Yesterday was Thirties and Forties actor John Garfield's birthday, so TCM showed a block of his films and gave me the opportunity to cross another Priscilla Lane film off my "haven't seen" list when they aired 1939's Dust Be My Destiny.
Wish I could say it was a transcendent experience, but alas, it was not. The film is a melodramatic and contrived, and had plot holes that you could drive a train through. In Dust, Garfield plays a down-on-his-luck guy named Joe Bell, who gets sent to prison for a crime he didn't commit, and upon his release (after they caught the real perpertrator, who confessed), he is bitter, determined never to trust in the authorities again. Hitching a ride on a train car, he gets caught in a struggle with two gangsters who hop on board the same car, and of course, he gets busted by the police and sent to a work farm, run by an abusive, alcoholic foreman with a bad heart, who just happens to have a beautiful stepdaughter named Mabel, played by our Miss Lane. Of course, Joe and Mabel fall in love, despite the warnings of her stepfather. When he catches the lovebirds together one night, he attacks Mabel, Joe comes to her defense, they struggle, and bam! Down goes the foreman with a heart attack. The couple, thinking no one will believe them, flee and then the movie becomes a road flick, with the now wanted-by-the-police pair hitching rides, walking, bickering and joking, getting a job here, being spotted by the police there, until things finally come to a head when Joe gets a job as a newspaper photographer through an unlikely set of circumstances, and after a bit of difficulty we get the obligatory happy ending. Obviously there was no such thing as forensic medicine or autopsies in 1939, otherwise there'd be no movie.
I think the filmmakers were shooting for sort of a Capraesque, Grapes of Wrath type movie, but the soggy script just wasn't up to it. The leads were fine, and Priscilla was excellent in her part, which called for her to go through a variety of situations and emotional responses.
I probably wouldn't have even written about it, but I found this neat scan of the poster and I thought it would be a shame not to use it...so there ya go!