Affair in Trinidad

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AFFAIR IN TRINIDAD , its success far outstripping its quality, was a big hit in 1952, 24th among 463 films released that year, quashing its $1,200,000 outlay by grossing $7,500,000. There were maybe a dozen fine films that crowded but dismal year, predominated by a surge of light entertainment and junk, perhaps reflecting the sour mood of the Korean War and homegrown political repression. The only reason for this rather concept-lamed jumble to earn so much can be attributed to audiences keen to duck bad news, the allure of star power and a snap of renewed publicity and interest in Rita Hayworth. *

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Glenn Ford, teaming for the third time with the leading lady, plays a guy who arrives in Trinidad and finds his brother has apparently been murdered. The sultry widow, a nightclub performer, is more dismayed than distraught and soon enough Glenn & Rita are alternately battling and clinching. Clues point to supercilious rich snake Alexander Scourby, who seems to be oddly close to some shady houseguests, including vaguely accented FOREIGNERS (German/Russian/Hungarian/ basically “ian’s”). It’s the sort of 50s movie where a quick-tempered tough-guy from the States can blow into another part of the hemisphere, tell the local cops they don’t know the score, bat people around to get answers and, in the course of a single scene, apologize to a dame for being rude, have a passionate liplock and then tell her to get lost. Meanwhile Commies lurk with secret plans. Who will prevail?

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Not the quartet of screenwriters, who couldn’t satisfactorily decide how to glue together the retreaded plot elements, nor director Vincent Sherman, who steers the emoting cast in a professional but bland manner. Partly–and obviously–Gilda, part Notorious, with a dash of Big Jim McClain; some convenient quick and continually testy romance, two lively dance numbers from Rita, a few fistfights from Glenn, an array of unconvincing seedy types, an ‘exotic’ locale via rear-projection and stage mockups. Interest flags well before the 98th minute closes it down.

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Like Gilda, first, best and most famous of the Rita-Glenn tango’s, this has the sexy leading lady swing her figure provocatively, but the two numbers,”Trinidad Lady” and “I’ve Been Kissed Before” (both dubbed by Jo Ann Green) are just derivative of “Put The Blame On Mame”. The first one at least gets some smiles with the band’s background singers offering refrains of “A chick-a-chick boom, a chick-a-chick boom” while Rita does a barefoot whirl around the floor, the famous mane of hair tossing and her dress trying to stay in place on those undulating curves.

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Alexander Scourby’s distinguishing voice served beautifully in his many career narration assignments but he didn’t make much screen impression; in his debut here he’s handicapped by following similar urbane, sneering continental bad-guys George Macready (Gilda) and Claude Rains (Notorious). His character is automatically guilty by virtue of being named ‘Max Fabian’.  The Notorious elements include the foreign agent types (here hissed by Karel Stepanek and George Voskovec) but director Sherman is no Hitchcock. Featured villainess Valerie Bettis badly overplays her catty drunk, and Stevan Geray poorly channels Peter Lorre. Juanita Moore is tasked with awful “wise native woman” dialogue. Like the Duke in the same-year Red-whomping pineapple Big Jim McClain, Ford burns with righteous lower-48 intensity, even when having to deal with the continuity person screwing up the climactic gunfight by having the signature Nazi Luger pistol Glenn seizes from a bad guy instantly become a good old .38 when the star fires it in the next scene. Well, lead is lead equals dead.

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Apart from Hayworth looking great and moving well, best credit in this ripe and dull item (it doesn’t even boast many good-bad lines) goes to Joseph Walker, whose cinematography gives enough noir shading to add flavor the script lacks.

With Torin Thatcher, Howard Wendell, Mort Mills, Ralph Moody and Roy Glenn.

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* The movie had publicity on its side as the sex goddess was “Back!” after a four-year hiatus from films (her last had also been a hit with Ford, 1948’s The Loves Of Carmen) that saw her flee Harry Cohn’s tyranny at Colombia and exit her five-year marriage with Orson Welles (her quote: “I can’t take his genius any more”) to become the wife of playboy Prince Aly Khan. That then proved a four-year fiasco. She had better luck teaming on-screen with Ford five times (they also did The Lady In Question in 1940 and The Money Trap in 1966) than she did with five husbands. With this, at 34, at least her movie career was back on track, and she soon scored hits with Salome, Miss Sadie Thompson, Pal Joey and Separate Tables.

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Don’t think a poster with a guy slapping a woman would make it today.

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