Pittsburgh (1942)

Genres - Drama  |   Sub-Genres - Melodrama  |   Release Date - Dec 11, 1942 (USA - Unknown)  |   Run Time - 98 min.  |   Countries - USA  |  
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Universal clearly hoped that lightning would strike twice with Pittsburgh, which reunited its trio of stars from The Spoilers. Unfortunately, Pittsburgh is at best only a moderately entertaining film, in need of a spark to ignite it. Blame rests primarily with the team of writers (at least five, and likely more that received no credit); the story they have crafted wants to have the sweep and grandeur of an Edna Ferber epic, but it lacks the clarity and vision. It also lacks originality, and this is much more damaging; there's too much of a "been there, done that" feeling to the goings-on. And it certainly doesn't help matters that there's more than a whiff of wartime propaganda in the writing, which places too much emphasis on the willingness of the steel industry to churn out product for the good of the war effort while glossing over the profit element involved. Lewis Seiler's direction also deserves some of the rap; it's not bad by any means, but it doesn't give a better shape to the story or disguise the familiarity. And it certainly doesn't provide the epic feel that the writers seem to be trying for. Fortunately, Pittsburgh has a cast that helps make up for its other flaws. True, Marlene Dietrich doesn't have enough to do, but she brings her special luminosity to what she does have. John Wayne is in fine form, playing up the caddishness of his part especially well, and Randolph Scott is a perfect foil for him. The stars can't make Pittsburgh a great film, but they make it more than watchable.