Jeff Dawson (Gary Cooper) and Dutch Peterson (Ward Bond) are down on their luck, stuck somewhere in South America until they can scrounge together the money to get back to the States.
When Dutch is shot during one dangerous transport job, and then both men are cheated out of the money they were supposed to earn from it, Jeff is desperate. He reluctantly agrees to work for his old friend Paco Conway (Anthony Quinn), owner of Conway Petroleum Company, though Paco is now married to Jeff’s old flame Marina (Barbara Stanwyck).
Blowing Wild was directed by Hugo Fregonese and written by Phillip Yorkin.
This film has quite the cast! Stanwyck shares the screen with one of the many loves of my life, Gary Cooper, as well as Ruth Roman and Anthony Quinn. Lots of talent and lots of star power to bring this story to life.
All involved give nice performances. The tension and history between Stanwyck and Cooper’s characters is clear from their very first scene together. Though we don’t yet know the details of what happened in their past, we can guess by the simmering tension!
The tension continues as they begin to actually confront their history. Marina is still infatuated with Jeff, despite being married to Paco… and Jeff doesn’t return her feelings. It’s all bound to end badly. The film’s title, Blowing Wild, is commonly heard on the oil fields but is also an apt description of the heightened emotions of the Quinn/Stanwyck/Cooper love triangle.
As for Paco, he generally seems to be enjoying life, aware of but not obsessed with the history between his wife and his old friend. Quinn portrays the character exuberantly, despite his obvious martial problems, and there are a few scenes that are pure fun, including a race between Quinn in a car and Stanwyck on horseback.
The only weak point in the dynamics, for me, was in the romance between Cooper and Roman. Roman’s character is Sal Donnelly, an American woman also stranded in town. My issue with the romance was not the fault of the actors, who have decent chemistry. The script simply doesn’t develop the relationship well enough, leaning toward a case of “insta-love” rather than genuine connection. We see so little between them, it seems almost laughable when Jeff tells Marina that he’s in love with Sal.
Romantic drama aside, there’s an element of danger to the film, in the plot threads having to do with the oil operation and south-of-the-border setting. Early on, Jeff is hired to transport explosives through a territory filled with armed bandits. One shot and his truck will blow up! Things don’t get any less dangerous when he gets involved with Paco’s outfit.
The oil business plays heavily into the design of the film. The sound of the oil pump is used to great effect, quite ominously at times. The scenery of the oil fields and their surrounding hills is beautiful, all shot in crisp black and white.
Blowing Wild comes along with a pretty soapy title song (sung by Frankie Laine), and it can be an over-dramatic film at times, but it’s consistently gripping and has strong performances. When compared to the rest of Stanwyck’s filmography it falls near the middle of the pack, but it’s still very much worth a watch.