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An expatriate American living in Madrid, former Air Force pilot Lloyd Tredman (Robert Taylor) is haunted by his memories of the Korean War and refuses to fly. So when he loses his last dollar on a horserace fixed by a smuggler, he forces himself to accept a $25,000 offer to transport a box of contraband currency from Egypt to Spain. But as Tredman makes the return flight home, he discovers his cargo also includes heroin as he races across the Mediterranean with Interpol hot on his trail. Costarring Academy Award winner* Dorothy Malone and Jack Lord (Hawaii Five-O), Tip on a Dead Jockey was adapted by Charles Lederer (Kiss of Death) from a short story by best-selling novelist Irwin Shaw. Originally intended for Orson Welles, it was directed instead by Richard Thorpe, the sixth of eight films he would make with Robert Taylor, which include the swashbuckling classics Ivanhoe (1952) and Knights of the Round Table (1953). Written by
Robert Taylor had been a familiar face in films for nearly 25 years when he made "Tip on a Dead Jockey" in 1957. Here, he plays Lloyd Tredman, a Korean war pilot who now lives in Madrid doing...well, not much. He is divorced (so he thinks) from his wife Phyllis (Dorothy Malone). However, she never signed the papers and travels to Madrid to find out what happened to their marriage and if there is any way to salvage it.
Lloyd admits that he is no longer able to pilot a plane. He is haunted by what he saw in Korea and is now too scared and nervous to fly again. He is the part-owner of a race horse, and is looking forward to winning a lot of money as a result of the race.
Before that happens, he is approached by a man who offers him $25,000 to smuggle money out of the country. Lloyd doesn't like it, but he says it all depends on what happens in the race. When the race doesn't turn out as planned, Lloyd is sure that the smuggler had something to do with it. Angry, he refuses to accept the job. Instead, it goes to his close friend Jimmy (Jack Lord). When Jimmy is delayed, his wife (Gia Scala) becomes hysterical, and becomes worse when Jimmy announces he's doing it again! At that point, Lloyd takes over. It's not a smooth trip, with Lloyd almost not able to take off due to being paralyzed from nerves. He finally does, and if anything could happen, it does.
This isn't a great movie. It moves slowly and there isn't a lot of action. It's interesting to see Jack Lord pre-Hawaii Five-O, young and with a slightly higher speaking voice and wearing less makeup than he did on his TV show. Dorothy Malone was attractive and good, but the plot is obvious.
Taylor, always solid and likable, did six films with director Richard Thorpe. I am a fan of classic films, so I watch him because he is from the golden age, but also because he was my late mother's absolute favorite. He does a good job here.
A few words about my mom's favorite guy, after my father, of course. The kid from Nebraska, with his resonant speaking voice and perfect face went on from this film to a successful TV series, "The Detectives," and continued in films until his death from lung cancer at the age of 57, in 1969. Yeah, the cigarettes got most of them.
He is somewhat out of favor for testifying before the House Un-American Activities Committee as a friendly witness. However, a new book, Robert Taylor: Reluctant Witness, disputes this. In truth, I don't think he was the sharpest knife in the drawer and probably didn't understand the impact of the committee -- and, like many, he saw Communism as a threat. He claimed to have used bad judgment in accepting the film "Song of Russia." The truth? He did whatever Louis B. Mayer told him to do and wasn't aware that it was making a political statement until someone told him it was pro-Communist. He lived under the umbrella of MGM nearly his entire career and just did what he was assigned.
It's not an excuse, and I'm the last one to applaud blacklisting or witch hunts. But everyone who testified had an agenda. Except probably Robert Taylor, who, when he left MGM, didn't know how to make a dinner reservation.
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