicated to upholding the law.  The appeals made on behalf of Terangi by the doctor, priest (C. Aubrey Smith), ship’s captain (Jerome Cowan), and the governor’s own wife (Mary Astor) fail to change DeLaage’s decision.

The freedom-loving Terangi tries to escape from prison, only to be recaptured and sentenced to longer terms.  He manages to make his way back to Manakoora, killing a prison guard. Just as Terangi is about to sail off in an outrigger canoe with Marama and their child, a hurricane begins.  Risking his own life, Terangi rescue DeLaage’s wife and others from the storm.

Despite Ford’s objections, Ben Hecht did rewrites of the script at producer Samuel Goldwyn’s demand.

The Hurricane sequences were staged by an uncredited Stuart Heisler.

Stay away from the 1979 remake, starring Jason Robards and Mia Farrow in the Raymond Massey and Mary Astor roles.


Oscar Nominations: 3


Supporting Actor: Thomas Mitchell

Score: Alfred Newman

Sound Recording: Thomas Moulton


Oscar Awards:  1

Sound Recording


Oscar Context:

The winner of the Supporting Actor was Joseph Schildkraut for The Life of Emile Zola.

The Scoring Oscar went to Charles Previn for One Hundred Men and a Girl.