Thanksgiving Day used to be the unofficial beginning of the holiday season in the United States; when we were still a very spiritual country. Today however, when money is a god and narcotics are the path to holiness; the appropriately-named Black Friday represents the real spirit moving postmodern America. Black Friday is an unofficial holiday where minimum-wage employees are subjected to 24 hours of abuse, as Prozac-fueled Ameroboobs storm department stores and butcher and maim one another.
Better that readers of our site stay home and enjoy an exciting film that combines a great story with uplifting the spirit and showing the better side of man. Our recommendation for this weekend is a forgotten classic: Noah's Ark.
Noah's Ark was released in 1928 by Warner Brothers Studios and starred George O'Brien and the beautiful Dolores Costello in the lead roles. There are two parallel stories that run in this film, with both emphasizing the Providence of God over the selfishness of man. The film had a budget equivalent to $15 million in today's dollars and grossed an equivalent of $33 million worldwide.
The story begins with two American friends on a tour Europe shortly before WW1. On board a train, a sinister Russian Communist starts a brawl with a Christian missionary, who is rescued by the two Americans. The train subsequently meets with a wreck, and Travis (O'Brien) rescues a German girl named Marie (Dolores Costello). The two marry and live in Europe until WW1 breaks out. Travis enlists with the Americans, while Marie joins a show entertaining the troops.
While separated, the couple experience some sad misfortunes. Travis' best friend dies in a friendly-fire incident, while Marie is discovered by the Communist from the train. She refuses his advances and---typical of most Leftists when they don't get their way---he frames her with false evidence that she is a German spy. Marie is sent to the firing squad, but Travis intervenes to stop the execution. Just then a German artillery barrage strikes; the couple take refugee in a mission which caves in on them. While trapped there, they discover that the Christian missionary they'd rescued from the train is trapped with them. In the midst of this hopeless situation, the missionary begins a sermon on the story of Noah.
The film then shifts to a genuine Biblical epic, with O'Brien playing Noah's son Japheth and Dolores Costello playing his lover, Miriam. Miriam is selected to be sacrificed to an idol and Japheth attempts to rescue her, but is captured. The Deluge interrupts these events, and Japheth rescues Miriam and brings her to the safety of the Ark at the last moment.
Will a divine miracle save Travis and Marie? One must watch Noah's Ark to see.
Modern critical reviews of Noah's Ark get so concerned with the technicalities of this story that they miss the film's entire point. This should be expected in an unspiritual age like ours. They complain that the two storylines are in conflict: why blend a fairly standard WW1 drama with a Biblical epic? This is because the story was meant to demonstrate that epics of Biblical proportions are enacted on a smaller scale in our modern lives and that God's Providence acts through all of it. As Christ taught in the New Testament, God sees even the sparrow that falls to the ground. The two storylines are not in conflict: they are in mutual dependence. In the eyes of man, the story of Japheth and Miriam are epic; while in the Eyes of God, the love of an American soldier and a German actress are equally epic and important. Humanity and Civilization may be defined by epic battles; but the day-to-day struggles of Good against Evil maintain both.
As for the epic scenes in Noah's Ark, they are cinematic masterpieces. The Flood Scene is probably the most realistic ever filmed. The producers actually constructed an artificial reservoir filled with over a million gallons of water, which was released for the filming and covered at multiple camera-angles. Three extras were actually injured in filming the Deluge Scene (modern critics' stories of the mass-casualties inflicted during this scene are wildly exaggerated; actually more people were injured on Black Friday today).
As of this writing, Noah's Ark is available only on DVD. It should be noted that the film was originally produced as a silent film, but some sound sections were added as 1928 was a transitional year for sound technology. These sequences don't detract from the film's merit, they are merely products of the technology of their time. As a interesting note of trivia: John Wayne was among the extras in the Deluge Scene, and the contemporary actress Drew Barrymore is Dolores Costello's granddaughter.