Tuesday, November 07, 2017
His Kind of Woman (1951)
It's Noirvember, so I'm taking the opportunity to watch some film noir movies this month. Not gonna do one every day or anything, but I hope to cover one or two a week.
Who's In It: Robert Mitchum (When Strangers Marry, Out of the Past), Jane Russell (The Outlaw, Macao), Vincent Price (Shock, The Web), Raymond Burr (Rear Window, Perry Mason), and Jim Backus (Mister Magoo, Gilligan's Island).
What It's About: Gambler Dan Milner (Mitchum) is coerced by gangsters to stay at a Mexican resort for mysterious reasons. It sounds like an easy job, but it gets complicated quickly by the resort's other inhabitants, which include thugs and government agents, but especially a singer (Russell) and the famous, married actor (Price) she's dating.
How It Is: One of my favorite noir films, largely for the cast, but the setting plays a big part, too.
Most of the action takes place at the resort, which is a small enough place that everyone knows everyone else's business. It's full of colorful characters and reminds me of a tropical version of the resort in Dirty Dancing with lots of little dramas going on around the main one.
Mitchum is one of my favorite actors ever and he's got great chemistry with Russell. (So much so that producer Howard Hughes wanted them back together for Macao, which I also like; just not as much as this one.) The film doesn't ask me to believe that they're falling deeply in love, but there's a palpable connection between them that convincingly throws their other plans into question. Dan is a charming, likeable guy and Lenore Brent (Russell) is funny and easy-going, even though she's clearly got secrets and some tragedy in her past.
As the head of the gang that's manipulating Dan, Raymond Burr is neither as terrifying as his Rear Window character, nor as suave as Perry Mason, but he's intimidating as hell and makes the part better just by being in it. Backus isn't super important to the plot, but he livens up the place as one of the resort guests and I'm always excited to see him.
I've saved Vincent Price for last, because he's one of the best characters, but also one of the most out-of-place. He plays movie star Mark Cardigan, a married man who's having an affair with Lenore when she meets Dan. Dan isn't the only one to throw a monkey wrench into Mark and Lenore's relationship though. Mark's wife (Marjorie Reynolds) shows up partway through, determined to put an end to her husband's philandering one way or another. How Mark reacts to and deals with all of this is unexpected and priceless. I love the character.
Or I do until the climax of the movie. It's around then that Mark realizes that he's tired of just playing adventurers onscreen. As he discovers what's going on around Dan, Mark sees an opportunity to participate in a real adventure. Which is very cool, but the script turns him into a cartoon character after that. His dialogue becomes almost entirely quotes from Shakespeare and his decision-making is absurdly comical. Price is great at it - totally hamming it up - but the character doesn't fit the rest of the movie anymore. Mark doesn't ruin the movie at all, but he does keep me from loving it as much as I would if he'd been reined in.
Rating: 4 out of 5 plaid jackets.