The Adventures of Jack London (1943, USA)

(The Adventures of) Jack London is a good movie to get a peak into some of the events in Jack London’s life, but not the best source to get an accurate picture of his whole career.

The movie opens with the dedication of a new Liberty ship in the summer of 1943, when the movie was made. It was named after “Jack London [who] was more than a great author, he was a real American.” This sentence set the tone and the purpose of the move: it’s a war movie created to pour spirit into the troops that were getting ready to fight in Europe and show that a “real American” has a sense of justice. The very next scene shows Jack as a young man working at a factory where a woman looses his finger. Upon returning home he shared his thoughts of unfairness of the factory to Virginia Prentiss, the African-American woman who brought him up along with his mother. I won’t give a detailed description of the whole movie, but would like to list the major career moves it touched:

  • Ship owner and fisherman
  • Smuggler
  • Sailor, “able bodied seaman”
  • College student
  • Bar-fighter
  • Gold-rush junkie
  • Journalist
  • Book author
  • War-correspondent in Japan

This last episode and his heroic investigative reporting takes up the last third of the film. As the films doesn’t show the rest of his life, one may assume that he went on being a writer and had no other adventures. The first part is true, he wrote till the end of his life (he died at age 40). But his later adventures included a stint in jail, being a hobo, two marriages, struggling with alcoholism and poor health. Any film titled “adventures” of Jack London have the right to select which adventures to portray, but now I feel I should watch a biopic showing more of the history of his era, life, personality and views; including his social criticism and agricultural innovations. Better yet I might just visit his old ranch that turned into the Jack London State Historic Park, an hour from where I live

Despite the above observation of not getting a full picture I liked the movie. It has to do with the personal preference of thinking black and white movies from the 1940’s as romantic even when they are not. Also Michael O’Shea, who played Jack London was charming in a big brute manner. Watch the movie for this, but do not rely on it as an authentic and full biography.

VHS @ Amazon.com

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