A nightclub singer marries the rich owner of a rubber plantation. When she returns with him to his estate in Malaysia, she finds out that he is cruel, vicious and insanely jealous. She and ...
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A nightclub singer marries the rich owner of a rubber plantation. When she returns with him to his estate in Malaysia, she finds out that he is cruel, vicious and insanely jealous. She and the plantation's overseer develop a mutual attraction, but are terrified at what will happen if her husband finds out. Written by
It's probably worth mentioning that this jungle islands "farrago", as Simon Callow calls it in his biography of Laughton, is set in Malaya, not Africa. In those days it was still part of the British Empire, which accounts for Laughton's cockney accent. In addition, at the dinner party on Laughton's river-boat (about 20 minutes into the film), his new wife (Carole Lombard) says she'd like to learn Malay.
This was the last of the handful of films which Laughton made for Paramount during 1932-33 under a short-term contract (the others being Devil and the Deep, Sign of the Cross, If I Had a Million, and Island of Lost Souls). Callow thinks Laughton's acting is both original and preposterous: "giggling and teasing and play-acting, screwing up his eyes, scratching his head, pulling at his moustache and using a whole battery of tics."
It's certainly preposterous that the Carole Lombard character would ever have considered marrying such an unpleasant person as Laughton makes him, so this fatally weakens the story. On the other hand, she has little choice, having been ostracised by the British community who would like to see the back of her. The mysterious suicide of her husband has forced her to earn a living singing in shady bars, so Laughton's proposal of marriage, coupled with his claim that he owns a great deal of land up river, offers a way out of her predicament. It's only when she arrives at his house-boat that she realises what she's got herself into, and seeks solace with some other, rather more pleasant, male members of the cast.
Laughton's Horace Prin has never been considered in the same breath as his Henry VIII, Captain Bligh, or Quasimodo. Even so, it is still probably worth seeing, if only as an example of his early Hollywood work.
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