SINGAPORE (director: John Brahm; screenwriters: Seton I. Miller/Robert Thoeren/based on a story by Seton I. Miller; cinematographer: Maury Gertsman; editor: William Hornbeck; music: Daniele Amfitheatrof; cast: Fred MacMurray (Matt Gordon), Ava Gardner (Linda Grahame/Mrs. Van Leyden), Roland Culver (Michael Van Leyden), Richard Haydn (Chief Inspector Hewitt), Spring Byington (Mrs. Bellows), Porter Hall (Mr. Bellows), Thomas Gomez (Mauribus), George Lloyd (Sascha), Curt Conway (Pepe), Maylia (Ming Ling); Runtime: 80; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Jerry Bresler; MCA Universal-International; 1947)
“Ava and MacMurray were in great form.“
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
John Brahm (“The Lodger”/”Hangover Square”/”The Locket”)directs with flair an exotic thriller inspired by Casablanca. It was remade in 1957 as Istanbul with Errol Flynn. It’s based on the story by Seton I. Miller, who cowrote the screenplay with Robert Thoeren.
Matt Gordon (Fred MacMurray) after serving with distinction in the American Navy during World War II returns to Singapore, a British colony, to rekindle romantic memories and recoup the valuable pearls he smuggled and left hidden in the fixtures of his hotel’s ceiling fan. Chief Inspector Hewitt (Richard Haydn) questions him upon his arrival, warning him to return the pearls and that he will be carefully watched during his visit. Gordon can’t get his old room, because the Bellows (Spring Byington & Porter Hall), daffy tourists from Minnesota, occupy it. But he gets the room right next to theirs.
In the hotel bar Gordon sits alone but orders two gin slings–one he tells us is for a lady not there, who used to order that drink when sitting at the same table with him. That lady was Linda Grahame (Ava Gardner), who was to be his bride. In a flashback we see them passionately kissing and preparing to marry, but the Japanese bomb the city and they get separated. Gordon went back to his hotel room to get the pearls, while the innocent Linda waited at an air raid shelter at a mission that was bombed. Thinking she was dead, Gordon left the destroyed city with the other evacuees but without her or the pearls.
Later when Gordon spots his dream girl dancing at a nightclub, he learns she married wealthy plantation owner Michael Van Leyden (Roland Culver) and can’t remember who he is because she suffers from amnesia. Van Leyden was with her in the internment camp she spent three years in, and his kindness got her through that rough period. The plantation owner has no intention of giving up his wife, and causes obstacles for her pursuing lover. Gordon, after meeting with Linda, settles for getting the pearls and returning home even though he deeply loves her. The other obstacle Gordon faces are that crooked shop owner Mauribus (Thomas Gomez) and his slimy henchman Sascha (George Lloyd) know that the smuggler came back for the jewels and are ruthless in seeing that they get them, even if involves kidnapping and torture.
There’s a Casablanca-like ending at the airport, with the chief inspector showing he has a heart and that true love between the adventurers can’t be denied no matter what.
The thriller had fine production values, terrific atmosphere and Ava and MacMurray were in great form.
REVIEWED ON 7/21/2010 GRADE: A-
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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