At the Movies: 'Macao' Starring Jane Russell and Robert Mitchum
Sixteen years before Howard Hughes would quietly move into the top floor of the Desert Inn and begin his casino shopping spree, he - as owner of RKO Radio Pictures - he bankrolled the film noir mystery "Macao" starring buxom sweater girl discovery Jane Russell and Oscar nominee Robert Mitchum.
Set in the 'Monte Carlo of the Orient', "Macao" is a murder mystery surrounding three American visitors to Macau who meet on the ferry from Hong Kong. One of the three is apparently an agent of the International Police, sent to arrest local casino boss Vincent Halloran (Brad Dexter). Jane Russell portrays Julie Benson, a sexy nightclub singer with an attitude problem and a curvaceous figure. Robert Mitchum is Nick Cochran, hiding out in the Orient from a crime he committed in New York City. William Bendix is Lawrence C. Trumble, a traveling salesman with a suitcase full of cigars and pantyhose looking for some casino action and some orders for his parent company.
"Macao" is certainly entertaining, at the very least to see some of the archival footage of downtown Macau's rickshaws, junks, ferry boats, simulated casino action, and of course Jane Russell. This post isn't intended to be a full on movie review, or a description of the plot - I'll leave that to Roger Ebert.
Arriving in Macau. Might this be Fisherman's Wharf? "Macao" was shot in 1950 but sat in the RKO archive for two years before it was released. Evidently Howard Hughes fired the director after finding out that he had Robert Mitchum rewriting the script (amongst other reasons.)
The only shots of the movie that were actually filmed in Macau were landscapes, busy streets and the ferries coming in. The rest was filmed on the RKO lot in Hollywood.
Jane Russell gives Robert Mitchum the bitch face and rebukes another of his advances. She holds the umbrella with perfect form for a violinist, but in wrong hand. Ms. Russell sang all of her own parts in the movie and they're actually pretty good. She went on to have a bit of a night club career after her film acting days ended. Those of us who grew up in the 1970's remember the old "cross your heart bra" adverts she used to do.
A throng of gamblers at the Sic-Bo table. Note the strings from the 2nd floor dangling baskets over the gaming table. In the movie, gamblers would put prized possessions in the baskets which would be ferried upwards to the casino boss' office who would act as a pawn broker and casino cashier all in one. Give me convenience or give me death! Also up on the second floor was a lounge filled with Chinese hookers. Anybody know how to say "hooker" in Chinese? It's "hooker"! Ha!
Largo Do Pagode Da Barra translates to "Barra Pagoda Street" which is where A-Ma Temple is. You can light incense sprigs for deceased ancestors here. Legend has it that A-Ma was a woman (goddess Matsu) who ascended into heaven from Barra Hill after quelling a typhoon. A-Ma-Gao translates to 'Bay of A-Ma', over time the name of the country A-Ma-Gao evolved into Macao, and Macau.
Shortly after arriving in Macau, Jane Russell is summoned to casino boss Halloran's office under the ruse of him offering a singing job. Of course, he really just wants to get up her dress but this sassy lady is way to smart for his silly games. Check out the hand-carved furniture!
Jane gets the singing job, shoehorns her 38D-24-36 figure into a silver lame dress and does a great rendition of the great saloon song "One For My Baby" by Johnny Mercer and Harold Arlen. You've probably heard Sinatra's version of this, if you haven't then you must not like ice cream. Note: two shot glasses, one is empty. See the clip of this on YouTube