Istanbul

ISTANBUL dusted off “exotic” material from what had been 1947’s Singapore with Ava Gardner and Fred MacMurray, a low wattage spin on Casablanca, with amnesia added to the brew, although that “forget it” condition ended up being the one generated by the results. For this 1957 relocation, Errol Flynn took over for Fred-as-Bogie, with Lithuanian-German import Cornell Borchers alloted gloves and pearls for the Ava-as-Ingrid end of the bargain. It even has an expat African-American piano player to cue memories, in the graceful form of Nat ‘King’ Cole, who gives the un-thrilling thriller its one highlight, singing the melancholy hit “When I Fall In Love”. *

Flynn plays a scofflaw pilot who gets involved with diamond smugglers. Borchers is his lover who gets amnesia after a traumatic fire and ends up marrying kind businessman Torin Thatcher. Five years later, when Flynn returns to Istanbul, he finds her (she doesn’t know him now that her memory is absent) and hopes to jolt her into awareness, while he meanwhile looks to retrieve the stashed diamonds from ruthless crooks, and dodge the local cops. Borchers—saddled with an unflattering hairstyle—is civilized, the cops are polite, Thatcher is understanding to a fault, the crooks at least make a pretense at displaying manners, and Flynn remains fairly calm withall. Or barely interested, as nothing very exciting happens.

Among the supporting cast are Martin Benson as a suave villain, Leif Erickson as a bad-tempered American arguing (was Erickson ever more than charmless?) and Werner Klemperer as a lickspittle thief.

Flynn hadn’t worked in Hollywood for five years, instead making a half dozen pictures in Europe, of which only The Master Of Ballantrae has much to offer. He felt a bit betrayed when most of Istanbul‘s Istanbul was on the back lot at Universal. As he put it “I thought the film was to be made in Turkey, but it turned out I must go back to Hollywood. In the States, people who saw me again on the screen said I looked dissipated. Great! I was tired of being called beautiful, as they had called me when I was younger.”

Decently scored, sans credit, by Universal in-house pros Heinz Roemheld and Irving Gertz. Henry Mancini was part of their team. William H. Daniels handled cinematography chores, matching 2nd-unit shots done in Turkey with obvious studio work, mostly on unconvincing sets.

Written by Seton I. Miller, Barbara Gray and Richard Allen Simmons. Miller was the writer behind Singapore, and had delivered hits for Flynn with The Dawn Patrol, The Adventures Of Robin Hood and The Sea Hawk. Simmons output tended to pulp. This was the only screenplay job for Gray, who later was involved with a video game called Sewer Shark.  Directed by Joseph Pevney (Away All Boats, Tammy And The Bachelor, The Night Of The Grizzly). Though a minor item, Istanbul did make its money back, grossing $2,300,000.

With Peggy Knudsen (a challenging blonde who deserved a bigger career; yet another actress with a sad end to her story), Vladimir Sokoloff, Nico Minardos. 84 minutes.

Cornell Borchers, 1925-2014

* “When I Fall In Love”, a hit for Cole, had first appeared in the lame 1952 Korean War picture One Minute To Zero. Victor Young wrote the music, Edward Heyman the lyrics. Doris Day had the first chart success with it. King’s daughter Natalie had a smash with the tune in 1996, singing “with” her dad.

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