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A party of yachting jet-setters visit French Saigon, where they meet lovely Manon deVargnes, a second-class citizen not allowed to leave the country due to her part-Oriental ancestry. When the others leave, playboy Bill Carey stays behind to woo Manon; but all his efforts to get her out of the country with him run into a brick wall. And Pierre Delaroch, her wealthy former admirer, waits for him to give up... Written by
Rod Crawford <email@example.com>
Certainly two of the most beautiful stars in films were Hedy Lamarr and Robert Taylor, and here they are together in "Lady of the Tropics," a 1939 film directed by Jack Conway. It's the story of a half-caste named Manon who, as a second class citizen, can't get a passport to leave Saigon. Taylor is a playboy who falls for her; the two marry, incurring the wrath of Manon's sometime boyfriend Delaroch (Joseph Schildkraut).
Made under the Hays code, the ending of the film is obvious and inevitable; also, it closely follows the story of Manon Lescaut, told twice in opera, once by Puccini and once by Massenet. There's a scene from the Puccini version in the film.
The film is beautifully photographed. Lamarr has a lovely, tender quality as Manon, and she is stunning in her Adrian gowns and hats. Taylor has a role similar to his Alfred in Camille, and he does it well, resplendent in his white suit and brilliant smile. One of the posts suggested Francis Lederer in the role. Lederer was a handsome and wonderful actor, very romantic, and would have brought a more exotic persona to the part. I admit, however, to liking the rugged, earthy, American quality Taylor brings, as the character should be truly out of his element in Saigon. This makes Manon's inability to get a passport all the sadder and more desperate.
Joseph Schildkraut was a master at portraying the kind of evil manipulator he did as Laroch, so while his Oriental makeup is a little disconcerting, his performance isn't.
A lovely film. Too bad about the code.
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