Hitchcock' "Life Boat" [Archive] - Audio & Video Forums


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02-04-2014, 10:35 AM
Hitchcock's "LifeBoat" - I DVR'd this from last saturday because I'd not seen it in years and I'm glad I did. In addition to fine acting from Hodiak, Bankhead and really all assembled I was also treated to some of the most deft subtextural messaging I've EVER seen. Besides the whole question of how much Nazi villainy does it take to make 5 otherwise sane people committ murder with their bare hands, there was a deeper story be told. The Story of Joe the Steward.
Joe's story can be almost completely told by how Ms. Bankhead addresses him throughout the film.

At the start of the film she refers to him as "something charcoal floating about".

Next she calls him Charcoal

She and the industrialist begin to call him "George". The shorthand of the time for Black stewards of rail and sea.

Finally he say's his name is Joe and this is what she calls him until from then on out.

The whole thing is Hitchcock's way of telling us that it's foolish to hold onto racist conventions while fighting the worst danger the world had seen to that date. Hitchcock also touches on some other points. When voting whether to kill the Nazi Captain they ask Joe to have a say, his response was "I get to vote now?" All the while Joe hangs back, realizing with body and voice that he's "in" their world but not of their world. When they attack the Nazi in the end he does not participate he hangs back knowing that in another time or place the mob could be venting it fury on his head just as easily as any Nazi. He only intercedes when the American nurse leaves the fray for a second. He begs her not to take part in any mob killing. He knows that if she participates in the killing, no matter how justified, she'll have crossed a rubicon from which she can never return.
Lastly Hitchcock is also savvy enough and smart enough to show us what will happen once the immediate crises of Nazi world domination is over. Bankhead goes back to her material desires, the industrialist begins calling Joe "George" again and in the end Joe's right back where he started..... almost. I don't know how much of this Hitch or John Steinbeck who wrote the story planned before hand but both men were too good to leave so big a storyline to chance. Next time you watch it... look for it.