VHS tape. It arrived yesterday; I'm happy to say it played perfectly and I enjoyed the film.
SINGAPORE was directed by John Brahm; while it doesn't have the famous triple flashback story structure of one of Brahm's best-known films, THE LOCKET (1946), over a third of the film's 79 minutes is told in flashback.
Matt Gordon (MacMurray) returns to Singapore after the end of World War II, hoping to retrieve a fortune in hidden pearls. Once in Singapore, however, he's consumed by memories of his lost love, Linda (Gardner), who died during a Japanese bombing raid at the church where they were to be married.
One evening while at dinner with Mr. and Mrs. Bellows (Porter Hall and Spring Byington), the tourists who happen to be renting his old hotel room where the pearls are hidden, Matt is stunned to see Linda. But she claims to be Ann Van Leyden, married to Michael (Roland Culver), and she has no idea who Matt is...
SINGAPORE is an entertaining film which effectively conveys exotic intrigue, despite never leaving the backlot. It's nicely photographed in black and white by Maury Gertsman, with a good score by Daniele Amfitheatrof. I don't think I'd call it a film noir, but it definitely has what might be called noirish elements, including a pair of slimy heavies, played by Thomas Gomez and George Lloyd.
Some of the opening romantic exchanges between MacMurray and Gardner in the flashback sequence seemed a bit stilted; I'm not certain if it's because the lines were a little too hokey or because the viewer is immediately plunged into their romance without any preamble. Perhaps it was a little of both! I wasn't one hundred percent convinced by their torrid romance, but I like both MacMurray and Gardner and enjoyed them regardless.
I particularly liked Matt's verbal duels with his police nemesis, Hewitt (Richard Haydn). Their sparring is one of the film's strong points. The supporting cast of SINGAPORE also includes Holmes Herbert and Edith Evanson as a mission priest and his wife. Philip Ahn and Patrick Aherne (brother of Brian) have small roles.
MacMurray was a busy actor; just in the period from 1944 to 1947, for example, he appeared in a dozen releases, including DOUBLE INDEMNITY (1944), STANDING ROOM ONLY (1944), and THE EGG AND I (1947), which was released just prior to SINGAPORE.
As Gardner's star rose during the late '40s, MGM alternated between using her in their own films and lending her to other studios for films like SINGAPORE. One of her first loan-outs, THE KILLERS (1946), made her a star. ONE TOUCH OF VENUS (1948) was also made on loan during this period, while back at MGM she was effective as the second female lead in THE HUCKSTERS (1947). MGM wised up and began using her in more of the studio's own films, although she still occasionally worked in films released by other studios.
SINGAPORE can currently be found on YouTube as well as on videotape.