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>
Rather pretty to look at, but ultimately completely empty
Despite a large budget and the usual MGM gloss, this is not a particularly good movie. Perhaps when it debuted in 1939 people knew nothing of Vietnam--this is the only way I can explain the insane casting of the Viennese Hedy Lamar as a woman who is half Vietnamese! Now if the casting of Austrian-born actress in the lead was the only problem, the movie still could have been interesting. However, the film has many more strikes against it--most notably the very, very limited range of the starlet in this film. Much of the time, she utters her lines as if almost half asleep and had practically no emotion to her performance. Part of this might have been because she was relatively new to America or perhaps she needed better direction. All I know is that she was beautiful to look at but rather vacant.
To make things worse, although she is NOT a rich woman in the film, repeatedly she sports gowns that were right out of Vogue magazine--yet she is supposed to live in Vietnam, not Paris. Now the movie seemed to imply she was possibly a prostitute or a mistress--but even then, it seemed silly to have her traipsing around in one glamorous gown after another in a third world nation. One reviewer faulted the problem with the movie to be Robert Taylor's fault--I think it was all Hedy's.
The bottom line is that aside from saying the film was set in Vietnam, you'd never guess it by watching the film. It is instead a sanitized and ridiculous Vietnam as seen by Hollywood.
As for the plot, it's only okay. In many ways it's a bit reminiscent of Robert Taylor's earlier film, CAMILLE, as both are about fated romances. Most audience members will figure out rather quickly that this romance will not end well! So due to predictability, the plot wasn't able to counteract the lousy casting decisions. While I disliked the film, it seems most other reviews were very positive--so who's to say you may not enjoy it.
By the way, just who or what was Joseph Schildkraut supposed to be in the film?! With his silly fake eyelids and lack of any conventional accent, I was left confused. Again, maybe 1930s Hollywood thought it was okay to say pretty much ANYTHING or ANYONE was Vietnamese--after all, who in the audience at the time would have known differently?
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