Affair in Trinidad (1952)

Directed by Vincent Sherman

I can’t help wondering how this movie might have appealed to us today if the movie Gilda simply didn’t exist.

Every review of Affair in Trinidad begins with a reference to the earlier film that first paired Rita Hayworth and Glenn Ford and inevitably concludes Affair is a very poor knock-off. (This review won’t break that mold.)

The comparison isn’t unfair, however. This movie is obviously an attempt to recapture what Gilda had but I’m not sure to what extent beyond putting Hayworth and Ford in a movie together.

I’ve seen this movie referred to as a noir as well but I find it hard to see it that way. It isn’t a noir, at least in my sense of what a noir is; rather, it’s a bit of a hodge podge movie that is a little bit this and a little bit that, a bit of Gilda, a bit of Casablanca, some hints of noir. But not noir. It’s more a romance thriller, with both the romance and suspense muted.

Rita Hayworth as Chris Emery channeling her character Gilda from the 1946 movie, Gilda.

What most strikes me about Affair in Trinidad is the fact that I liked it, even though I see so many flaws and how half-baked it is. It contains two song and dance performances by Rita Hayworth that, to me, seem more ludicrous than anything else, shoe-horned into the movie because that’s what was believed to be what the audience wanted. (It likely was what they wanted.)

Despite looking kind of silly, the upside is the songs themselves are pretty good. But Rita doesn’t actually sing them. That is Jo Ann Greer and she sounds great. (The songs are, “I’ve Been Kissed Before” and “Trinidad Lady.”)

As I saw mentioned elsewhere, the lighting in this movie is average at best and, in some places, just sadly lacking. It certainly lacks imagination. It’s rudimentary. Given the nature of some of the scenes, you really wish someone like a Fritz Lang had been involved.

Rita Hayworth and Glenn Ford as Chris and Steve Emery, Steve about to be walloped on the head.

And yet I liked the movie. From what I’ve read, so did contemporary audiences. It was a big hit. This is partly due to it being a return of Rita Hayworth, who had retired four years earlier to marry a prince. (Yes, a prince.)

Not only did she return, her dances in the songs mentioned above are more or less burlesque bump and grinds with her repeatedly tossing her gorgeous hair this way and that.

The movie essentially is trying to revive her career, giving the audience exactly what it believes the audience wants. The box office says it worked.

History says otherwise, however. It isn’t even in the same ballpark as Gilda. Still, it is entertaining. There is a story; it does develop.

It feels a bit like Casablanca in the sense that you get the feeling the writers had no idea where they were taking the story or any idea of how it might end. Unlike Casablanca, the ending here is abrupt and feels like someone said, “Oh, let’s just end the damn thing.”

Still, it is kind of fun to watch as long as you don’t put too many demands on the movie.

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