Storm Warning (1951)
Ginger Rogers, a model, stops in a town to visit her sister (Doris Day) and witnesses a murder by the Klan.
Starring Ginger Rogers, Ronald Reagan, Doris Day, Steve Cochran
There is a lot in this script to remind you of “Streetcar Named Desire.” Sister arrives in town to discover secrets involving her sister and the sister’s husband. It’s described as a “noir thriller.”
Written by Daniel Fuchs and Richard Brooks (Looking for Mr. Goodbar, In Cold Blood, Lord Jim, Sweet Bird of Youth, Elmer Gantry (screenplay), Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (screenplay), Any Number Can Play (screenplay), Key Largo (screenplay).
This is a film exposing the corrupt nature of the Ku Klux Klan. But, it’s a sanitized portrayal. The reporter the Klan kills at the beginning of the film is white. There are very few blacks in the film, just a few in a crowd scene of people waiting for a court proceeding. The Klan is depicted as a money making scheme for the men who run it not so much a hate group.
Then, there is what I consider to be a pretty cheesy scene where one of the klansmen repeatedly strikes Ginger Rogers with a whip. Two men are holding her and her hair is all over the place and it has the feel of one of those jungle movies where the natives steal some scantily clad woman.
But, there is no way of escaping the evil inherent in the scenes where hooded men gather before a burning cross. The scenes are stark and disturbing. And, I would guess that it took courage for Ginger Rogers and Doris Day to take on these roles. It’s one of the few (although always good) serious roles for Doris Day (it’s her first non-singing role) and I can’t remember ever seeing Rogers with her hair down being whipped.
Lauren Bacall was originally case in the part played by Rogers. As appealing as Bacall and Bogie were, they had a habit of talking big and not following up when it came to social issues. Maybe struggling between two men and being whipped by one of the leaders of the Klan was too much for her. She was put on suspension by the studio for refusing to play the role.
Ronald Reagan plays the same role he plays in most movies, the affable, honest young man, doing the right thing.
Probably the most interesting acting in the film is from bad boy Steven Cochran who played gangsters and tough guys. In this film, he does a good job of playing a rather stupid young man, duped and used by the older men. Doris Day (his wife) keeps maintaining that he is good until she comes on him trying to rape her sister. Cochran’s dark side comes out effectively.
Some of the critics, like Bosley Crowther, found the movie predictable and lacking “substance or depth.” He also described Reagan’s performance as “pat and pedestrian as any well-drilled stock company D.A.” Rogers, he wrote, plays the part “in one grim mood.”
One critic, Dennis Schwartz, thought the film trivialized the topic. He felt the film focused on spectacle and not race hatred or the activities of the Klan.
Steve Cochran (1917 – 1965) was born in Eureka, California, but grew up in Laramie, Wyoming, the son of a logger. Cochran performed in plays in the Federal Theatre Project in Detroit. During World War II he was rejected for military service due to a heart murmur but directed and performed in plays at a variety of Army camps.
In December 1943 he was appearing with Constance Bennett in a touring production of Without Love when he was signed by Sam Goldwyn.
Samuel Goldwyn brought Cochran to Hollywood in 1945 Cochran appeared in his prestigious drama, The Best Years of Our Lives (1946), playing a man who has an affair with Virginia Mayo while her husband Dana Andrews was away at war. The movie was a huge critical and commercial success.
In 1949 Cochran went over to Warner Bros., where he played Big Ed Somers, a power hungry henchman to James Cagney’s psychotic mobster in White Heat (1949).
Cochran supported Joan Crawford in The Damned Don't Cry (1950), then was given his first lead role in Highway 301 (1950), playing a gangster
Warners gave him another lead in Tomorrow Is Another Day (1951), a film noir with Ruth Roman. He was back to support parts in Jim Thorpe – All-American (1951) with Burt Lancaster.
In 1953 Cochran formed his own production company, Robert Alexander Productions. His production company attempted to make some television series and other films such as The Tom Mix Story (with Cochran as Mix), Hope is the Last Thing to Die about the Mexican War, and Klondike Lou. However they were never produced with the exception of a television pilot where he played John C. Frémont in Fremont the Trailblazer.
Cochran was a notorious womanizer and attracted tabloid attention for his tumultuous private life, which included well-documented affairs with numerous starlets and actresses. Mamie Van Doren later wrote about their sex life in graphic detail in her tell-all autobiography Playing the Field: My Story (New York: G.P. Putnam, 1987). He was also married and divorced three times, to actress Fay McKenzie, Florence Lockwood and Jonna Jensen.
Cochran was in trouble with the police a number of times in his life, including a reported assault and a charge of reckless driving in 1953.
On June 15, 1965, at the age of 48, Cochran died on his yacht off the coast of Guatemala, reportedly due to an acute lung infection. His body, along with three Mexican girls and women aged 14, 19 and 25, remained aboard for 10 days since the girls did not know how to operate the boat. It drifted to shore in Port Champerico, Guatemala, and was found by authorities.
There were various rumors of foul play and poisoning, but reportedly no new evidence was found.