11 April 2002 | bmacv
Early Negulesco East-of-Suez romantic melodrama
Off slumming one night in a dive on the Singapore waterfront, a group of colonials spot a familiar face off in a corner. It's one of their own (Brenda Marshall), come to gin and hard times because of a curse hurled at her by the widow of a suicide supposedly lured to his death because of this rich, spoiled temptress. Having had their cheap thrills, the party moves on, all except David Bruce, who stays behind to play the Good Samaritan.
He whisks her off to his plantation and sobers her up, though she's all but given up on herself. Surprise, surprise, they fall in love. There are a couple of obstacles looming, however: Bruce's bland, blonde fiancee, and Marshall's husband, long presumed dead....
Coming in at just over an hour, Singapore Woman is a quick-and-dirty programmer, a romantic melodrama with all the trappings of its East-of-Suez predecessors from Rain to The Letter: rubber plantations and monsoons, The Raffles Hotel and rickshaws. But Negulesco, who in his early career was largely confined to Big-Band shorts, digs into this exotically seasoned stew with gusto. He makes every minute count and makes the movie look good, too.
Out of Marshall he draws a startlingly strong performance, equally good on the skids and in the frothier scenes of redemption. This actress, born in the Philippines, appeared as a Eurasian or Hispanic beauty in several 40s movies, and starred in Anthony Mann's Strange Impersonation five years after this film; though she lived until 1993, she made the last of her films in 1950 -- a loss to cinema.
There's not a great deal of depth or resonance in Singapore Woman, but it's satisfyingly put together, and gives a preview of the talent Negulesco would later lavish on The Mask of Dimitrios, Humoresque and, his masterpiece, Road House.