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His Kind of Woman

His Kind of Woman (1951) A Stand-in Murder Scheme

Chaos didn't die with Seven Orifices (*1)

 Once upon a time, there was a tremendous rich man who deeply loved Optical Illusions which Dream Factories produced, and he even made few of them by himself. One day, he finally bought a failing Dream Factory in whole. He compelled the craftsmen in the Dream Factory to make his obsessions into Optical Illusions and kept producing many distorted ones...

 This film is one of the “weird” masterpieces by RKO under the dictatorship of Howard Hughes. I could say that it's a “Buy one Get Four Free!” movie (*2) because you could see Film Noir, Romantic Comedy, Mystery, Send-ups Comedy and Action Adventure in it. How admirable Howard Hughes was!

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 A genuine “Noir Samurai” Robert Mitchum beautifully plays Dan Milner who is a hard luck gambler as usual with his own super acting method – nobody can deliver the lines or show the reactions as he does.

 The first 15 minutes, from the opening scene with the narration by another true “Noir Samurai” Charles McGraw to the scene that Milner meets a “self-claimed millionaire” beauty Lenore Brent (Jane Russell), are “That's Noir!” in the dark mood. However...

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 It's, however, becoming lighter when Milner and Lenore fly together to a remote luxury hotel. It makes me start thinking, “Am I watching a romantic comedy?” And after arriving at the hotel and a carefree real-estate broker Myron Winton (Jim Backus) and a self-admiring Hollywood actor Mark Cardigan (Vincent Price) show up, it becomes an absolute comedy. Especially, the “Cardigan's movie night” scene (Price in that movie is fantastic!) and all the scenes of Cardigan and Winton knock me out! Now I say “Oh, I got it! I'm watching a comedy!”

 But of course, every single scene of a shadowy Thompson (McGraw) is Film Noir. To me, it's like a real sword fight when Mitchum and McGraw are together and exchange their dialogues. I could see tiny pieces of iron from their invisible swords being stuck in their foreheads. (*3)

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 McGraw pointing his gun at Mitchum and says to him, “Why don't you cool off.”, and he slowly puts his gun away in the pocket of his jacket. Mitchum says, “That could be a mistake.” staring at the movement of McGraw's hand. Then, calm and composed McGraw replies “I don't think so.” Their voices, tones and looks are magnificent! It's worth seeing this film for only seeing them together in that scene.
 And the scene between Bill Lust (Tim Holt – the 4th billing of the credit), the man knows something, and McGraw is 100% Noir as I can't help howling with joy, too. Also, the henchman of McGraw, played by my “Vincent Yost”, Peter Brocco is great! This time, they are at the same side, but, I feel there is some kind of peculiar tension between them and it's just terrific.

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 Furthermore, the one of the most menacing Film Noir heavies, Raymond Burr makes the noirish torture scene more creepy and excited with his annoying popped eyes and sweat acting.
 I'd say that the replacements of actors for Nick Ferraro (eventually, Burr plays) - the model of the character was a big boss of an existing real crime organization at the time - episode showed the rocky road this film toiled up.
 It took about a year and 5 months, 3 directors, 3 actors for the role of Nick Ferraro and running over the budget by $850,000 to make Howard Hughes' obsessions into a film. For reference, the budget of The Narrow Margin, a tour de force Noir directed by Richard Fleischer, was $188,000. (The final cost was $263,503 due to the new scenes with the edits by Hughes’ orders) The days of shooting were 13 days. The overruns of His Kind of Woman could have made 4 profitable & entertaining “B” pictures and still could have gotten more than $50,000 change. As a result, the studio lost almost same amount as the overruns. The multimillionaire never minded such a trifle, though.

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 The multimillionaire's No.1 fantasy couple, Jane & Mitcum has absolute chemistry – their appearance, figures, voices, tones, etc. They are shinning the most when they are together. All the dialogues in this movie are witty and very tongue-in-cheek. I couldn't help shouting “Bravo!” (*4) to the screen while I was watching and listening to their fantastic deliveries.
 The scene on the beach, Jane sings softly and Mitchum whistles the tune, is the finest example. Mitchum is realizing that he is approaching some dangers. That feeling makes him say “I remember the first time I ever saw you, you were singing.” that's why “Sing it.” Right after that, his hunch becomes a brutal reality and shows up in front of their eyes. A marvelous switch to a noirish scene!

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 However, the great Vincent Price blows everything away. I do believe this is one of his top 5 masterpieces among a lot of his great works. Mark Cardigan forever!
 The very first scene when Cardigan (Price) shows up, we see a subplot - Cardigan is obsessed by hunting. So, in the great battle scene between Price and McGraw, I can enjoy my imaginary Fleischer's version of Richard Connell's The Most Dangerous Game as well as I enjoy the actual movie I'm watching.
 In the 1st version which John Farrow shot, McGraw was killed quickly, but in the final version which Fleischer reshot, he is survived. “Why didn't you kill me?” McGraw is wondering. Price's lines to him are superb. “I don't know. Maybe I was confused and forgot which side your heart was on. Or perhaps you don't have one.”

 The obsessions of the multimillionaire became unexpectedly an enjoyable entertainment. And the biggest achievement of this film was to have The Narrow Margin released. It had been shelved by Hughes because he liked the film so much; he wanted to reshoot it with Jane & Mitcum, instead of Marie Windsor & McGraw. Fleischer sent a letter to Hughes when he was suspended. Then, Hughes offered him to reshoot some parts of His Kind of Woman, for the exchange, he had The Narrow Margin released. As a result of their agreement, Fleischer sailed across the sea of chaos by holding a very thin board named PATIENCE.


Now, here is a question – What's this film all about?

Answer: Please see the Japanese TV title. (*5)

Note: The shooting days, the information of the budgets, etc are quoted from Charles McGraw: Biography of a Film Noir Tough Guy written by Mr. Alan Rode , Board of Directors and Treasurer of Film Noir Foundation. It's filled with interesting stories behind of all the McGraw’s film/TV works. I definitely recommend it to not only Charles McGraw fans, but also all Film Noir lovers.

Notes from translator

  1. This is a parody of a Zhuangzi's phrase. There are many interpretations of it other than "Forcing someone to be like everyone else is can cause more harm than good. To go against what comes natural can destroy.", but I guess it very much suites what Howard Hughes did to most of the films he produced. His Kind of Woman, however, becomes an unusually memorable film to me because of Hughes's "orifices"
  2. There is a very popular TV commercial for a soft candy in Japan – it says “It's a piece of candy you can taste two times!” So, the translation had to be [It's a “piece of candy you can taste four time!” movie.] But, I transformed it into an American way.
  3. When skilled Japanese swordsmen strike their Shin Ken (real Japanese swords) each other, the Shin Ken are chipped off and those tiny pieces of iron are stuck into their faces, usually foreheads. After Shin Ken fights, either demonstration/practice purposes or deadly duels, players or winners/survivors have to remove bits of iron from their foreheads with needles.
  4. In Japan, we have many words and phrases to applaud stage performers. If I translated it literally, it would be [“Great tones!” (Mei choshi!)]
    Here are some examples;
    “We've been waiting for you!” (Matte mashita!) - When a performer/performers first enter the stages.
    “Do your play generously!” (Tappuri!) - Just after saying “We've been waiting for you!” or when a performer/performers finish their first act/song/performance.
    “You're the No.1 in Japan!” (Nippon Ichi!) - This phrase and “Great tones!” (Mei choshi!) are used anytime after a performer/performers finish their act/songs/performances.
  5. A Stand-in Murder Scheme is the Japanese title for His Kind of Woman. It was never released in any Japanese movie theaters, but telecasted. And the same titled DVD was released last year in Japan. I haven't bought it yet, so I don't know how they translated its witty dialogues into Japanese...

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