Saturday, March 19, 2011

Tonight's Movie: Singapore (1947)

I've been wanting to see SINGAPORE (1947), starring Fred MacMurray and Ava Gardner, for some time now. I've hoped that eventually it would turn up on DVD, but I finally decided to purchase a used 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.


Blogger Kevin Deany said...

I don't think I ever saw "Singapore" but it sounds like I would like it. If memory serves, Universal re-made it with Errol Flynn in "Istanbul" (1957).

9:14 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Hi Kevin! Yes, I did read last week that it was remade as ISTANBUL. :) Hope you get to check out SINGAPORE!

Best wishes,

9:23 AM  
Blogger whistlingypsy said...

Laura, your review inspired me to check YouTube, where I found a version in good condition. The film has all the right elements to make an excellent little mystery, just as Brahm created in THE LOCKET, a personal favorite. I agree with you regarding the less than stellar dialogue between Matt and Linda during their first romantic scene. I was distracted trying to remember the name of the song played while the couple was seated in the hotel bar (the tune was YOU ARE TEMPTATION), which also reunites them later in the film. I was surprised to find that even though I don’t recall watching the entire film in the past, I remembered the scene involving Fred MacMurray retrieving the pearls from their hiding place (films have the odd habit of sometimes existing in fragments of memories for me).

2:50 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

So glad you were already able to see it, Gypsy! It's a particular delight for me when my own viewing leads someone else to explore a film.

What fun that you recognized one of the scenes in the movie. I've had that experience on occasion -- it's kind of neat to figure out where the "puzzle piece" of the remembered scene fits. A couple years ago I discovered that a scene which gave me nightmares as a child was from Susan Hayward's SMASH-UP: THE STORY OF A WOMAN, of all things.

I agree about THE LOCKET, that film made quite an impression on me. SINGAPORE wasn't as good, though worth seeing.

Best wishes,

3:27 PM  
Blogger KEIVIVETH said...

... I was trying to find out the name of the song played in Singapore for twenty minutes, via the internet. Finally discovered it thanks to WhistlingGypsy. Thanks, and to Laura too for the musings! I really the tune. Now to look it up on YouTube. Wish me luck :-)

The movie itself was good.
A bit labored, but still cool.

7:48 PM  

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