Monday, June 20, 2011

Jane Russell tribute

TCM didn't do any special programming for Jane Russell when she died earlier this year. Tomorrow would have been her 90th birthday, so TCM is marking the day with a morning and afternoon of her movies. I've recommended a couple of them before; one that I haven't mentioned is Macao, which you can see at 9:15 AM.

Jane Russell is one of several passengers taking the slow boat from Hong Kong to Macao inthe days when both were still owned by colonial powers. Russell filches the wallet of drifter Robert Mitchum, who as a result can't make it through customs. Rather than getting deported forthwith, he gets set to the police, in the form of local police chief Thomas Gomez. Gomez, being a stuck in a backwater, is a corrupt SOB, being in the pay of the head of the local gambling racket Brad Dexter. Dexter knows the American police are after him, but as long as he stays in Macao, he can avoid being extradited. Dexter thinks that Mitchum is the new guy the police have sent to lure him away from the island; he having just had his henchmen bumped off the previous police officer. Apparently, Dexter believes in that old adage of keeping one's enemies closer than one's friends. In fact, it's not Mitchum Dexter should be worrying about. It's William Bendix, who is in Macao under the guise of being a businessman. Bendix sees Dexter's misjudgment as a blessing, in that he can use Mitchum as the bait to lure Dexter outside territorial waters....

And so it goes for eighty-some minutes. To be honest, Macao is nothing groundbreaking. Mitchum had played similar roles in His Kind of Woman (airing tomorrow at 12:15 PM) and Where Danger Lives. The drifter without money is something you'd see in Gilda. Jane Russell was just another in a long line of femmes fatales, although she's quite lovely to look at, as she was in most of her movies. Using a lure to catch a criminal is something done earlier with a knowing lure (think Lucille Ball in Lured) and would be done later with an unknowing lure (Cary Grant in North by Northwest). Still, it's more than entertaining enough.

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