Nether Regions 02.09.10: Latin Lovers
Posted by Chad Webb on 02.09.2010
Because no one can resist the wrath of Khan and his charms, especially the wild gazelle Lana Turner.
Nether Regions started as a segment of the Big Screen Bulletin that meant to showcase films that have been discontinued on DVD, are out of print in the United States, are only available in certain regions outside the United States, or are generally hard to find. Now it is a column all its own! You might ask "Why should I care about a film I have no access to?" My goal is to keep these films relevant because some of them genuinely deserve to be recognized. Every time I review a new film I will have a list of those I covered below so you can see if they have been announced for DVD release, or are still out of print.
Starring: Lana Turner, Ricardo Montalban, and John Lund Directed By: Mervin LeRoy Written By: Isobel Lennart Running Time: 104 minutes Theatrical Release Date: August 12, 1953 Missing Since: 1998 Existing Formats: VHS Netflix Status: Not Available Availability: Those Amazon Sellers Will Rob You Blind!
Latin Lovers is a romantic comedy that incorporates all the clichés one endures in the modern equivalent. Despite having an odd title that sounds rather kinky, and one that paints a picture totally different than one might expect, its affability is limited to what one thinks of its stars. Though is tosses a curve ball or two before the running time has elapsed, my keen intellect was able to predict the outcome within the first 10 minutes. Don't worry, anyone that at least advanced to the first grade could do the same. All things considered, Latin Lovers does sport some fun performances amidst the occasional engaging conversation, but there is little that is memorable about this effort aside from Ricardo Montalban's impressive physique. I tell you, that guy was jacked, and in one scene he swings one of the biggest hammers I've seen.
What was transpiring behind the scenes is probably more interesting than the storyline moviegoers eventually saw. You see, the chaotic rollercoaster Lana Turner was having an affair at the time. She had A LOT of them, was married 8 times, and a long battle with alcoholism. When Latin Lovers was announced, she was all set to star with her current boytoy, Fernando Lamas, father of our favorite Renegade Lorenzo. Well, their relationship concluded abruptly, but Fernando attested that this would not interfere with their professional relationship and that he would still star in the film. Unfortunately for Fernando, Lana did not share those sentiments, and as she had more pull at MGM then, she wanted him taken out. He was, and Ricardo "Khan" Montalban was then given his role. Fernando Lamas would only last another year at MGM.
Ricardo Montalban and Lana Turner getting jiggy with it.
Latin Lovers becomes annoying quickly when we realize it is about rich folks having trouble finding love. Apparently they can't decide for themselves who their soul mates are because they constantly ask their therapists advice. The introductory sequences do indeed showcase Nora Taylor (Lana Turner) and Paul Chevron (John Lund) laying down and attempting to figure out if they are good for one another in separate offices. Nora's shrink informs her that a fellow millionaire like Paul will be strong and forceful when he proposes and will say "We are going to get married right now!" This is what Nora wants evidently. However, Paul's therapist tells him to avoid this approach and give her all the time she needs. He is an avid polo player, and is taking his team to Brazil for 3 weeks. Paul gives her this time make her decision. For some reason, Nora follows him to Brazil, and promptly locates another male suitor named Roberto Santos (Ricardo Montalban). So, she goes to surprise Paul, and ends up spending time with some other dude? Women...
I should mention what made Nora want to fly to Brazil. During one dinner with Paul, a random Spanish chap asks her to dance. He rattles on about the "air" of Brazil and how the men take what they want. Within hours of her arrival, Nora falls under the spell of the "air" in Brazil. Someone should explain to her what a vacation high is. Anyway, she initially catches a glimpse of Roberto riding one of his beautiful mighty steeds. Wasting no time at all, and thinking only of herself, she trails Roberto into the stables and he rips her into his arms and plants a firm smooch on her. They have said nothing to each other at this point by the way. Nora walks away and with that one kiss, she immediately knows this guy is special. Sure. She meets Roberto formally, along with his grandfather Eduardo (Louis Calhern), at Roberto's birthday bash, and the two grow close. Meanwhile, Paul has been pushed to the side, he knows it, and is ok with it. He even accompanies Nora during some of her dates with Roberto. These are strange people.
And so it goes. Love triangle storylines were quite popular at this time. They all ended basically the same way. Everyone involved had to be gleefully happy, no matter what the characters attitudes were or how little sense it made. We know the fates because Nora brings her secretary (Jean Hagan) along to Brazil. Nora can do nothing on her own it seems. The secretary is named Anne, and she exchanges trivial comments and extended glances toward Paul early on that tell us what will go down. The hackneyed aspects of the plot would be fine if the characters were remotely likable, but the problem is that viewers are watching multi-millionaires whine and moan over not having their one true love. Cry me a river. Nora's big dilemma is that she thinks her inherited fortune distracts every man she meets. She is worried that Roberto won't know how to handle it. Nora's father was a man who struck oil and became filthy rich.
The best way to describe Lana Turner to those who have not heard of her would be to name someone she has some similarities to today. I thought of Katherine Heigl at first. Both are capable of good performances, but they can come off as quite snotty, and that is what Nora Taylor is like. Turner was definitely a star going into this production. The title that made her a recognizable name was The Postman Always Rings Twice in 1946, an incredibly overrated film. She is undeniably mediocre as Nora, a woman who can never make up her mind. She wants men to act the way she envisions them in her fantasies, and since that rarely occurs, she gets frustrated. Turner is certainly a striking beauty, especially with the dazzling costumes from Helen Rose, but Nora is both dumb and conceited, and the audience is supposed to feel otherwise.
Fernando Lamas and Ricardo Montalban were both picks by the studios as "Latin Lovers" that could be paired with some of Hollywood's leading ladies in this era. Lana Turner was one of many who had the privilege of being swept of their feet by Ricardo. Montalban is easily the finest actor of the bunch, and his mere presence is intense, which makes his line delivery increasingly impactful. Unfortunately, the object is not chemistry between Turner and Montalban, but simply placing a handsome man next to Turner in hopes of obtaining box office success. Montalban's character of Roberto is precisely what Nora has always dreamed of, and he offers little surprises to that idea. This limits Roberto's engaging qualities, but Montalban does his duty with gusto.
Paul Chevron, the man Nora dumps in favor of Roberto, is portrayed by John Lund. He was a promising leading man in the 40's and 50's, but his career fizzled out by the early 60's because he began settling for weaker roles. At least, that was the IMDB explanation. My observations show Lund as a commendable actor, but he resembles an understudy to Clark Gable or Cary Grant, which I'm sure helped in shortening his time at the top. Lund conveys considerable charm and humor in this whimpy third wheel part. Chevron is apparently a polo master, and constantly breaks his limbs while sitting on his horse. We even witness a polo match late in the story. Inevitably, Roberto practices polo when he is not using a sledgehammer. Chevron is wealthy himself, and in truth his character is much more entertaining and intriguing than the rest of the schmucks. He pops up to be a person Nora can grumble to, which makes no sense. Why a man who was just flat-out tossed aside would continue to hang around his ex is beyond me.
The VHS cover.
The supporting team is packed with notable faces. One is Oscar nominee Louis Calhern, who plays Roberto's Grandfather Eduardo. He is basically an older version of Roberto, but more comical. Calhern is a joy to watch, and instantly establishes chemistry with everyone without much hassle. Jean Hagan, who had recently finished her best performance as Lina Lamont in Singin' in the Rain, acts as Nora's secretary Anne. It is a small role, but with her few lines, Hagan displays an innate ease on screen. Eduard Franz is Nora's therapist, and Dorothy Neumann has a terrific part as his irritated wife, who must endure the incessant phone calls from Nora asking for advice. And in a brief appearance as a jealous girl is Rita Moreno, who would of course go on to be Anita in West Side Story.
Apart from the romantic comedy traits, Latin Lovers is also part musical, maybe for a quarter of the running time. Ricardo Montalban sings some songs and shows Nora how to samba, which is meant to further cement his Brazilian magnetism. The serenades are forgettable and way out of place, but if you needed some song and dance to spice up your romcom, this has it all. Just beware, all Latin horse owners can do the samba and seduce your women. Latin Lovers also sends a mixed message on how women want to be controlled by strapping and handsome males. This is what Nora says she wants, but it is never very consistent.
Director Mervin LeRoy is actually given credit for renaming Judy Turner to Lana Turner. He was a revered filmmaker by this point, and had scored numerous hits for MGM. He was uncredited as a director on The Wizard of Oz and his terrific picture Little Caesar is a respectable gangster offering. His style on Latin Lovers is relatively light and friendly. This is a straightforward story that tries to integrate meaningful dialogue on how aggravating it is for the wealthy to have money, but one has the urge to respond "Boo hoo" while watching Latin Lovers. LeRoy and cinematographer Joseph Ruttenberg do capture some breathtaking shots with the exteriors, but they get lost in the smug tone and lack of spark amongst the main stars.
LeRoy and company strive to remind us around every corner of this pedestrian flick that Lana Turner is the STAR darnit! Archer MacDonald plays a geek with Coke bottle like glasses that gives her Portugese lessons, and each time he sees her, he has problems speaking because Nora is so wickedly georgeous. The funniest moments are when Nora comes to a realization about a man. These are cued by the theme to "Twinkle twinkle little starů" I doubt this will be on DVD anytime soon unless MGM stars releasing a bunch of random old movies on DVD-R's like Warner Brothers is doing. Lana Turner doesn't have a box set to the best of my knowledge, so you might see it in one of those if anyone ever thinks to compile one, but don't hold your breath.
The plan is to start filing in some Oscar nominees and the two out of print Best Picture winners in weeks to come, so stay tuned! I just got done watching the first volume of Glee, a very popular TV show that I could not escape from. I know multiple people who had the CDs and just insisted that I watch. I did, and I enjoyed it. The singing and dancing makes the show a lot of fun, and Lea Michele steals the show. She's a brilliant singer and a blast to watch. The two pregnant storylines were absolutely agonizing though.
I also got a chance to watch the film version of A Little Night Music after catching the Broadway show, and the movie brought out flaws I never cared about during the stage show. The humor was cut down considerably, the acting was goofy, and the execution of many of the song and dance numbers made no sense. I went from enjoying it to disliking it in no time at all. I still need to see the Bergman film it's based on, but I will get there soon enough. My advice is to stay away Elizabeth Taylor's horrid performance in the 1977 film.
So around this time last year, I made my predictions for the Best Picture nominees of 2010. I've been doing this for the past few years. At that time, it was still 5 nominees remember, so I only chose 5. I think it's fun to do the research and try to predict what people will like in one year. As time goes by, it gets easier to do though, which is why I do this in January of 2009. I usually wait until the nominees have been announced to make my predictions for the official list. Here were my picks from The Big Screen Bulletin on 01.12.09:
5. The Lovely Bones
3. Inglorious Basterds
2. Shutter Island
Others That Have a Shot
The Human Factor (later re-titled Invictus) - A biopic on Nelson Mandela, directed by Clint Eastwood, starring Morgan Freeman. Nuff said.
Amelia - A biopic on Amelia Earhart, directed by Mira Nair (The Namesake), starring Hilary Swank, Ewan McGregor, and Richard Gere.
I break my own record of 1, and was able to get 2 this time. I think, even if it was still 5 nominees, I would still have nailed 2, but oh well. And Shutter Island was re-scheduled, which killed my chances with that one. Next week I will present my predictions for Best Picture in 2011. Until then, have a good week!