Friday, March 2

Forbidden: Favorite Movie #49

1953 Drama
From Universal
Directed by Rudolph Maté

Tony Curtis
Joanne Dru
Lyle Bettger
Victor Sen Yung
Marvin Miller
Peter Mamakos

Forbidden has been the title of several movies over the years... and why not?  It promises something taboo, perhaps illicit and it's a bit of an enticement to lure the folks into buying some tickets.  In 1953 Universal-International (as it was then known) had a property called Drifting and a hot young contract player, Tony Curtis, who they wanted to keep in the public's eye... particularly the female public.  The title was changed to the more alluring Forbidden and filming began with a very unhappy star.

Curtis was not pleased with his roles at Universal; he wanted more to do, something more substantial.  In 1953 that came along in the form of Houdini, but on loanout to Paramount.  It not only would be his first important role but he would be costarring for the first time with his actress-wife, Janet Leigh.  When that filming was over, it was back to Universal with a bit of a bigger head and he was put back into what he perceived were inferior roles.

One of those was Forbidden.  It's my 49th favorite film so obviously I don't think it was inferior.  Curtis thought so and said as much in his second autobiography.  You can trust me when I say he made many worse movies and he wasn't so hot in them either.  But regardless of what he said, Forbidden was a pretty good "B" film.  He said he hated making it and that there was no chemistry between him and Joanne Dru because she was so much older than he was.  She was 30 at the time and he was 28.  Maybe the problem was that she looked like a gorgeous adult and he looked like a skinny kid with too much greasy hair oil and suits too big. 

Joanne Dru became famous as an actress mainly in westerns,  alongside John Wayne in Red River (1948) and again in She Wore a Yellow Ribbon and in the political drama All the King's Men, both 1949.  She had been married to popular singer Dick Haymes for much of the 1940s but by the filming of Forbidden, she was married to actor John Ireland, whom she had met while shooting Red River.  I was quite smitten with her, especially in Forbidden at the height of her beauty. I was speechless one day at University High School when I saw her with her daughter, Joanna Haymes, who was a classmate. 

Also along for the ride in Forbidden was one of my favorite character actors, Lyle Bettger (read about him in my posting of December 28).  I would see him in anything because he was about the best villain around.

Rudolph Maté had been a cinematographer until 1947 when he took up directing mainly at Universal and usyually on "B" pictures. (I just looked over his list of credits and I think I've seen nearly every one of them, all so entertaining.)  He had worked with Curtis before and would again.

He was the cameraman on Gilda and Forbidden owes a lot to Gilda.  This film also reminds me of the Robert Mitchum-Jane Russell-starrer Macao.  And while it is labeled a drama or romance drama, it could certainly qualify in a few ways to be a film noir... and we know how I feel about them.  And once again it was a childhood favorite that has kept a tight hold on me for many years.

It is supposed to have taken place in Macao but it was shot on the Universal lot (in black and white).  Eddie (Curtis) is sent there to bring back a mobster's ex-girlfriend, Christine (Dru), to keep her from delivering testimony to the feds that could put the thug away for life.  Eddie needs the money but he doesn't want to go after Christine because she was once his girlfriend as well and they didn't part lovingly.

Arriving in Macao he runs into unscrupulous Justin (Bettger) who runs the snazzy Lisbon Club, a gambling joint, and as bad luck would have it, Justin is engaged to Christine.

Try as they may to disregard one another, Eddie and Christine still have the hots for one another.  Did you really forget my birthday, asks Christine.  There isn't one thing I have ever forgotten about you, Eddie purrs.  Racing through one plot contrivance after another, the two decide to run off together, attempting to avoid Justin's spying eyes.  They are thwarted by Marvin Miller, a weasil who has been sent along as a backup-sneak to watch Eddie but aided by Alan (Victor Sen Yung), a philosophical piano player (or is he?) who plays the haunting You Belong to Me every time Curtis or Dru are in his vicinity.  Each time I have heard that song throughout the years, my mind happily wanders back to Forbidden.

I myself am forbidden to tell you the ending but I do want you to think explosion... and a damned good one, too. 

We are now fini with my "B" movies from the 50s.  But I hold this one and last Friday's Jubilee Trail high in my esteem.  I had not seen Forbidden in more than 30 years.  I had scoured movie guides and listings for years looking for it.  Then one day it popped up on the telly, on a channel with commercials, no less... eeeuuuwwwSometimes we go through the fires of hell for our favorite films.

NEXT POSTING:   Inquiring Minds

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