Mercifully buried & forgotten between his most famous film (REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE/’55) and what could be his best film (BIGGER THAN LIFE/’56), Nicholas Ray helmed this (near) musical about the Gypsies of L.A. passing the torch from their aging King (Luther Adler) to his reluctant kid brother, Cornel Wilde. Even with Jane Russell as the tempting bartered bride, Wilde skips town for a dancing tour with some blonde. Too bad he doesn’t realize that Russell is also planning a scam . . . but on whom? Ray is seriously out of his fach here, ponderous holding on to CinemaScope master shots when he’s not cutting around Wilde’s nonexistent dance skills with long-shots & waist-down close-ups for the nameless dance-double. It hardly matters, Wilde & Russell were each fading fast, and look like they knew it, so this TAMING OF THE SHREW never comes to the boil. Instead, Ray plays hard on the comic support stuff, but only gets a fresh response out of Adler who does well in the sort of noisy head-of-the-clan role Lee J Cobb usually played. Next to Ray’s agreeing to make the film, the biggest mystery comes from the odd orange glow lenser Ray June cloaks the film in. Only a bit of location work breaks free from the visual muck.
READ ALL ABOUT IT: It’s tough to beat Joseph Mitchell’s New Yorker pieces for an inside look at Gypsy life in the big city around this time. They’re all collected in UP IN THE OLD HOTEL.