His Kind Of Woman

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HIS KIND OF WOMAN —–overlong, tonally jarring but entertaining 1951 noir entry that alternates between tongue-in-cheek segments and moments of pretty brutal violence. A deported mobster (Raymond Burr) plans to get back to the US via Mexico and through using a dupe as front for himself. Sardonic wiseguy Robert Mitchum is ringed into being the fall guy for the hoods as well as bait for the Feds. Most of the action takes place at a Mexican resort, over-run with oddball characters: worldly singer Jane Russell, hammy matinée idol Vincent Price being the most prominent. Charles McGraw and Anthony Caruso are two of Burr’s ruthless goons. 2841-8595

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Directed by John Farrow, expertly photographed by Harry J. Wild, the overstuffed, loopy plot has cozy coincidences, too many subplots and pat resolutions. Mitchum flips hipster cracks at everyone in his usual inimitable style, Russell does likewise with sexy confidence, Price takes the ham prize: as the flamboyantly egotistical actor, he gets most of the best lines.

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Producer Howard Hughes, unsatisfied with Farrow’s product, re-shot most of it, twice, using uncredited Richard Fleischer to direct (with Hughes minutely overseeing every detail). The budget swelled as rewrites went on for many months, sets were reconstructed and enlarged, roles were beefed up, cast members replaced. Burr got the lead bad guy role after Robert J. Wilke had done already done most of the part, and that was after after Wilke replaced Lee Van Cleef when Hughes decided he didn’t like him, either. All the endless fiddling saw another $850,000 dumped into the mix. Fed up with Hughes insistence on constantly upping the sadism, Mitchum at one point threw a set-wrecking tantrum. *

Running 120 minutes, it could have been cut by a half hour. With Tim Holt, Marjorie Reynolds, Jim Backus, Philip Van Zandt, John Mylong, Carleton Young, Leslie Banning, Paul Frees and Robert Cornthwaite. Though grosses amounted to $5,700,000 (48th place for the year), the costs incurred by Hughes meddling had R-K-O taking a loss of $825,000. Part of the publicity churn from the orders of crazy Howard saw the erection of a 30-ton billboard to tower over Wilshire Blvd. in L.A., featuring Mitchum, Russell and Jane’s cleavage.

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* Lee Server’s great bio of Mitchum, “Baby, I Don’t Care” gives a good rundown of this weird picture. This Hughes mess must have been extra-galling for Robert J. Wilke, who had been toiling uncredited in bits since playing a earthquake survivor back in 1936 for San Francisco. By the time he looked to this as a big break, the tough-looking 36-year-old had already appeared in over 130 films. His career would tally 304 credits. Van Cleef, 24 at the time his work on His Kind Of Woman was shot and then discarded, drew his first credit the year after this one finally hit the screen, when his hard mug was teamed with Wilke’s, memorably, part of the gang in High Noon.

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