Tycoon (1947): Romantic Adventure Starring John Wayne and Larraine Day

tycoon_wayne_posterIn Richard Walace’s Tycoon, a routine romantic adventure made just a year before he became a major movie star, John Wayne plays Johnny Munroe, a tunnel and bridge builder.

Along with Pop Matthews (James Gleason), Munroe has won a contract from the wealthy South American railroad owner Fredrick Alexander (Cedric Hardwicke) to build a tunnel through the mountains for a railroad connection with mines.

In addition to professional differences of opinion, the relationship between Munroe and the rigid patriarch Alexander becomes further strained, when Munroe courts and marries the latter’s daughter, Maura (Laraine Day) against her father’s wishes.

 

Uncharacteristically, Wayne’s Munroe is shown drunk in a church scene, when he first meets Maura during a service. But later on, the sheltered girl is seduced by Munroe’s gentlemanly courtship, upon hiring a band of musicians to serenade her.

Caught by her father in the house, Munroe is asked to leave, but the duo continues to date secretly. When Maura loses her way driving through the jungle, they are forced to spend the night together as his jeep runs out of gas.

tycoon_wayne_3One things leads to another and they get married, except that Munroe’s job with its problems and demands prevent him to spend much time with his new wife, and disappointed and disillusioned, Maura goes back to her daddy.

When half of the tunnel caves in, and one worker is killed, Munroe dynamites the whole tunnel, and proceeds to build a bridgehis own way. Mathews and most of the foremen quit, but Munroe drives on with an arrogance that alienates some of his top crew.

A reluctant Alexander offers Munroe and extension of 90 days, but his offer is rejected. Then nature interferes: A Mountain storm risks the bridge site, but Munroe is helpless without his foremen. With utmost dedication, Munroe continues single-handedly to save the structure. He almost give up, when Maura has a change of heart and returns to the place with his old crew. Father Alexander is forced to give his blessing to the project and the couple’s reunion.

tycoon_wayne_2Adapted from a novel by C.E. Scoggins, the script by Borden Chase and John Twist is overlong and sharply uneven. Well-written dialogue and monologues (actually speeches) by Wayne are followed with routine scenes that are sheer plot mechanics.

Even so, the picture contains elements that will solidify the John Wayne’s screen image in the 1940s and 1950s, as defined in Westerns made by John Ford and Howard Hawks, such as Fort Apache and Red River, both superior works released just after Tycoon. In fact, Red River was co-scripted by Borden Chase and Charles Schnee,

The female lead, Laraine Day, who was so good in Hitchcock’s 1940 war suspenser, Foreign Correspondent, lacks her customary appeal here and has no chemistry with her leading man, perhaps due to the scripting of her part. Thus, you don’t root for the bickering couple to stay together, even though you know they would.

tycoon_wayne_1The rest of the supporting cast is rather good, with appearances by the young Anthony Quinn, Sir Cedric Hardwicke, Judith Anderson, and James Gleason. Some of the other performers, such as Grant Withers and Paul Fix, would appear in other future Wayne productions.

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