Friday, December 9, 2011

HIS KIND OF WOMAN: Face the Music!

Ever see a movie that seems like a typical genre flick, but as you watch it, you realize it’s got a mind of its own, and it’s so wild and crazy and all-but-off-the rails that you can’t help loving it? Well, the 1951 RKO comedy-noir His Kind of Woman is my kind of movie! John Farrow (The Big Clock, Wake Island, and Hondo, among many others) gets the directing credit, though Richard Fleischer was responsible for considerable tweaking—re-shoots, even! Lots of writers involved, too, including Frank Fenton and Jack Leonard, with Gerald Drayson Adams’ original story getting credit as well. Seems like everyone gets a little credit here!
In His Kind of Woman, Robert Mitchum is at his ",So-hot-he’s-cool, so, so cool he's hot, with his hot bedroom-eyed best as Dan Milner, a rambler and a gambler, literally. Dan’s easy to like; how can you not trust a guy who sticks with milk or ginger ale instead of booze? (Of course, it’s implied that Dan has gotten in trouble with liquor in the past, but I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt.) Dan is the kind of likable lug who really should get in the habit of looking before leaping. He seems to have been pretty successful at making a living from gambling (wish Dan was a real guy who could’ve given my late dad pointers), but Lady Luck hasn’t been returning his calls lately (dames—sheesh!). Dan has a funny feeling there’s more to his recent string of nigh-Kafkaesque mishaps than cold dice, especially when he’s accosted by a couple of smooth-talking, suit-clad jaspers: Corley (the uncredited Paul Frees, whose voice is well known to Team Bartilucci from both animated and live-action films, including another RKO classic, The Thing from Another World) and Thompson (Charles McGraw from The Narrow Margin and The Killers, who also narrates the film in early scenes). Corley and Thompson offer Dan a cool fifty grand to go to The Morros Lodge, a fabulous Mexican resort (filmed in Baja California) and await further instructions, no questions asked (well, few questions, anyway). Dan’s not entirely comfortable with the arrangement, but he sure can use the dough. Wonder if Dan’s ever heard a little story about a Trojan horse….?

Dan rubs Lenore the right way!
While waiting for his plane to Mexico, tough guy Dan is smitten in spite of himself when he meets the lovely, sassy, ostensibly rich Lenore Brent (Jane Russell). She’s waiting, too, passing the time by displaying her great pipes, among her other charms (producer Howard Hughes never missed an opportunity to showcase the ravishing Russell’s pulchritude). I always enjoy hearing Jane Russell sing; she has a nice snappy way with a song, and she’s both sultry and jaunty as she sings “Five Little Miles from San Berdoo” and the torchy “You’ll Know.” Despite their characters’ mutual cat-and-mouse routine, you can see the electricity crackling between Russell and Mitchum. There they are, sexy and playful as all get-out, and nobody’s naked (though they sometimes come close, at least by late 1940s/early 1950s standards)! By all accounts, Mitchum and Russell were good friends offscreen, and only friends. (In fact, after Mitchum’s death in 1997, Russell and Mitchum’s wife Dorothy scattered his ashes at sea.)

With that hat, Lenore can't help bewitching Dan!
Back at the ranch, er, lodge, the fun in the sun apparently includes role-playing games as well, because each vacationer Dan meets at this gorgeous resort seems to be trying to be someone else! Lenore may or may not be an heiress, and her real name may or may not be Liz Brady; Bill Lusk (Tim Holt of The Magnificent Ambersons and The Treasure of the Sierra Madre) might be a drunken tourist, or he might be a wily Fed. Myron Winton (Jim Backus, whose many roles included Rebel Without A Cause and TV’s Gilligan’s Island, not to mention the voice of Mr. Magoo) is a businessman who turns out to be a card sharp, or maybe just a plain old cheater. Then there’s mysterious author Martin Kraft (John Mylong) who only seems interested in playing chess with himself (“Maybe he hates to lose,” Dan suggests).

"Who's the rat saying I look like David O. Selznick?"
I also like that Dan is basically a decent guy with a kind heart underneath his sleepy-eyed shrewdness, like when he helps the young newlywed couple win their money back from sneaky so-and-so Winton. Maybe that’s why Lusk finally ditches his lush routine and reveals to Dan that he’s an immigration officer pursuing underworld kingpin Nick Ferraro (Raymond Burr in one of his juiciest over-the-top bad-guy roles before Perry Mason made him a TV star). Turns out the only thing Kraft writes is prescriptions: he’s really a plastic surgeon who was himself deported, like Nick. Seems Dan’s role in all this is the ultimate face-off: the doc’s supposed to put Dan’s face on the evil Nick so he can sneak back into the U.S., after which Nick and his boys will bump Dan off so Nick can keep his secret! Yikes!
Dan's snooping has the blinds leading the blinds!
I’ll admit the mix of film noir suspense and zany comedy gets a bit lopsided at times, but I was so caught up in HKoW that it seemed churlish to quibble! I liked the nice background details, too, like the sarcastic radio announcer ragging on Ferraro. Lots of our favorite uncredited supporting players and bit players are in HKoW, too, such as Mamie Van Doren, Robert Cornthwaite (clean-shaven and almost unrecognizable from his role as the exhausted, going-mad scientist in The Thing from Another World), and Anthony Caruso (The Asphalt Jungle, among others) as one of Nick’s vicious strong-arm boys. On a related note, it’s interesting to see the difference between early 1950s and 21st-century beefcake. As I said in my I Wake up Screaming post, today’s muscular hunks are so ridiculously ripped, you'd cut yourself if you touched them!

Dan and Mark saved Lenore the balcony seats!
Ironically, one of the most sincere characters in HKoW is Vincent Price’s character, the flamboyant movie star Mark Cardigan. He thinks he’s gonna run off with his mistress Lenore. Surprise! Wifey Helen (Marjorie Reynolds of Ministry of Fear) shows up, with her attorney in tow. Price is clearly having a blast, and I don’t just mean with his hunting rifle! Even with Mark’s goofy airs, he saves the day, bless him (with a few hilarious fits and starts along the way). Every cast member is great fun to watch, though there’s no denying that Price steals the show as Mark. He basks in the spotlight and he’s a big ham, but a tasty one. Even better, Mark truly puts his money where his Shakespeare-trained mouth is when Dan’s in danger. The scene where Mark tries to squeeze every volunteer at the resort into the boat to rescue Dan is laugh-out-loud funny!

Got a gambling problem? Don't call these guys!
Over at the TCM Web site, Price wrote that Mitchum was “heaven to work of those diamond in the rough types in whose character you can’t find any sort of holes because he’s so open and honest...He’s a complete anachronism. He claims he doesn’t care about acting, but he’s an extraordinary actor. He’s one of that group of people in Hollywood who are such extraordinary personalities that people forget they’re marvelous actors.” Moreover, Mitchum was generous on the set, treating about twenty members of the cast and crew to lunch in his bungalow every day, and “on several occasions when he realized his stand-in had had a rough night, he stood in for the stand-in.” Don’t you love it when actors you like turn out to be decent folks, too?

"Don't you picturesquely pass out on me when I'm trying to torment you, young man!"

"Here's looking at you, Dan!"
"I'll pass, Nick, thanks anyway."

Profiles in hotness!

Dan and Lenore have their love to keep them warm! (Artificial fur optional.)

Our own Ivan G. Shreve of Thrilling Days of Yesteryear also did a wonderful blog post earlier this year about His Kind of Woman, with special emphasis on Vincent Price; by all means, read it and enjoy!

More fun and clips from TCM here:

"I tell you, Dan, I was THISCLOSE to having that Sierra Madre treasure...."


  1. Love Mitchum and thanks for this post. I think I've seen this, but it won't hurt to catch those profiles in hotness again!

  2. There must be something in the air! I should be in the mood for Christmas movies, but all week I've been thinking about Vincent Price's hoot of a performance in "His Kind of Woman". It is truly a one of a kind movie.

    Grand write-up and info. A difficult shoot that made wonderful entertainment.

  3. Thanks, Eve -- I always appreciate and enjoy your enthusiastic comments! I'm always happy to discover more people I like who also happen to like Robert Mitchum, not to mention Jane Russell! HIS KIND OF WOMAN is pure loopy fun, and always worth repeat viewings as far as I'm concerned.

  4. Caftan Woman, I've found that no matter how much we all love Christmas, sometimes the holidays have to take five, sit back, and watch a wild and crazy bit of non-holiday enjoyment. It's kind of like a holiday palate-cleanser. :-)

    In its own way, Vincent Price's performance is as jolly as that merry old elf anytime! (That said, Team Bartilucci will have a special Christmas double-feature with film noir and science fiction next week; stay tuned!).

    Yes indeed, HKoW is practically legendary for its agita-inducing shoot, but like so many troubled film productions, it turned out to be an entertaining movie almost in spite of itself! Thanks a million for your enthusiastic and enjoyable comment, my friend!

  5. I LOVE His Kind of Woman! First discovered it on late-nite TV during the '60s, where our local station would play it two or three times a year at midnight or 1:00 a.m. Mitchum and Russell have (and provide) a barrel of fun trying to out-snarl each other, and you're right: in a darn-near-all-star-cast, Vincent Price absolutely steals the show. It's the performance of his career. (BTW, I suspect his character was based on Errol Flynn; y'think?)

  6. Jim, I'm pleased as punch (not the fisticuff kind of punch! :-)) that you too are an avid fan of HIS KIND OF WOMAN! I can well imagine your younger self watching HKoW in the wee hours of the night. (Heck, that's how I discovered Hitchcock movies.) Vincent Price's appealing performance is definitely one of the highlights of his long, fabulous career. And yes, I'd agree with you that there's a whole lot of Errol Flynn in Price's character Mark Cardigan! :-)

    Always happy to have you join the conversation, Jim; drop by TotED anytime!

  7. I adore this film and just love Mitchum and Russell (I mean - how much more beautiful can you get?). They are just dynamite together.Throw in a hilarious Vincent Prince and - well - life is good! Anyone who said Jane can't act needs to see her an Mitchum together. Thanks for this - made my day (& night).

  8. FlickChick, you're a gal after my own heart! Thanks for your enthusiastic comments; it's great to know you love the irresistible team of Mitchum and Russell, too! Watching them together in HKoW and MACAO always make my day and night as well! :-) Always glad to have you join the conversation, my friend!

  9. His Kind of Woman is my very favorite Mitchum film, as well as my favorite Jane Russell picture. Their on-screen smolder ought to be far more famous. Too bad they only made a couple of films together. (And Macao wasn't quite the pleasure that is His Kind of Woman.)

    I greatly enjoy the offbeat, crazily brilliant feel that the entire film has. And Vincent Price as a hammy actor is just perfection.

  10. Emm, as always, you've put a big smile on your Auntie Dorian's face with your revelation of being a fan of HIS KIND OF WOMAN! I too have always wished Jane Russell and Robert Mitchum had made more movies together, but at least we fans got two great team-ups from them. I certainly agree that HKoW was the most fun of the two films; its zaniness instantly won me over! And what a great cast, with little old scene-stealer Vincent Price! We need more actors (and movies) like that! :-)

  11. Hey, gang, our longtime pal Ken Pettit's computer is misbehaving again, so it's my pleasure to present his comments on HIS KIND OF WOMAN. Take it away, Ken!

    "Hi Dorian,

    I couldn't remember if I had seen His Kind of Woman or not until I looked it up on my film collection list. Sure enough I had, but only rated a 2.5 - not a very good rating and no doubt one reason I couldn't remember it. So, I guess I need to give it a second shot soon and see if I missed anything the first time, or if in fact I just didn't like the movie. You referred to it as a "comedy-noir" film which may be the reason I didn't care for it, as I generally don't like my genres mixed. We'll see what my reaction is next time.

    Did you catch TCM's Private Screenings which first aired a few years ago featuring Mitchum and Russell? A wonderful show. It was great to see (and learn) that they had remained best friends over so many years. I have no idea if the relationship was platonic or not, but I got the impression it may very well have been.


    Thanks, Ken! And yes, if anyone here hasn't seen TCM's wonderful PRIVATE SCREENINGS episode with Mitchum and Russell, keep an eye out for it; it's well worth watching!

  12. Dorian,
    I've never heard of this film but with Mitchum playing a likable guy and from the pics he's sizzling hot with Russell I'll not skip this one if it re-airs.

    Hughes certainly knew what he was doing when giving us Russell. She's sexy!
    Thanks for including the trivia and link to Price's comments on working with Robert and company.
    Another fun and interesting review from Team B!
    Have a great weekend you two.

  13. Page, mucho thanks for your positive feedback on HIS KIND OF WOMAN! With your rollicking sense of humor, I think you'd really enjoy HKoW, and it turns up periodically on TCM, so do give it a try.

    We are indeed having a swell weekend, not to put the whammy on it! :-) Went to NYC yesterday to check out holiday hoopla, and today Team B. is off to the landmark Roxy Theatre for a special performance of SANTA CLAUS CONQUERS THE MARTIANS! :-)

    Hope you and yours have a fab weekend and holiday, as well, dear pal!

  14. This is one of my all-time favorite movies. It's a huge, big, sloppy, shaggy dog of a movie that shouldn't work but does. Still, I would be very careful about who I recommend it to. It's that kind of movie.

  15. Kevin, as much as I adore HIS KIND OF WOMAN, even I admit some folks enjoy its special brand of wild-and-crazy fun more than others. I'm delighted to hear that you're among the folks who do enjoy and appreciate it! Thanks for joining in the conversation, Kevin, and feel free to drop by TotED any time!

  16. Mitchum's eyes are so deep into the bedroom, I don't think he could ever find his way out! Old RM is one of my favorites, he was a front runner in the essence of cool, right up there with Miles Davis, Charlie Parker and The Beat Writers. He is so laid back, you think he is doing nothing, but he somehow just gets to you emotionally with that I don't give a damn attitude.

    I haven't seen this film, not sure why because it pops up on TCM every so often. It's another one for my list that seems to keep growing even though I continually chip away at it. It's a losing battle. As always, Dorian well done, both informative and fun!


  17. Wonderful, Dorian -- another trimph for TotED. This movie showcased the incredible earthiness of Mitchum and Russell to its highest degree. I loved "... you can see the electricity crackling between Russell and Mitchum. There they are, sexy and playful as all get-out, and nobody’s naked..." Creativity in showing sex was a specialty of the Hollywood code restrictions -- LOL!

    I love Vincent Price in anything, and he was a real asset to this movie. I enjoyed your assesssment very much.

  18. My kind of movie. :)

    I saw this again sometime last year and really enjoyed the hijinks. It's a 'hijinks' sort of movie as you so wisely pointed out, Dorian - in different wording of course. I love Vincent Price in this.

    And who doesn't love Jane? Jane and Mitchum. Yum. As for Jane's wonderful pulchritude - today she'd probably be considered fat. What a bunch of idiots we are.

  19. John, thanks so much for your praise and your witty, on-target comments; I especially enjoyed your quip "Mitchum's eyes are so deep into the bedroom, I don't think he could ever find his way out!" :-)

    You absolutely nailed it with your description of Mitchum as "the essence of cool..." Not to sound cliched, but it seems they really DON'T make stars like Mitchum and Russell anymore. We have to figure out how to bring their kind of likable coolness back to the big screen! :-)

    Do keep an eye on the TCM listings, John, because I'd love to hear what you think of HKoW once you get a chance to see it. Always happy to have you join the conversation here at TotED!

  20. Becky, I'm so glad you're back among us after your recent Internet difficulties (not to put the whammy on it)! Thanks a million for your kind praise of my HKoW post, dear friend! I agree with you completely that "This movie showcased the incredible earthiness of Mitchum and Russell to its highest degree." You bet! They may have only made two films together, but they were "cherce," to borrow a line from Spencer Tracy. :-)

    I liked what you had to say about filmmakers having to work around the Hollywood code restrictions to make films like HKoW sexy without going overboard. Sometimes I think a little restraint onscreen might not be the worst idea, though I'm bothered more by excessive violence and gore onscreen than sex.

    Is there anyone out there who DOESN'T love Vincent Price? He was so funny and urbane in so many movies, and a great guy, too. (He was even nice enough to talk to me for a few minutes when I was working on as assignment with friend and author David Hajdu, but that's a story for another time.:-) Price was another one of those wonderful actors who made it look easy.

    Many thanks for joining the conversation, Becks, as always!

  21. Yvette, beaucoup thanks for your praise of my HKoW post! I'm delighted that you enjoyed HKoW's "hijinks" as much as I did. It's fun with Bob and Jane -- and Vince, too! :-)

    And Yvette, I fear you're right about "Jane's wonderful pulchritude - today she'd probably be considered fat. What a bunch of idiots we are." Too true, dear friend. As a full-figured gal myself (remember Jane's Playtex bra commercials?), I remember seeing some interview with model/actress/idiot Elizabeth Hurley calling Marilyn Monroe "fat" because she wore a size 12. I wished I could reach into the TV set and give Hurley a good thump on the head! Monroe, Jane Russell, and Virginia Mayo wore size 12 in their heyday, and nobody thought they were overweight. I'll take that kind of "fat" over the bony types anytime!

    Sorry to get on my soapbox, Yvette, but thanks for listening and for joining the conversation, as always! Here, let's perk things up with Jane's original TV commercial for Playtex 18-Hour Bras and Girdles! :-)

  22. I'd join you on that soapbox except that I'd crush it. :)

    Listen, at my age, I'm not about to give up my one remaining vice: FOOD!!

    I've recently seen some ads with models whose legs look like pipe cleaners and can't help wondering whose idea of beauty this is. It gives me the creeps.

    Anyway, I'll take Jane and her full figure (love those commercials!) anytime.

    And Vinnie Price, of course. Lovely man.

  23. As always, Yvette, you're a gal after my own heart; I'll bring my reinforced soapbox so we can stand on it together! :-) For the record, Vinnie loves my "cuddly, pillowy" curves, and I like his cuddliness, too. Huggability is highly prized here at Team Bartilucci H.Q.! :-)