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Reap the Wild Wind is a 1942 adventure film by Cecil B. DeMille, based on a serialized story by Thelma Strabel.

The film is set in the 1840s along the Florida coast. Our protagonist is a spirited young woman named Loxi Claiborne (Paulette Goddard). She runs a marine salvage business and that's how she meets Jack Stewart (John Wayne), captain of a ship called the Jubilee that she rescues from the hurricane. Jack desires to captain a ship called the Southern Cross, and Loxi takes it upon herself to seduce Steve Tolliver (Ray Milland), the head of the sailing ship line that Jack works for. There's also trouble afoot involving another salvor called King Cutler (Raymond Massey), who may be planning wrecks so he can claim the salvage. And for some added spice, Cutler's brother Dan (Robert Preston) is having an affair with Loxi's cousin Drusilla (Susan Hayward).

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Tropes:

  • Accidental Murder: Jack willingly wrecking the Southern Cross not knowing Drusilla is stowed away on board.
  • Action Survivor: Loxi isn't a trained gun fighter, but she handles herself in a couple of scuffles just fine.
  • Actually Pretty Funny:
    • When Loxi is scandalising most of the ladies with her song about rats aboard a ship, Drusilla can be seen cracking up. Steve and a few Spear Carrier guests clearly find the whole thing funny too.
    • After a moment of shock, Cutler finds some humor in how the men he sent to shanghai Steve end up being shanghaied themselves.
  • Alpha Bitch: Ivy Devereaux fits the spoiled blonde Rich Bitch trappings, though doesn't factor much into the story.
  • Amoral Attorney: King Cutler, the murderous head wrecker, is a also an attorney and defends Jack when he's on trial for wrecking the Southern Cross, a crime which Jack is guilty of. He then bullies Loxi when she's on the stand and tries to frame Steve for his crimes.
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  • Artistic Licence – History: Ivy sings "Tis A Little Faded Flower", which was not published until twenty years after the movie is set.
  • Asshole Victim: Widgeon is brutally hung in his cell to prevent him from testifying against Jack and Cutler. However, his first scene shows him knocking Jack unconcious to wreck their ship for money, which destroys Jack's career. He also tries to shanghai Steve and Captain Phil, and helps wreck the Southern Cross.
  • The Atoner: Jack becomes one once he realises he's responsible for Drusilla's death.
  • Beauty Equals Goodness: Out of the two Cutler brothers, Dan is the better looking one, so of course he's nicer.
  • Beta Couple: Loxi's cousin Drusilla and Cutler's brother Dan.
  • Betty and Veronica:
    • Jack is the soft-spoken Betty to Steve's outspoken Veronica.
    • Loxi herself is the wild and exciting Veronica to the pampered and more graceful Ivy's Betty.
  • Breaking Speech: When Jack comes to confront the villainous Cutler, he finds himself on the receiving end of a devastating speech as Cutler reveals that Commodore Devereaux is dead and that Jack's future with the Devereaux line is in jeopardy. He then dissects how Jack will likely end up broke and homeless, and that Loxi will be willing to endure that with him, but that Jack will be too proud to subject her to this. He then offers Jack a job captaining a slave ship for him, which Jack rejects in favor of helping Cutler wreck his ship.
  • Broken Pedestal: Once it's revealed Jack was responsible for Drusilla dying, it's clear that's it for him and Loxi.
  • The Cameo: Noted gossip columnist Hedda Hopper has a small role as Loxi's Aunt Henrietta.
  • Canine Companion: Steve's dog Romulus - who he performs ventriloquy with as a Running Gag.
  • Casual Danger Dialogue: Captain Philpott remains quite calm and snarky when he's held at gunpoint and told to put his hands up. He snarks that he can't, because his sleeve is pinned to the mast by a pitchfork.
  • Cerebus Syndrome: The first half of the film is very light-hearted, with lots of comedic touches - the attempted kidnapping of Steve and Loxi is entirely Played for Laughs. Then when Jack helps Cutler wreck the Southern Cross, unknowingly killing Drusilla, things get a lot more serious.
  • Chekhov's Gun: There's a scene where Dan gives Drusilla a pretty new shawl. The shawl being found in the Southern Cross's wreck reveals that Drusilla was the woman killed when it sank.
  • Costume Porn: It's a Technicolor Cecil B De Mille period piece, so of course they'll go all out with the costumes. There's a scene at a luncheon and later a ball that allows for magnificent gowns and suits for everyone.
  • Dating Catwoman: Drusilla knows that Dan is involved in piracy. This association ends up getting her killed.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Captain Philpott is brilliantly snarky.
  • Death of the Hypotenuse: Jack dies in the dive at the end, allowing Loxi and Steve to get married.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance:
    • Steve has no problem spanking Loxi when she annoys him.
    • Loxi performing a song about rats on a ship gets scandalized reactions from the other ladies, even though the lyrics are quite tame.
    • Mrs. Claiborne mostly comes across as a pleasant woman who is worried about her daughter, but a comment that Maume Maria makes about her fear of being sold reveals that Mrs. Claiborne is a slave owner, and no one in the family seems bothered by this.
  • Diabolus ex Machina: When Jack and Steve are diving to verify if Drusilla was killed in the wreck, they are attacked by a Giant Squid.
  • Dying Moment of Awesome: Jack goes out saving Steve from a squid that's choking him.
  • Easily Forgiven: Loxi actually doesn't attack Jack for getting her cousin killed. In this case it's because she's partially responsible too as she stopped Steve's ship from getting there in time.
  • Femininity Failure: Loxi making a spectacle of herself at her aunt's luncheon. Admittedly she wasn't trying very hard to succeed.
    Maume Maria: It's just hopeless. Making a lady out of you is just hopeless."
  • Florence Nightingale Effect: Jack falls for Loxi after she nurses him back to health.
  • Foreshadowing: Jack and Loxi's wedding on the ship is interrupted by Steve - who tackles Loxi overboard. He and Loxi will marry after Jack drowns trying to save him.
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: In Loxi's song, one of the lyrics is "son of a", and all the ladies gasp. But the next line is "shiny, briny blue". While there's no actual cursing, Sectino V of the Hays Code did explicitly forbid the phrase "son-of-a".
  • Gorgeous Period Dress: And how! The costumes in the party scenes are especially flamboyant.
  • Heroes Love Dogs: Despite his moments of jealousy and Honor Before Reason, Steve is a well-meaning man who wants to stop the wreckers and do right by honest sailors. He has a little dog that he's very attached to.
  • Heroic Seductress: Loxi's seduction of Steve is a little underhanded, but it's entirely to help the man she loves.
  • Honest Corporate Executive: Steve and his bosses are honest men dedicated to stopping Cutler and his wreckers (although this is partially to protect their own profits), and Steve also tries to defend Jack from being scapegoated even though they're romantic rivals.
  • Honor Before Reason: Steve has a bad habit of this.
    • He tries to spare Commodore Devereaux's reputation by not telling Jack that Devreaux is the one who wants to fire Jack while Steve supports him. This misunderstanding causes Jack's Face–Heel Turn.
    • During Jack's trial for wrecking, Steve tries to avoid calling Loxi as a witness to avoid disgracing her name, even though the case will fall apart without her testimony.
  • Jerkass to One: In her admittedly limited screen time, Alpha Bitch Ivy seems to get along well with everyone except Loxi (who is drawing the attentions of the man Ivy is interested in).
  • Kicking Ass in All Her Finery: Downplayed but Loxi takes out a couple of Mooks while wearing a dress.
  • Love Triangle: Loxi wants to be with Jack, but Steve also wants her.
  • Meet Cute: Does it get cuter than meeting while one of the parties is strapped to the wheel?
  • Misplaced Accent: Salt Meat is said to be a Barbados sailor but speaks with a southern American accent.
  • Never a Self-Made Woman: It's mentioned that the salvage business was started by Loxi's father, and she's just continuing it.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Loxi refuses to help Steve reach Havana in time to relieve Jack of command before he can leave on the Southern Cross, and even sabotages Steve's efforts. This leads to the death of her cousin, who stowed away on Jack's boat. Loxi herself begins to realize this as evidence mounts that Jack really is in league with Cutler.
    Loxi: Go on, say it. We'd be in Havana if not for what I did.
  • "Not So Different" Remark: When Drusilla insists that her lover Dan is different from his criminal brother, Loxi replies that they merely have different first names. Dan does have some standards that King lacks, but is indeed nearly as ruthless as his brother until he realizes that their actions wrecked a ship Drusilla was on.
  • Not-So-Small Role: Susan Hayward pops up in a few scenes stealing kisses with King Cutler's brother. She stows away on the Southern Cross when it's wrecked, prompting Cutler's scheme to fall apart.
  • Plucky Girl: Loxi through and through. She's quite an active character for a female lead in the 1940s.
  • Poor Communication Kills: Steve successfully argues for Jack to be made the captain of the Southern Cross, but Commodore Devereaux orders him not to tell Jack about this decision until his guilt or innocence in the wrecking of the Jubilee is established. When Jack finds out, he accuses Steve of deliberately stopping his promotion and Steve goes along with the deception (presumably to avoid turning Jack against his boss, Captain Devereaux). As a result of this misunderstanding, when Devereaux dies, Jack thinks that Steve will fire him and makes a Heel–Face Turn.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure:
    • Judge Marvin runs a tough but fair courtroom. He is considerate of people's feelings, but values truth and justice more. He also will only allow delays and continuances under reasonable circumstances, but is unhappy when a lack of reasonable circumstances threaten to let Cutler and Jack escape justice.
    • Downplayed with Commodore Devereaux and his board members (save Steve, who plays it straighter). They wrongly blame Jack for the loss of the Jubilee. When Steve makes a strong argument that Jack is innocent, they agree to promote Jack if his innocence is proven, although they also refuse to tell Jack that they're giving him a second chance.
  • Red Herring: Ivy is introduced as the daughter of Commodore Devereaux - who runs the company owning the Southern Cross - implying she'll be an antagonist. But then Steve is revealed to be running it while the Commodore is ill, and Loxi's focus shifts to him.
  • Redemption Equals Death: Jack is given the chance to let Steve-who has evidence that could have Jack hung- drown when the squid attacks. He chooses not to, rescues Steve and dies in the process.
  • Refuge in Audacity: Loxi has an epic one when she goes to a party and is asked to sing a "sweet" song. She chooses to perform a piece from the perspective of a rat on board a ship. The other guests are either scandalized, fanning themselves or trying not to laugh. When Loxi's aunt Henrietta stops her, Loxi's only response is that they still had twenty verses to go.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here: Captain Phil's freedman associate Chinkapin tries to flee Phil's houseboat when he hears shanghaiing wreckers coming. They intercept him and knock him unconscious.
  • Sensitive Guy and Manly Man: Steve vs Jack. John Wayne was even reluctant to sign on; worried how his fans would react about him being bested by Ray Milland.
  • Servile Snarker: Loxi's maid Maum Maria usually has a sarcastic comment in every scene she's in.
  • Significant Wardrobe Shift: The Face/Heel Double-Turn where Steve becomes the one we should root for over Jack is marked by him swapping his usual dandy suits for an Intimate Open Shirt.
  • Small Role, Big Impact: Loxi's cousin Drusilla just seems like a Satellite Character for her to have girl talk with, and be in a tame forbidden romance with Captain Cutler's brother. Then she dies in a deliberate shipwreck, setting up the third act's conflict.
  • Snark-to-Snark Combat: Loxi and Steve's first scene together has them exchanging lots of back and forth banter.
  • Southern Gentleman: Steve is a double subversion. He seems like a Jerkass but is ultimately proved to be a good guy. He's got the fashion of the Southern Gentleman down.
  • Sweater Girl: Loxi wears a tight sweater in the last part of the film.
  • Team Pet: Loxi rescues a monkey from The Jubilee and keeps it - to Maum Maria's annoyance.
  • Teeth-Clenched Teamwork: Jack and Steve reluctantly work together when they risk being shanghaied by a whaling crew.
  • Third Act Stupidity: Jack's efforts to wreck the Southern Cross, which dominate the second half of the film, have pretty much no chance of any outcome other than Jack's disgrace and arrest, given his suspicious actions such as hiring Widgeon, a known wrecker, as his mate and speeding recklessly through the fog right after a known enemy of his takes over the shipping line.
  • Tomboy with a Girly Streak: Loxi loves sailing and has a tomboyish attitude, but whenever she puts on a nice dress she wears it well.
  • Town Girls: Loxi is the Butch, Ivy is the Femme, Drusilla is the Neither.
  • Unexplained Accent: Salt Meat is introduced as a Barbados sailor, but speaks with a southern American accent.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Ivy Devereaux disappears from the story once it's clear Steve has the hots for Loxi.

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