Posts Tagged ‘John Farrow’

My Classic Movie Pick: His Kind of Woman

Film Noir is a genre of movies that usually have the feelings  of negativity, sadness, pessimism, and danger.    The French coined the phrase to describe American detective stories made in the 1940s-1950s.  I like a good Film Noir, with it’s hero working against the odds to figure out who the baddies are, often dealing  with a beautiful femme fatale out for her own preservation and, and lots of  interesting  side characters who add to the plots.  My movie pick, His Kind of Woman is a Film Noir, but with a difference.  It has  some comedy thrown in for an unusual mix, and the comedy is supplied by Vincent Price, the King of Horror films!

His Kind of Woman poster 1

Robert Mitchum is the hero of this movie.  He is Dan Milner,  a down on his luck gambler.  He’s been approached to live in Mexico for 1 year, and  he’ll be paid $50,000 for his troubles, and is given $20,000 to start his journey.   Dan is curious as to who wants him to live in Mexico for a year, thinking it is a pretty weird request.  Since he’s currently broke, he decides to do as he’s been asked, and takes a flight to his first stop, Nogales, Mexico.  While waiting in the airport bar for his next flight, Dan is happy to listen to a beautiful singer, Lenore Brent(Jane Russell).  Lenore seems irritated by Dan’s attention and  manages to keep him at arms length.   Dan is  delighted to find out that Lenore will  be flying on the same plane with him to his final destination, Morro’s Lodge, in the Baja region.  Lenore tells Dan that  she is an heiress and a singer and that he doesn’t interest her as she has a “friend” she’s meeting at Morro’s.His Kind of Woman Mitchum and Russell have chemistry

Once at Morro’s, Dan figures out who Lenore’s friend is, movie actor Mark Cardigan(Vincent Price).  Price is an absolute joy to watch in this movie.  He is excellent in his  portrayal of  a hammy, full-of-himself actor who just happens to be a great hunter.  Later on in the movie, he saves Dan’s bacon when the bad guy’s henchmen show up to kill Dan.  Cardigan also has romance troubles, as his wife shows up at Morro’s to tell him that she doesn’t want a divorce.  His agent has also come along to tell Cardigan that a divorce could give him negative views in the public’s opinion.  Cardigan is adamant at keeping a positive image so he breaks things off with Lenore.  Lenore confesses to Dan that she’s not really an heiress but she is a singer, and she  thought a rich husband would give her the ticket to the good life.   Dan is quite ready to show Lenore that a rich husband isn’t the be all and end all of life.

Cardigan telling Dan about his love of hunting

Cardigan telling Dan about his love of hunting

The main bad guy in the movie is Nick Ferraro(Raymond Burr-a far cry from his Perry Mason and Ironside days!)  Ferraro is a gangster who had been deported 4 years before.  Living in Italy, he was getting worried about his monetary holdings still in the U.S. and came up with a crazy plot to get back into America: find a guy who is the same height and weight as himself, a guy who is a loner without a family, and with the help of a plastic surgeon, kill the loner guy and have his face surgically put upon Ferraro’s face!

The baddies trying to inject Dan with a drug

The baddies trying to inject Dan with a drug

Cardigan deciding he can help Dan

Cardigan deciding he can help Dan

This brings about Bill Lusk(Tim Holt) who is able to inform that he is an undercover agent with the Immigration and Naturalization Service.  He tells Dan about Ferraro and that the Service knows the Ferraro is itching to get back into the country and that they think he’d try to disguise himself in some way and that Dan may have been brought to Morro’s to be the victim of Ferraro’s plans.

Bill Lusk telling Dan what he knows about Ferraro

Bill Lusk telling Dan what he knows about Ferraro

There is a minor subplot of an unhappy bride on her honeymoon watching her new husband gambling away their money to a vacationing banker, Myron Winton(Jim Backus-Mr. Thurston Howell III himself!!) Dan steps in and helps the husband regain his lost money and gives the newlyweds  advice to  stay away from the gambling tables.

Helping the Newlyweds

Helping the Newlyweds

His Kind of Woman was directed by John Farrow, written by Frank Fenton and Jack Leonard, and produced by Robert Sparks.  It was distributed by RKO Studios, but Howard Hughes, who had taken over the running of RKO in 1948, meddled in the production of His Kind of Woman and after Farrow’s work was done, Hughes had director Richard Fleischer re-direct many scenes in the movie!  The film was finished in 1950 but sat on a shelf until it’s release in August of 1951.  Despite Hughes’s fiddling with the film, it was a box office hit for RKO.   His Kind of Woman is available at Amazon.  It is available as a single dvd or in a dvd set with 3 other Film Noirs.

With Russell and Mitchum as the movie’s center, a puzzle of a plot, action, and the fun that Vincent Price brings to his role, His Kind of Woman is an unusual Film Noir, worth a viewing, and it’s one of my favorites.  Here’s a trailer that audiences would have seen in 1951 for advertising purposes for His Kind of Woman.

His Kind of Woman movie poster 2

For The Great Western Blogathon, 1953’s Hondo

Today’s blog post is for The Great Western Blogathon hosted by classic film fan and blogger Thoughts All Sorts.  Be sure to click on the link to read what other classic film fans have written!

I  remember many Saturday evenings as a kid, sitting with my parents and younger brother,  watching a Western on one of the three networks that at that time, in the 1970’s, were the dominant television channels an American could tune into.  My memories seem to tell me that it was NBC that usually aired these Westerns, and of course, the best ones starred John Wayne.   I have seen a lot of Wayne’s Western films over the years, but four years ago on Turner Classic Movies, they aired one I had never heard of before, 1953’s Hondo.   This technicolor movie was directed by John Farrow(father of actress Mia, husband to actress Maureen O’Sullivan), with John Wayne in the lead role as Hondo Lane.    The film was based on a Louis L’Amour short story, The Gift of Cochise.  At 84 minutes, it has an intricate plot, told  at a fast pace that doesn’t lose the viewers interest one iota.  

The plot revolves around 4 characters,with the supporting characters adding to the ebb and flow of the minor sub-plots.  Wayne’s Hondo Lane is a half-breed, working as a message runner for the U.S. Calvary stationed at a fort in the New Mexico territory.  The year of the setting isn’t mentioned, but I would guess it’s after the Civil War.  Lane has a reputation for having killed 3 men the previous year, but we can also tell that Lane is an honorable man and we are on his side from the beginning of the movie; we can safely assume that he killed those 3 men in self-defense.  He does mention his first wife, now deceased, from time to time.   She was a beautiful Native American woman, and her death has added a layer of sadness to Lane’s persona, as well as his views on the treatment of the Native Americans by the white settlers and the U. S. Government.   He can see both sides of the arguments, so to speak, due to his unique heritage. One small side mention about Hondo’s character, he has a dog that is always with him, and I am pretty sure it was played by the dog that played Lassie.  It looks like Lassie with some extra, fake fur strapped to it’s back!

Hondo doing his job, delivering a message.

Geraldine Page, portrays the second character of the film, that of Mrs. Angie Lowe.   Angie’s parents were early settlers to the New Mexico territory, and it is their small ranch that she lives on as she was an only child and the sole inheritor of the property.  She has a husband, Ed, who was an orphan her parents helped raise, and we  learn later that  he isn’t a good person.  Angie is a strong woman, smart, and will do what she can to protect her son from the facts about his father’s choices.  Her son Johnny is the only blessing in her life from her marriage to Ed( Leo Gordon, a tall actor, who often played bad guys in Western movies and television shows.)  Johnny(Lee Aaker) is a typical 6 year old, and while he doesn’t have a lot of lines to say, a subplot does revolve around him involving the 4th main character of this film, Apache Chief Vittorio, played by Michael Pate.

Hondo arriving at the Lowe’s ranch for the first time, to ask for water.

Angie is puzzled about this Hondo guy

Chief Vittorio, strong and in command of his tribe, is  worrying over more and more white settlers that are moving into his territory.  He is not happy that there is a U. S. Calvary presence in the area either.  His second in command, Silva(played by Rodolfo Acosta), is a hot-head who Chief Vittorio often has to rein in.   This tribe of Apaches has always been on good terms with Angie Lowe and her parents, often stopping at the ranch due to it’s having a good source of water.  The Chief, during one of these visits for water, becomes curious as to why Angie’s husband is never around.  He is impressed with Johnny’s bravery at trying to protect his mother during this visit as Silva makes a crude gesture towards her.  Chief Vittorio decides to make Johnny a blood brother with the Apaches, and he also warns Angie that if her husband doesn’t show up soon, that he will come back to take her and her son and raise her son in the Apache way, so that this brave boy will learn to be man.

Chief Vittorio(on the horse) and his aid Silva, warning Angie

Minor characters in the film are: Ward Bond as Buffalo Baker, a fellow message deliverer for the Calvary and Lane’s friend, James Arness(the future Sheriff Matt Dillon of Gunsmoke fame) as Lennie, an Army Indian Scout, Tom Irish as Lt. McKay, a new Calvary officer, and Paul Fix, as Major Sherry, in charge of the fort.

Hondo  begins to wonder why Angie’s husband is never around the ranch

Hondo takes on the good father role for Johnny

Angie and Hondo fall in love!

The aspects of the settlers vs. the Native Americans is portrayed with wisdom, the developing relationship with Lane and Angie is told in a moving way and with restraint.  Geraldine Page was nominated for Best Supporting Actress for her part in this film.  There is a tangle Lane gets into with a card player he angered that is central to the plot,  his being mistaken as a Calvary soldier that leads to an unfortunate encounter with Chief Vittorio and Silva, and the news that the Apaches may be preparing for an uprising, all this fits into this very well acted Western.    All in all, Hondo is a  very fine film, and Wayne gives a strong and very thoughtful performance.   If you haven’t seen it, seek it out.  It is available on dvd through Amazon, through their instant rent program, and at TCM’s Shop.