Friday, October 07, 2011

Tonight's Movie: Latin Lovers (1953)

LATIN LOVERS is colorful MGM escapism which finds multimillionairess Lana Turner deciding whether to marry Ricardo Montalban or John Lund. Some girls have all the luck!

Nora Taylor (Turner) follows her beau, wealthy Paul Chevron (Lund), when he heads for South America on business, hoping that surprising Paul will light a fire under their tepid romance. Instead Nora is swept off her feet by Roberto Santos (Montalban), who kisses her before they've even been introduced! Roberto and Nora decide to marry after a whirlwind courtship, but then she starts to worry he might be more interested in her $37 million than in her...

That's really pretty much all there is to the plot. It's a simple story which isn't much more than some fluffy silliness, but it's made with typical MGM polish and provides an enjoyable diversion, just as it was meant to do. The film's 104 minutes pass quickly, and it leaves a smile on the viewer's face at the conclusion.

The leads are all pros, playing their somewhat stereotypical roles of the era, and they play them well. They're ably supported by Louis Calhern as Montalban's charming rogue of a grandfather and Jean Hagen as Lana's loyal secretary, who's got her eye on Lund if her boss turns him loose.

Beulah Bondi has a small but amusing role as Lund's therapist, and a young Rita Moreno pops up briefly to demonstrate the samba with Montalban.

The film has some striking art direction; I was particularly taken with the colorful sofa and pillows in Lana's hotel room. Costume designer Helen Rose made the interesting decision to dress Lana Turner solely in black, white, gray, and light blue, which stands out in contrast to the colorful backdrops.

While not precisely a musical, the film has plenty of music. There's just one discordant note -- or should I say notes -- insofar as the filmmakers chose to dub Montalban's singing voice. It's way too obvious that the booming voice, heard on multiple songs, isn't the same voice which so charmingly performed the Oscar-winning "Baby, It's Cold Outside" in NEPTUNE'S DAUGHTER (1949).

Montalban, as a matter of fact, was assigned the lead role when the real-life romance between Turner and her original costar, Fernando Lamas, fell apart. Lana later wrote, "I found Ricardo a delightful costar. A rigorously devout Catholic, utterly loyal to his wife, he played his role professionally but not privately." The real-life love story between Montalban and his wife, Georgiana Young, who married just days after meeting, is one of Hollywood's most charming stories; the Montalbans were married until Georgiana died 63 years later.

LATIN LOVERS was written by Isobel Lennart and directed by Mervyn LeRoy. The Technicolor cinematography was by Joseph Ruttenberg.

LATIN LOVERS has been released on VHS.

It can also be seen on Turner Classic Movies, which has the trailer available on the TCM website.

2015 Update: LATIN LOVERS is now available on DVD from the Warner Archive. My review of the DVD may be found here.


Blogger barrylane said...

Any picture with Louis calhern, but expecially one where he plays a sly rogue, gets thumbs up.

8:06 AM  
Blogger mel said...

Strangely enough, I have never seen Latin Lovers except for a short clip on YouTube.

I am familiar, however with a song from the film, A Little More Of Your Amour, which I remember was quite popular back in 1953 and was dubbed for Montalban by Carlos Ramirez.

11:17 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

I agree, barrylane, Calhern is wonderful!

Mel, thanks so much for that additional info on the music and Montalban's singing voice! Most interesting.

Best wishes,

11:23 PM  
Blogger mel said...

I saw Latin Lovers for the first time yesterday and enjoyed it thoroughly. The copy was a very good one on DVD-R captured from a TCM broadcast.

I noticed, during the credits, that the musical arrangements were by the late Pete Rugolo.

I was very pleasantly surprised by Jean Hagen's well-modulated voice, as I have only seen her in one other movie - Singin' In The Rain.

Dorothy Neumann, previously unknown to me, stole the show with the witty comments written for her by the screenwriter Isobel Lennart.

There's nothing profound in this movie and no call for any great acting - just an enjoyable piece of froth.

10:21 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

I completely agree, Mel, I had a good time watching this. I especially enjoyed Jean Hagen putting aside her secretarial role at the end as she prepares to go after John Lund. A fun movie. So glad you were able to enjoy it!

Best wishes,

10:23 PM  

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