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A young Boston lawyer, Albron Hamlin, goes to Haiti in 1802 to find Lydia Bailey, whose estate he must settle. The island is war-torn in the strife between Toussaing L'Overture, the black president, and the French who are trying to retake possession of the country. Hamlin finds Lydia and, against the background of war and rebellion, they fall in love while helping the Haitians against the French.Written by
Les Adams <email@example.com>
Not bad historical drama, good showcase for Marshall
A history lesson in brief: The Haitian people, under the leadership of Toussaint L'Ouverture, overthrew French rule in the short term. After taking over in France, Napoleon himself was determined to reconquer Haiti and assigned this task to his brother-in-law, Gen. Leclerc. The film plot in brief: Albion Hamlin is a lawyer who goes to Haiti because he needs Lydia Bailey's signature on a document, and gets caught up in the continuing war of Haitian independence. Along the way, before Hamlin gets involved with Bailey, who is engaged to one of Leclerc's officers, he also befriends "King Dick", a Haitian revolutionary and patriot.
It is William Marshall as King Dick, with his considerable acting skill and imposing presence, who dominates the proceedings in a well-written, non-stereotypical role. The resourceful King Dick saves Hamlin's life on more than one occasion, and it is his stratagem, in which Hamlin impersonates a half-witted servant, that gets them within Leclerc's stronghold. There, the patriot's mission is to assassinate a traitor to the Haitian cause.
The film and television roles that were even remotely worthy of Marshall's immense talents came few and far between, and a certain stardom of sorts finally came to him twenty years later (in BLACULA of all things). The stage probably served him better, and I remember seeing his powerful portrayal of Frederick Douglass on PBS some years back, which seemed to be from a one-man stage show. His performance in BAILEY might be slightly less noteworthy but is no less powerful.
As for the leads, Dale Robertson makes for a rather stodgy hero as Hamlin, and while Anne Francis (as the title character) is a beautiful woman, she is not a strong enough actress here. Charles Korvin is also lackluster as Andre D'Autremont, Bailey's fiancee, who serves as a somewhat sympathetic villain. Their weakly-played triangle is deservedly dwarfed by the larger story of Haitian revolutionary intrigue, where Ken Renard puts in an understated but effective appearance as the great Toussaint.
By the time you get to the end of this film, you'll probably agree that it should be renamed in honor of it's most memorable character, King Dick. This was an auspicious film debut for William Marshall, and what a career he could have had if he had been allowed to follow it with different and better opportunities. A belated salute to you, Mr. Marshall, wherever you are.
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