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W.S. Van Dyke
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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 <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Hedy's sultry beauty matched against Taylor's good looks...
With a script by Ben Hecht, LADY OF THE TROPICS is a film that recalled another Hedy Lamarr film--at least the title does--called "A Lady Without Passport"--a wretched film she made in 1950. Here too, she's a lady without passport and that's what triggers the entire plot. But it must be said that the comparison between the two films ends with the title.
This is strictly old-fashioned melodrama reeking of either "Manon Lescaut" or "Madame Butterfly", with Hedy as the ill-fated heroine who allows herself to be "used" by Joseph SCHILDKRAUT while hiding her indiscretions from her smitten American admirer (ROBERT TAYLOR), who meets her in French Indochina (Saigon) before WWII and immediately falls in love with her. When Schildkraut gets revenge by planting false evidence of his association with Lamarr to open Taylor's eyes to the truth, the consequences turn tragic.
Hedy has never been more beautiful and gives a sensitive performance as Manon (yes, that's her name!), a "lady of the tropics" with a sultry beauty enhanced by her MGM transformation into a stunning star who is always ready for her close-ups. Attired in an equally stunning Adrian wardrobe, she's a glittering testament to the power of Golden Age films to give stars glamor with a capital "G". Taylor, attired in white linen suits and Panama hats must have made female hearts flutter as the romantic hero willing to sacrifice all for his yen for Manon.
It's a better film than I expected. Joseph SCHILDKRAUT makes a perfect villain, the kind you like to hiss, with his Oriental make-up and oily manner oozing menace at every quiet inflection of his voice. The B&W photography of some artfully designed sets is soothing to the eye and so, of course, is the teaming of Lamarr and Taylor--two of the most photogenic stars on the MGM lot.
The script by Ben Hecht helps sustain interest in the storyline, even if it does get a bit too weepy toward the end. Lamarr shows evidence that she could be a very sympathetic heroine if given half a chance.
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