Monday, August 3, 2015

Macao (1952)

(SLWB - November 23, 2012)

Director: Josef von Sternberg, Writers: Bernard C. Schoenfeld (screenplay), Stanley Rubin (screenplay), Stars: Robert Mitchum, Jane Russell, Gloria Grahame, Brad Dexter, Thomas Gomez, Philip Ahn, and William Bendix. I've never been a big Jane Russel fan but this is honestly her best performance and her only real serious Noir. I know, I know the Mitchum-Russell film "His Kind of Woman" of the year before but hammy-ness of Vincent Price in that film made it an unbearable watch, for me anyway. It was filmed in 1950 but not released until 1952. Producer Howard Hughes fired director von Sternberg during filming and hired Nicholas Ray to finish it.

The film has some great 2nd unit footage from the real McCoy or Macao that is nicely integrated into the RKO Backlot

A sultry night club singer/B-girl (Russell) who has finagled passage upon a ferry from Hong Kong to Macao by promising a john "a few laughs". An ex-service man (Mitchum) who is drifting about the exotic ports of the South Seas, and a salesman (Bendix) meet shipboard. The singer is quickly hired after a Portuguese officer (Gomez) tips off an American expatriate (Dexter) who runs the biggest casino in Macao with his babe (Grahame) and has a thriving business in converting hot jewels into cash. Russell's new boss thinks one of her traveling companions is a cop. One is -- but not the one the boss suspects.

Mitchum - Bendix

Bendix - Russell

Russell look's great in this and you can see why she was equated with Marilyn Monroe at this point in time she is very statuesque but a string of average films diminishes her career.

Gloria Grahame is playing second fiddle to Russell despite having won an Oscar for In A Lonely Place in 1950, the commentary relates that Howard Huges refused to even watch the film. Grahame's Margie is jealous that Dexter is infatuated with Russell so she becomes the de facto Femme Fatale of the piece.

Dexter - Grahame

Grahame at the dice table

I was struck at first at how similar the gambling casino was to the one in The Shanghai Gesture util I checked and discovered the Josef von Sternberg link.

From Wikipedia - When the film was first released, Bosley Crowther, film critic for The New York Times, lambasted the drama, writing, "All the other ingredients, including Miss Russell's famed physique, are pretty much the same as have been tumbled into previous cheesecakes with Jane and Bob...Macao is a flimflam and no more—a flimflam designed for but one purpose and that is to mesh the two stars. The story itself is pedestrian—a routine and standardized account of a guy getting caught in the middle of a cops-and-robbers thing. And except for some well-placed direction by Josef von Sternberg in a couple of scenes, especially in a "chase" among nets and rowboats, the job is conventional in style...'A fabulous speck on the Earth's surface'—that's Macao, the place and the film."

As a Noir I'd rate it a 7/10

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