The Macomber Affair (1947)

TheMacomoberAffairSuggested by Brad Nelson • Robert Wilson leads safaris on the Kenyan savanna. On this occasion, he takes Mr. and Mrs. Macomber out to hunt buffalo. The obnoxious ways of Margaret Macomber make the three of them get on each others nerves.
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10 Responses to The Macomber Affair (1947)

  1. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    This one is the reason I watch old black-and-white movies. And I realize I’m a dying breed. You’ll read comments about this movie such as “I hate the stock footage.” I, on the other hand, love the kitsch value of the stock footage. And by no means is this Tarzan-quality stock footage that stands out badly. It’s pretty good stock footage.

    There is a character and nature to not only the look of old black-and-white movies but of the similar often monochromatic stories. This is a story (based on a Hemingway short story) that is simple straightforward, and (to me) compelling all the way (probably because it isn’t bogged down by ten layers of special effects or the usual idiot assortment of sidekick characters).

    My only quibble is I wonder how much better this would have been with Vivien Leigh in the role of the femme fatale instead of Joan Bennett. Don’t get me wrong. Bennett is smokin’ hot and suitably a cold b-word. But then you can’t cast Vivien Leigh in every movie. Some think another actor in Peck’s role as the safari guide would be an improvement. Indeed, it’s not hard to imagine the earthier Bogart or especially Clarke Gable in this role. Gable is stellar in a similar Red Dust with Jean Harlow and (a virtual remake) Mogambo with the smokin’ hot and sassy Ava Gardner. But then you can’t cast Clarke Gable in every role.

    Still, Peck’s clean and business-like manor adds some edge to this love triangle. Peck is hired by Francis Macomber (Robert Preston, although you might barely recognize him) to take him and his wife on a shooting safari. Peck warns early on that bringing women along is trouble.

    All three main characters are wonderfully well-defined and certainly consistent with pleasing (or even distasteful) stereotypes without being well-worn. Granted, today’s audiences with their severly shrunken ability to actually SEE diversity on screen (or anywhere else), the idea of a femme fatale, of places where women probably are problematic, would be so foreign or offensive to them that they couldn’t climb out of the limiting political mush inside their heads to appreciate a good drama.

    But I can. And although this story is simple, it is compelling. As much as I may not want to admit it, sometimes it is indeed nice to watch a movie that doesn’t make you think too much. And the star power of Peck and Bennett (and the wonderful, if intentionally wooden, performance by Preston is a joy) is what this movie is all about. And there are themes here you’ll not find among the Pajama Boy set. I won’t say more, but this is clearly a man’s-man sort of film. It has some wonderful dialogue in this regard.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      I’m amazed that Preston was an active and significant actor this early. I know of him mostly from The Music Man, of course (which TCM showed last night), as well as The Last Starfighter (in which he in essence played an alien version of Professor Harold Hill) and a couple of fine TV movies.

    • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

      Black and white movies may be too subtle for today’s yutes. The fact that a director does not have color to express his ideas, could make him become more creative in reaching an audience.

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        I’ve been told more than once by yutes that if a movie is black-and-white, they just won’t even consider it for viewing. The same people who litter their bodies with bad pen-and-ink drawings will not view Casablanca.

        Everyone should watch this movie. It’s old-fashioned. (Spoiler alerts.) For example, in place of actually showing Peck and Bennett “doing it” (the “affair” part of “The Macomber Affair”), she is simply shown slipping back into her tent late at night. That is a very very weird cinematic technique where much is suggested and much is left to the imagination thereby potentially infusing it with more power — like a woman’s well-stuff sweater that shows not even a bit of cleavage but is doubly enticing all the same.

        Vulgarians cannot imagine such a thing especially now with most girls dressed as sluts. And I say “sluts” in a positive way, for after all, the style of show-all attire is generally considered to be a good thing. “Slutty” is in. Demure is out.

        And Bennett plays no shrinking violet. She was showing plenty of “girl power.” But what separates this movie from the stale feminism of modern movies is that, as with men, it is shown that power can be abused. In today’s film, the heroine is always smart, right, powerful, kick-ass, and better than any man who is assumed to be automatically flawed just for being a man.

        There could easily be a sequel to this movie whereby we can guess that she first “loves” Mr. Macomber because Mr. Macomber is rich. She says in the film that she loved him once, but that’s her story.

        Bennett is willful and strong, traits that even the worst chauvinist has never denied about women. What this film is bold enough to show (or, at least, it would be extremely bold these days) is that this willfulness can come with a price. In the end, it is the husband who gains a sort of redemption while she will have to live with her trashy self for the rest of her life.

        Peck sort of escapes any blame, or at least any self-recriminations. I think the movie may cut short just a bit in this regard. But he suitably moves on. Peck is no whipped whipping boy like her husband used to be.

        And the very idea of masculine strength is a central theme to this. Yes, it’s intermixed with having the balls to stare a lion or water buffalo down the sites of your rifle. And such bravado is out of style and perhaps with good cause. But every man must stare down the barrel of something and not blink or run. These are (to us obvious) truths writ large as only Old Hollywood could do with stars who were anything but transgender.

  2. Lucia says:

    One of Hemmingway’s stories (I forget which right now) was about his wife going on safari with him and how worried he was about her being too short to see a lion charging through the grass at her. He groused about all the women who wanted to go on safari to shoot a lion without appreciating how dangerous it was and that they could be killed or get someone else killed. He never questioned her nerve or her willingness to “rough it” in the bush, but he expressed frustration that he might not be able to protect her while she insisted on putting herself in harms way.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      Well, this movie could certainly be titled “You can’t take women anywhere.” Hemingway must have believed there were aspects of culture that were “a man’s world.” No doubt his works will be expunged by the Cultural Marxists if they haven’t been already. The official party line is “Girl Power is Supreme.” And this movie certainly shows a strong woman (up to and including the point where she may have killed her husband by “accident”). But it also shows how it is problematic to mix men and women everywhere.

      Peck warns Preston that bringing a woman on safari is a bad idea. Today we celebrate women who are as butch and gun-nutty as men. This is true of both liberals and conservatives. The new ethic (both right and left) is to “atta-boy” girls no matter their ambitions. Feminism is very deeply ingrained. A sense of chivalry and fair-play by men has no doubt driven much of it. But no man dare say that it would be a bad idea to take a woman on a safari. He would instead say “You go, girl,” if perhaps not using those exact words.

      The idea that there is a domain that should be left to men is not defended by either side. Women in the military, for instance, are now just assumed by both sides. On the other hand, that there is a domain that is exclusively woman is a given. In fact, it is considered more than okay for there to be exclusive LBGT domains. Dennis Prager was talking yesterday about some ruling in California, I believe, where a church dance or mixer was forbidden to exclude homos. But he noted that there is no one suing, say, LGBT organizations to allow straight people to join.

      The useful idiots (both left and right) think this is all about equality and fair play. But if this was so they need to ask themselves why some classes are still privileged and allowed separate domains while straight people, white people (there is no “Congressional white caucus” in Congress), Christian people, and (relevant to the subject at hand) men are not allowed to have private domains.

      It’s doubtful anyone under the age of 40 could appreciate this film. I don’t want to build it up too much. But it is like the Donald Trump of movies. It is politically incorrect. But it’s not like Donald Trump in that it is not overtly vulgar, thoughtless, or crude. But it certainly might make Megyn Kelly cry.

      • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

        But he noted that there is no one suing, say, LGBT organizations to allow straight people to join.

        Exactly! I have long believed that most of those pushing to join this or that organization which might exclude them are simply malcontents and wreckers. Do a bunch of queers really have any interest in taking part in a conservative church dance other than to ruin it?

        I had this conversation 20-25 years ago with a woman who believed there should be no such thing as “men only” clubs. It was beyond her ken to understand that men might not want to have women around all the time. Even more importantly, she couldn’t understand that people have a right to associate whomever they wish. Nothing I said could convince her otherwise, which is the way of the Left.

        • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

          Do a bunch of queers really have any interest in taking part in a conservative church dance other than to ruin it?

          No, of course not. You spoke the truth, Mr. Kung. What in the hell is wrong with you? You know better than that.

          That woman you talked to is daft. But so are a lot of men on the subject. I consider it absolutely normal and natural for women to have certain women-only things. Good god, I don’t really want to know what women talk about when they are alone together. Best left unheard.

          Same with men. There should be men’s clubs. There should also be straight men’s clubs or Christian clubs or whatever. How does one separate this from the stigma of the old “White’s only” establishments? I’m not sure you need to because there are now de facto “black only” places. So I’m okay with “white’s only” in the sense of not excluding blacks because of skin color but because of cultural association. If blacks object then they can get rid of their blacks-only spaces.

          Of course the fools, fiends, and frauds will tell you it’s different for “minorities” because of male or, especially, “white privilege.” Oh…you mean as with Hillary? I guess they’re right about that privilege.

      • Timothy Lane says:

        Joe Haldeman wrote a novel (The Hemingway Hoax) that dealt with various alternate histories. In one of them, Hemingway became more significant worldwide — and the result was World War III. Sometimes one can be too manly.

        • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

          As I heard Bill Whittle put it once, what is needed is a combination of two things: Strong and Good. We need strong men who are good. We need good men who are strong. The strength aspect has been demonized as “machismo” no matter what. The fiends, frauds, and fools have thought in terms that are completely simplistic and binary.

          Plus they are liars. Machismo as a glorified element unto itself is the foundation for gangs. And the Left says nary a word against black gangs or latino gangs. The Left is poison.

          But people not infected by the Left can understand that strength is just one ingredient in the recipe. The other is “good.” We need strong men but not braggarts, gangsters, or vulgarians. They must also be good. That is, the strength must be channeled. Unlike the Left (and Hitler, and probably most Libertarians), conservatives do not consider the flexing of strength and will for their own sake as a positive value.

          Conversely, what good are good men if they are not also strong? This is surely at the root of what Dennis Prager says about many on the Left who are “nice” but not good. It is not enough to simply be good without being strong. Without strength it is inevitable that non-confrontational “nice” will prevail and such men will do exactly what Edmund Burke warned against: All it takes for Evil to prevail in this world is for enough good men to do nothing.

          So..yeah, of course. One can be too “manly,” I suppose. But it depends on what one means by being a man.

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