Tuesday, December 01, 2015

Tonight's Movie: Latin Lovers (1953) - A Warner Archive DVD Review

LATIN LOVERS (1953), just released by the Warner Archive, is a Technicolor confection starring Lana Turner and Ricardo Montalban.

LATIN LOVERS defines "pure escapism," with Lana starring as a woman with $37 million in the bank who has to decide between marrying Brazilian plantation owner Ricardo or her steady beau John Lund, who has $48 million. Life's rough!

Turner and Montalban's characters have a torrid romance, with Montalban sweeping her off her feet for a kiss before they've ever met, but then she becomes anxious that he's a little too happy about her being so rich. Does he love her or her money? (He's also terribly chauvinistic and bossy, but we'll overlook that, just because he's Ricardo Montalban!)

Lund is no wimpy other man as Turner's polo playing boyfriend, and he has some delicious lines, such as when he quietly makes clear to Lana that he usually gets his way. Fortunately for him, Lana's secretary, played by Jean Hagen, pines after him, so he won't be lonely long.

It's a quasi-musical produced by Joe Pasternak, with a little singing and dancing here and there, although it's quite disconcerting that Ricardo's singing voice is dubbed. If he was good enough to introduce the Oscar-winning song "Baby, It's Cold Outside" in NEPTUNE'S DAUGHTER (1949), why isn't he good enough here? They could have chosen songs better suited for his range and style if needed.

I love to see Ricardo dance, and here he gets the chance to dance the samba with Rita Moreno, which is lovely, and then he repeats it with Lana Turner, who is also quite elegant on her feet.

The wonderful supporting cast includes Louis Calhern as Ricardo's rogue of a grandfather and Beulah Bondi, who is quite amusing as Lund's psychoanalyst. Viewers can also play the "Spot the Bess Flowers as an extra" game!

The film has marvelous art direction and costume design; check out Lana's Helen Rose wardrobe, which is usually black, grey, or light blue, contrasting with the strong color backdrops. I love the sofa and pillows in Lana's hotel room!

I first saw this film in 2011, and I liked it just as much the second time around. It may not be the greatest movie ever made, and it may also feature some outdated attitudes, but this cast in a colorful South American romance simply makes me happy. I think of it as an escapist "movie vacation," completely divorced from modern reality.

LATIN LOVERS was directed by Mervyn LeRoy and filmed by Joseph Ruttenberg. It runs 104 minutes.

This is a very eye-catching movie, but while much of it looks great, the colors in the Warner Archive DVD seemed surprisingly wan at times. Of greater concern was a blue film which occasionally appeared on the screen, usually at the right side of the picture; I don't know if it was a production issue solely with my DVD or a problem with the print which will be apparent on all DVDs. Those issues aside, for the most part it's still quite a nice DVD, without scratches or other types of issues, and it's great to finally have it available.

The DVD includes the trailer.

Thanks to the Warner Archive for providing a review copy of this DVD. Warner Archive releases are MOD (manufactured on demand) and may be ordered from the Warner Archive Collection at the WBShop.

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