His Kind of Woman (1951) John Farrow
Warner Film Noir Classic Collection, Vol. 3 DVD
Confession time: I had always thought I had seen His Kind of Woman, but about two minutes into the film, I realized I hadn’t. I think I was getting it confused with The Big Steal (1949), another Robert Mitchum picture. I should’ve known something was up when I heard Eddie Muller say that His Kind of Woman makes Specter of the Rose (1946) look normal.
The less I tell you about the plot of His Kind of Woman the better. Briefly, gambler Dan Milner (Mitchum) is approached by a man named Corle (Paul Frees) who offers him $50,000 to live in Mexico for a year with no questions asked. Intrigued, Milner travels to Nogales, Mexico (the same place his character Jeff was headed in Where Danger Lives) and meets a beautiful singer named Lenore Brent (Jane Russell). At an exclusive resort, Milner meets some really odd people including a Hollywood actor named Mark Cardigan (Vincent Price). Before everything is said and done, we’re treated to murder, mayhem, gangsters, an ex-Nazi plastic surgeon, the Mexican police, and more.
His Kind of Woman is certainly not your typical film noir. (I may be mistaken, but I think I heard Eddie Muller refer to this film as the Mulholland Drive of film noir. If he didn’t say it, it fits anyway.) It’s very long for a film noir, clocking in at two hours solid. The film contains as much comedy (mostly farcical) as noir, which reminds me somewhat of John Huston’s Beat the Devil (1953). Yet the story behind His Kind of Woman may be more interesting than the movie itself.
Apparently the film was directed by Farrow, but completed by Richard Fleischer. RKO head Howard Hughes (who was obsessed with both Russell and Mitchum) promised Fleischer that he would release Fleischer’s film The Narrow Margin (1952), but first he had to finish His Kind of Woman, which was quite an undertaking. Many scenes had to be reshot, mostly due to the fact that Hughes didn’t like the actor playing the villain and chose Raymond Burr instead. (This move in itself is farcical, which you’ll understand after you know more about the plot.) Burr was actually the third choice to play the villain, since Hughes’s second choice, Robert J. Wilke, was also disappointing to Hughes. I haven’t listened to the Vivian Sobchack commentary on the DVD, so I don’t know the entire story, but apparently the reshoots cost close to a million, about the same amount the film lost when initially released. I’m eager to hear the commentary track and even more eager to read the biography Robert Mitchum: “Baby, I Don’t Care” (2001) by Lee Server.
His Kind of Woman won’t be for everyone and I doubt you’ll ever see it on any “Best of” film noir lists, but I enjoyed it, despite its unevenness and possibly largely because of Vincent Price’s show-stealing performance. Give it a shot and see what you think.
Photos: Movie Title Stills Collection, Lasso the Movies, Kultguy’s Keep