His Kind of Woman (1951) | The drinks are on Vincent Price in the classic film noir satire

THIS PLACE IS DANGEROUS. THE TIME RIGHT DEADLY. THE DRINKS ARE ON ME!
Professional gambler Dan Milner (Robert Mitchum) gets embroiled in an elaborate scheme to get deported gangland boss Nick Ferraro (Raymond Burr) back into the US. After receiving an offer of $50,000 from a mysterious benefactor to head to an exclusive resort south of the border, Milner encounters nightclub singer Lenore Brent (Jane Russell) and her narcissist Hollywood actor lover Mark Cardigan (Vincent Price). But as he settles into the rich playground of the Morro’s Lodge and starts falling for Lenore, Milner discovers he is being used as a patsy. With his life is placed in danger, Milner gets an unlikely rescuer – ham actor Cardigan…

His Kind of Woman (1951)

WELL, WHAT DID YOU THINK OF THE PICTURE?
When it comes to film noir, RKO’s His Kind of Woman (which had its US release on August 29, 1951 following its 21 and 22 August premieres in Chicago and Philadelphia) is definitely one of a kind.

While the first third of this Howard Hughes-produced movie sticks closely to classic noir tropes, complete with archetypal noir characterisation, dialogue and atmospheric cinematography, the film becomes increasingly comedic as it veers between satire, a battle of the sexes comedy and hard-boiled thriller. There’s even some slapstick thrown amongst the action, courtesy of the mock-heroics of Vincent Price’s flamboyant Cardigan (the scene where he sinks a boat load of local Mexican volunteers being one of film’s comic highlights). But it’s this crazy mixed-up brew that makes the film stand out from more faithful, now long forgotten, noirs of the era.

His Kind of Woman (1951)

The film was originally shot under the title Smiler With a Gun in May 1950 under the direction of John Farrow. But on viewing the rushes, Hughes brought in Richard Fleischer to add in some new scenes, many featuring Vincent Price’s Cardigan (Hughes favourite character), and to re-shoot all of the Ferraro scenes with Raymond Burr taking over the role from Lee Van Cleef. The end result was a coup for Price, who ends up getting almost as much screen time as Mitchum, while also showing off his innate comic skills. There’s also a hint of the campy persona he’d go on to become known for. Interestingly, he also gets to quote Shakespeare, something he’d do on a much grander scale in his 1973 magnum opus, Theatre of Blood.

His Kind of Woman (1951)

The films stars, however, fared less well than Price. As Milner, the laconic anti-hero loner, Mitchum is typical noir and certainly plays up to his hard man image, but his scenes alongside Russell’s heart of gold chanteuse lack the frisson that Louella Parsons called ‘the hottest combination to ever hit the screen’. Apart from some clever quips, singing two songs (excellently, I might add) and showing off her ample assets (again most excellently), Russell is practically left in the closet (Cardigan locks her up during the film’s crucial scenes). And speaking of closets, what’s with Burr’s frightening Ferraro? That look of suppressed ecstasy on his face as a sweaty, shirtless Milner is whipped is a very ‘telling’ sight, and makes you wonder if he wants a lot more from Milner than just his face (which is the reason, we learn in the climax, why he engaged Milner in the first place).

His Kind of Woman (1951)

WHAT THE REVIEWERS SAID
‘Both Mitchum and Russell score strongly. Russell’s full charms are fetchingly displayed in smart costumes that offer the minimum of protection’ Variety, 1951

‘…the best part of the picture, as far as we are concerned is Vincent Price. He is deliciously funny…’ Los Angeles Daily News, 1951

DID YOU KNOW?
Clips from His Kind of Woman featuring Vincent Price were used in A Time For Hyacinths, an episode of the popular US TV series Mod Squad, and played a crucial role in the story which guest starred Price as a Hollywood film star who stages his death after witnessing a murder.

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