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After the war, Matt Gordon returns to Singapore to retrieve a fortune in smuggled pearls. Arrived, he reminisces in flashback about his prewar fiancée, alluring Linda, and her disappearance during the Japanese attack. But now Linda resurfaces...with amnesia and married to rich planter Van Leyden. Meanwhile, sinister fence Mauribus schemes to get Matt's pearls. Written by
Rod Crawford <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Ava Gardner/Fred MacMurray intrigue in mysterious East
Before it became the modern miracle of cheerless, nose-to-the-grindstone capitalism, Singapore had a past; in the opening years of the Cold War, it was known as Red City. John Brahm's romantic intrigue, set just before and after World War II, evokes that shady period, using the city-state at the tip of the Maylay peninsula as another Oriental port of intrigue, like Shanghai or Macao.
Fred MacMurray had been a smuggler as the war drew close; when the Japanese attacked, he lost both a fortune in pearls and his fiancee, Ava Gardner, who was presumed killed. Now it's 1946 and, returning to retrieve the pearls he'd hidden, catches sight of Gardner, now married but with no memory of her past -- or theirs. In his quest to restore both pieces of his pre-war bliss, he must overcome multiple obstacles: a shrewed British colonial official; Gardner's possessive, rich husband; and a criminal gang headed by Thomas Gomez, who's also after those pearls.
Though there's a lot packed into it, Singapore's plot stays pretty thin, but Brahm makes the most of what he has to work with. A craftsmanlike if uneven director, he contributed several installments to the noir cycle (Hangover Square, The Locket, the Brasher Doubloon). His work rarely rose to the heights of inspiration reached by fellow European emigres like Fritz Lang, Robert Siodmak or Billy Wilder, and Singapore was his swan song to Hollywood (he ended up in television).
At first glance, it might seem a recipe for folly to team MacMurray with the sultry Gardner. But he had survived being matched against Barbara Stanwyck (and more than once), while her fiery reputation owed more to her off-screen life than to her film roles. So no sparks fly, but the story gets told. Singapore remains a stylish -- Brahm sets those ceiling fans spinning -- if lightweight romantic thriller (all told, it's two or three cuts above John Farrow's somewhat similar Calcutta of the same year).
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