Destination Unknown. 1932. USA. Directed by Tay Garnett. Screenplay by Tom Buckingham. With Pat O’Brien, Ralph Bellamy, Betty Compson. 66 min.
Of all the early Depression-era movies about mysterious, divine influences intervening to save American society, Tay Garnett’s 1932 film is at once the most sordid and most stylish. Garnett and his frequent writing partner Tom Buckingham (Her Man) imagine the nation as a rumrunning ship adrift in a dead calm, its desperate crew (lead by Alan Hale) held at bay by a heartless gangster (Pat O’Brien) who controls the dwindling fresh water supply. But there is one passenger on board whose name does not appear on the manifest: The Stowaway, played in an otherworldly aura by Ralph Bellamy. The film was shot largely on an actual yacht suspended by cables on a soundstage, with the camera mounted on the giant crane built for Universal’s Broadway. 35mm.