Macao (1952)

Macao (1952), directed by Josef von Sternberg and Nicholas Ray.

This low-energy romance/crime story might be a good companion to The Big Steal (1949) but is not as much fun. We have Robert Mitchum and William Bendix back again, now with Jane Russell as the love interest. She sings several songs, including "One for My Baby (and One More for the Road)". She and Mitchum have good chemistry and were life-long friends.

Also with Gloria Grahame in an underused role as Mr Big's girlfriend. Neither she nor Russell wanted to do the picture but it's hard to say no to Howard Hughes. (But not impossible: see the case of Jean Simmons in Angel Face (1953), also with Mitchum).

Philip Ahn is the knife-throwing henchman.

Hughes fired Josef von Sternberg and brought in Nicholas Ray to complete the picture.

Available on DVD with a commentary track by author Eddie Muller interviewing Stanley Rubin who did the first draft of the screenplay. Separately recorded comments by Jane Russell are edited in.

Rubin has a lot of great stories from those days. He dated Gloria Grahame for a while. Janet Leigh agreed to go out with him but then quietly canceled: when she had gone out with an assistant choreographer Hughes fired the guy the next day.

Muller thinks that Hughes used Mitchum as an alter ego. When you are very rich you know people want you for your money; he made Mitchum play the same role over and over again, the guy without a dollar who women fall for anyway. This type-casting drove Mitchum nuts at RKO. Several pictures would be in production at the same time and he would lose track of which one he was doing on any given day.

He also thinks Jane Russell's talent was to be a statuesque woman who was also one of the boys. Oddly enough for such a sexy character, she had a masculine side, probably the toughness required to fend off constant sexual advances.