The plot of this 64-minute film develops at breakneck speed. Dave Ritchie (David Bruce) had been attracted to Vicki Moore (Brenda Marshall) when he met her while doing business with her father (Gilbert Emery). Alas, a spurned lover chose that night to commit suicide in Vicki's bedroom and, after giving testimony in the matter, Dave moved on with his life.
Years later Dave owns a rubber plantation outside Singapore and he spots a haggard Vicki drinking in a dive called the Crow's Nest. Vicki's life hasn't gone well, what with her father losing his fortune and dying, not to mention her husband (Richard Ainley) being lost at sea. Dave takes Vicki to his plantation and tries to help her get back on her feet -- which doesn't sit well with Dave's fiancee Claire (Virginia Field), who with amazing timing arrives in Singapore to see Dave for the first time in two years.
I found this to be a very enjoyable hour. Given all that happens in a short period of time, it's rather soapy, but it's Grade A soap, with an intriguing performance by Brenda Marshall as a bad woman who'd like to be good again.
I have trouble taking David Bruce seriously as a leading man, but otherwise this film has an interesting cast, including one of my very favorite character actors, Jerome Cowan. Cowan plays Dave's loyal friend and turns a throwaway part into a man the viewer would like to know more about.
Rose Hobart, Heather Angel, and Ian Wolfe also turn up over the course of the film. And watch carefully when Cowan is dictating to his secretary; the scene is filmed at a distance, but the tall young lady who stands up to leave the room is none other than Alexis Smith, in one of several bit roles she played in 1940-41. She reappears later in the film, trying to keep Marshall out of Cowan's office.
Director Negulesco did an excellent job with a slight property, turning out a stylish, well-paced film with an atmospheric tropical feel, despite the fact the company surely never left the Warner Bros. back lot. Negulesco went on to direct THE MASK OF DIMITRIOS (1944), NOBODY LIVES FOREVER (1946), HUMORESQUE (1946), JOHNNY BELINDA (1948), ROAD HOUSE (1948), and many more excellent films across a variety of genres.
I've always had a soft spot for Brenda Marshall, though at one time I found her a bit bland; I was particularly dissatisfied with her casting in THE SEA HAWK (1940), wishing that an actress with more spark, preferably Olivia de Havilland, had been cast instead. However, now having seen about half of Marshall's 19 feature films, her acting ability has risen in my estimation. I still find her a bit off in a couple films, but I was particularly impressed with her performances in movies such as ESPIONAGE AGENT (1939), EAST OF THE RIVER (1940), and STRANGE IMPERSONATION (1946), along with SINGAPORE WOMAN. With the right script and director, she was a very compelling actress. Marshall, always known to her friends by her real name, Ardis, was Mrs. William Holden for three decades. She retired from the screen in 1950.
Brenda Marshall films previously reviewed at Laura's Miscellaneous Musings: ESPIONAGE AGENT (1939), EAST OF THE RIVER (1940), FOOTSTEPS IN THE DARK (1941), CAPTAINS OF THE CLOUDS (1942), THE CONSTANT NYMPH (1943), STRANGE IMPERSONATION (1946), and WHISPERING SMITH (1948).
SINGAPORE WOMAN is not available on DVD or VHS. It has been shown on Turner Classic Movies, which has the trailer on its website.