A sultry night club singer, a man who has also traveled to many exotic ports and a salesman meet aboard ship on the 45-mile trip from Hong Kong to Macao. The singer is quickly hired by an American expatriate who runs the biggest casino in Macao and has a thriving business in converting hot jewels into cash. Her new boss thinks one of her traveling companions is a cop. One is -- but not the one the boss suspects.
Robert Mitchum ... Nick Cochran
Jane Russell ... Julie Benson
William Bendix ... Lawrence C. Trumble
Thomas Gomez ... Lt. Sebastian
Gloria Grahame ... Margie
Brad Dexter ... Vincent Halloran
Edward Ashley ... Martin Stewart
Philip Ahn ... Itzumi
Vladimir Sokoloff ... Kwan Sum Tang
Director: Josef von Sternberg / Nicholas Ray (uncredited)
It\'s a routine but atmospheric potboiler, and worth a watch if not seen before. I\'ve seen it a dozen times, but I\'m a sucker for this kind of hard boiled dark nonsense. \"Shanghai Express\" was much better in all departments from Sternberg in the Golden Age, darker gloomier and more menacing, and is the yardstick I judge his other work from. Co-directed by Nicholas Ray (or was it finished?) \"Macao\" stands out for me from the real routine Hollywood films of the period, the ones that were meant to make a lot of money and did.
Brad Dexter\'s finest film role as the whispering crook, Mitchum sparkles (or rather, snoozes his way through) in his best comedic vein, Russell and Grahame are perfectly decorative, however it\'s a pity Bendix couldn\'t have stuck around to the end. Mitchum boarded Macao without a passport and was the only one not searched at Customs - and the slender thread the whole story hangs by is also perpetrated by Thomas Gomez there too.
If you, like me liked \"The big steal\" or \"His kind of woman\" you\'re sure to like this.
Josef von Sternberg began Macao (and copped the directorial credit), but Nicholas Ray finished it. Nonetheless, it abounds with Sternberg\'s branded flounces and fetishes. As in Shanghai Express and The Shanghai Gesture, he trowels on the Orientalism in thick impasto (Sternberg could have made the best Charlie Chan movie of them all).
A nighttime chase through the Macao docks opens the movie (to be rhymed near its conclusion): A white-suited European is pursued by knife-throwing Chinese thugs; he falls in the water when one blade finds its mark. A badge filched from him pocket shows him to be a police detective.
Into this world of Asian intrigue sails a boat from Hong Kong, just 35 miles up the coast. On it is the motley crew of salesman William Bendix, drifter Robert Mitchum and mysterious woman Jane Russell, who lifts Mitchum\'s wallet. Sans passport, Mitchum comes to the attention of the Macao police chief (Thomas Gomez), who reports the suspicious stranger to gambling kingpin Brad Dexter. Dexter assumes Mitchum is a cop he knows to be on his way to extradite him back to Hong Kong....
It\'s a playfully plotted adventure story. Russell gets a gig singing at Dexter\'s club in eye-popping gowns which actually aren\'t any more provocative than the black-and-white daytime outfits she traipses around in, wielding a parasol. She fares better than Gloria Grahame, as Dexter\'s moll, looking washed out and largely wasted (though she puts her distinctive spin on a couple of lines). Mitchum by this time has done this role – the lippy but laconic reluctant hero – so often he could do it in his sleep, which, given his hooded eyes, may be the truth of the matter.
Macao is an utterly shallow film done with energy and style. The plotting remains perfunctory, but the play of shadows throughout remains transfixing – especially in the set-piece near the end, again on the dark waterfront, with ropes and nets casting their creepy spell. And the movie provides Russell with one of her few opportunities to flaunt her real, if narrow, talents: in addition to the statuesque figure that caught Howard Hughes\' eye, she had spunk and sass. That\'s what Sternberg saw, and he fell for it. We do, too.
When the haphazardly put together His Kind of Women turned into a big hit for RKO, Howard Hughes decided to team Robert Mitchum and Jane Russell again. This time instead of a resort in Baja California, the location was to be the orient, in the Portugese colony of Macao.
Like in His Kind of Woman, Howard Hughes couldn\'t keep his hand off the day to day production and even more so after the film was finished in the editing. As it was the film runs barely over 80 minutes and if Lee Server\'s biography of Mitchum is to be believed it was supposed to be a whole lot longer.
Macao within the last decade reverted from being a Portugese enclave back to China. I\'m not sure what it\'s like now, but back in the day it was a legendarily corrupt place as typified by the corrupt police inspector Thomas Gomez.
Gomez is doing custom duty and he reports to gambling kingpin Brad Dexter of the arrival of Robert Mitchum without money or passport. That to him means he\'s the law. Dexter\'s real interested in the law, especially the United States law. Though it\'s never specified exactly what he did, the cops in New York want him real bad and have tried to get him outside Macao which has no extradition treaty.
The film when you think about is starting to bear some resemblance to Algiers. But Dexter ain\'t half as charming as Charles Boyer as Pepe LeMoko.
Mitchum\'s without money or identification because light fingered Jane\'s lifted them from him. That\'s a grand way to begin a romance, but this is Hollywood.
Mitchum and Russell both give out a lot of heat here and Russell has some competition in Gloria Grahame. One of the criticisms of Macao is that Grahame ain\'t on the screen often enough. She\'s Dexter\'s girl and she don\'t like Jane and those weapons of mass destruction she\'s sporting.
William Bendix is here as a traveling salesman with a line of nylons and snappy patter. He\'s not around often enough in Macao and he\'s welcome in any film.
Lots of atmosphere and melodrama permeate Macao. Best scene in Macao is Mitchum eluding Dexter\'s knife wielding henchmen, Philip Ahn and Vladimir Sokoloff. They chase him through the dock area in and out of shadows in the best noir tradition.
The original director Josef Von Sternberg got canned by Hughes and Gloria Grahame\'s then husband Nicholas Ray finished the film. Macao\'s not bad, not half as good as His Kind of Woman.
Maybe if Howard Hughes had resisted interference. Just like playing for George Steinbrenner.
* Producer Howard Hughes fired director Josef von Sternberg about a third of the way through and shot the rest with Nicholas Ray.
* Both Joyce Mackenzie and Jane Greer were considered for the part eventually played by Gloria Grahame, wife of uncredited co-director Nicholas Ray.
* Gloria Grahame did not want to be in this movie; Howard Hughes admitted that he never saw her previous performance opposite Humphrey Bogart in the film In a Lonely Place (1950), which is today unanimously considered among her finest performances. When Grahame asked to be loaned out to make George Stevens\'s A Place in the Sun (1951), Hughes turned down her request and forced her to make this movie (she reportedly dryly told her then-husband and uncredited director Nicholas Ray, who she was in the process of divorcing, that she wouldn\'t ask for alimony if he could get her out of this movie). Grahame later stated that she intentionally over-acted out of hatred for Hughes.
* William Talman originally tested for the role eventually played by Brad Dexter.
* Robert Mitchum actually wrote several scenes for this movie when Nicholas Ray came on board to do uncredited directing so that the script would make more sense.