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Posted by martinteller on May 20, 2013

At the outbreak of the war in the Pacific, Matt Gordon (Fred MacMurray) is hiding smuggled pearls in his Singapore hotel room.  He meets Linda Grahame (Ava Gardner) and the two have a whirlwind romance.  Just as they’re about to get hitched, Matt gets word that the hotel has been taken over by the military in response to an incoming Japanese air raid.  Matt races back to his room but is unable to collect his stash.  When he returns to the chapel, it’s a pile of rubble, and there’s no sign of Linda.  Five years later, Matt returns to Singapore to collect his pearls.  But his hotel room is occupied by a middle-aged tourist couple (Porter Hall, Spring Byington).  And there are other parties interested in the loot, namely the British official Hewitt (Richard Haydn), the underworld figure Mauribus (Thomas Gomez) and his slimy sidekick Sascha (George Lloyd).  As Matt plans his next move, he spots Linda dancing with another man… her husband, Michael Van Leyden (Roland Culver).  Matt attempts to reunite with her, but she says she doesn’t know him.

Borrowing more than a little from Casablanca but distinct enough not to feel like a total ripoff, Seton Miller’s story could use a little more noir punch to it but it’s a decent slice of entertainment.  Likewise, John Brahm’s direction is not as memorable as his work on classics like The Locket or Hangover Square or The Lodger, but he captures some of the exotic flair of the region, and makes the most out of a rather hacky plot device.  And the recurring ceiling fan motif is handled quite nicely.

MacMurray and Gardner don’t have the greatest chemistry together, and although both are fine, they’re not giving it their best.  As is often the case, the supporting roles are more memorable, especially Lloyd’s reptilian, almost Peter Lorre-esque performance, and Culver as perhaps the most complicated character of them all.

It’s a case of not especially great or original material executed well enough to get by.  Brahm, Miller, MacMurray and Gardner have all done better… but you do could a lot worse for 75 minutes of intrigue, regret, yearning, and self-sacrifice.  Rating: Good (71)


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