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!
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.