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Friday, December 12, 2014

A LADY WITHOUT PASSPORT (1950)

Low-budget crime specialist Joseph H. Lewis was just off GUN CRAZY/’50 and beauteous but inert Hedy Lamarr was riding high after SAMSON AND DELILAH/’49 when they unwillingly came together on this atmospheric illegal-immigration meller. Lewis, who had envisioned a story of struggling internationals, stuck in Cuba and trying to slip into the States, wound up having to glam things up for Lamarr; and Hedy knew all too well that making a programmer after a C. B. De Mille spectacular would put the brakes on her career rebound. No doubt, they were both right to complain (Lewis called the film ‘a stinker’), but even while the characters & plot development go undernourished, the first two acts move so well, and are such a crepuscular, backstreet visual knockout, you barely note what’s missing dramatically. A well-cast John Hodiak plays an immigration officer sent to Havana to investigate George Macready’s lucrative trade in smuggling illegals into Florida. Lamarr’s one of the foreign nationals hoping for a ride (she’s got oodles of charm, but no cash) and Hodiak hides undercover as a monied Hungarian willing to buy in. There’s not enough interest in the simplistic manner that the plot and the budding romantic triangle work themselves out. But man!, the real Havana locations & ambiance are something to write home about.

DOUBLE-BILL: B-pics were never a strong point @ M-G-M, but lenser Paul Vogel had a bit of run with this film, DIAL 1119/’50 and Anthony Mann’s very fine THE TALL TARGET/’51, before someone took note and moved him up to larger budgets.

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