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During the 1950s an American journalist disappears in China. His wife, Jane Hoyt, arrives in Honk Kong, determined to find him. There are rumors that Louis Hoyt might be held by the Communist Chinese as spy. Jane Hoyt asks shady shipping magnate Hank Lee for his help but Hank tries to dissuade her from venturing into Red China. Desperate, Jane asks another local, Fernand Rocha, for his help and pays him money. When dishonest and sleazy charlatan Rocha spends her money and forcibly confines her Hank Lee finally takes pity on her and decides to go searching for her husband himself. Illegally entering Red China Hank finds plenty of trouble. Written by
Soldier of Fortune marked Clark Gable's first film away from MGM after his contract was not renewed. 20th Century Fox did right by him, gave him a film to shoot on location in Hong Kong and an actress who was at the height of her career as a new leading lady in Susan Hayward.
This was the second big epic film they shot in Hong Kong that year, the other being Love Is A Many Splendored Thing. Unlike the William Holden- Jennifer Jones epic, Soldier of Fortune leans more to adventure and intrigue than romance.
Hayward's husband Gene Barry is a prisoner of the Chinese government, apparently having taken some pictures he shouldn't have as a freelance photo journalist. Hayward's in Hong Kong to try and affect a rescue and she comes up against some unscrupulous types including Gable. Gable's more interested in her, but helping the husband's rescue is a package deal.
I would have hoped that with the one and only teaming of Gable and Hayward a better story could have been found. Soldier of Fortune isn't a bad film, hardly the worst thing either of them did, but in essence it's really a souped up Grade B adventure saga. The class of the players make it seem more than it is. Plus the fact it was done on location as opposed to the backlot of 20th Century Fox.
Soldier of Fortune has a good cast of character actors. Look for some good performances by Michael Rennie as the British inspector, Alexander D'Arcy as a conniving French rogue and Tom Tully as a slimy influence peddler.
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