After the success of Gilda (1946), Columbia clearly wanted to regroup its top talent (including raspberry-spitting Steven Geray) for another noir outing, and Affair in Trinidad is the patchwork production that burped onto screens 6 years later, but there’s not a cent of magic in this awful example of Hollywood’s habitual effort to repeat success without giving script and plotting any consideration.
Ostensibly a noir where the brother and the widow of a suicide victim awkwardly attempt to find the truth of their sudden loss, Columbia re-engaged Gilda’s able producer and exclusive Hayworth picture writer Virginia Van Upp (Cover Girl [M]) to doodle a scenario that repeats all of the top Gilda moments, albeit transposed to sunny, breezy Trinidad. Visiting brother Steve (Glenn Ford) and wealthy snot Max Fabian (The Big Heat's [M] Alexander Scourby, sporting a perpetually smug pair of pursed lips) repeat Gilda’s duo of jealous men, and Hayworth again plays a wounded dancer caught in a web of murder and industrial espionage, except unlike savvy Gilda, hip-swinger Chris Emery’s an idiot; she’s weak-willed and easily manipulated by men (including the shitty police) and never thinks for herself.
Besides a flat script and dull characters, there’s zero suspense in any of the plot twists, and Hayworth’s two musical numbers feel like outtakes from Gilda. The first number’s appropriately racy, whereas the second simply stops the film cold, and is in fact a blatant graft of “Put the Blame on Mame” where Gilda does a strip to instill raging jealousy in Ford’s character. In Trinidad, Ford gives her a great big face smack before bolting out of the door.
The industrial espionage is somewhat upped to an international incident, but it’s a feeble Maguffin, and it doesn’t matter who lives or dies because Vincent Sherman’s direction is completely workmanlike. There are no striking composition or camera movements, and action scenes are rather clumsily staged and worsened by badly timed edits. (Witness the tepid knife fight between Ford and a thug, or the badly choregraphed car accident of an errant scientist.) The few ‘Trinidadian’ characters are African-Americans who have no Caribbean accents, and the sets look like mothballed supplies from Gilda, including Fabian’s mansion.
Affair’s a lazy creative outing that perhaps seemed designed by Columbia’s Harry Cohn as punishment for a female star wanting real dramatic roles. Whereas Ford moved on to some solid genre efforts, Hayworth made a small quartet of films largely designed to play up her sex appeal before she was forced to go independent, taking a few roles requiring more clothing and need for extra talent – with notable results in Separate Tables (1958) and They Came to Cordura (1959).
Columbia’s DVD is fine, but their Martini Movies branding is bizarre. Like the film as a whole, the cover art is a pastiche, and the contrived poster implies Glenn Ford’s groin is about to explode in front of a waiting news photographer because of its unstable proximity to Hayworth’s fission-ready ass.
Best advice: Ford and Hayworth purists ought to take this film with a few chunks of salt. The actors’ onscreen pairings include The Lady in Question (1940), Gilda [M] (1946), The Loves of Carmen (1948), Affair in Trinidad (1952), and The Money Trap (1965).
© 2012 Mark R. Hasan