Columbia Noir: Affair in Trinidad (1952)

affairSo after a bit of an hiatus we return to Indicator’s excellent Columbia Noir #2 boxset with a rather curious entry. Affair in Trinidad is clearly a bit of a mess: its a noir severely hampered by it being primarily a somewhat cynical vehicle for its star, Rita Hayworth, who had returned to Hollywood following a failing marriage. Hayworth at this point was a genuine superstar (tagged ‘the Love Goddess’ in the 1940s) having worked with the likes of Fred Astaire, Gene Kelly, and Orson Welles and had a hit with Trinidad co-star Glenn Ford with noir classic Gilda in 1946- I mention the latter because Trinidad was practically a remake of that film, apparently.  And here I’m at a disadvantage, mainly because I don’t believe I have seen any of Hayworth’s films (other than The Lady From Shanghai, which I really must watch again) so I am neither familiar with Hayworth’s charms nor her reputation as one of Hollywood’s biggest and most popular actresses of her era. Likewise, references in Affair in Trinidad to Gilda are wholly lost on me as I’ve not seen it, although it seems clear two song/dance-numbers that awkwardly bookend the film are a large part of that. 

Glenn Ford, who has impressed so much in earlier noir featured in these box sets, is sadly relegated to supporting actor with an underwritten part that gives him sorely little to work with other than immediately fall in love with Hayworth’s widow and rage with jealousy when he thinks she is charming a rival. There is a curious meta-story wherein the two actors had a real-life on/off affair that lasted decades- indeed, the real-life story of a superstar retuning to Hollywood and her on/off relationship with her leading man (and trying to recapture the success of a classic film of just a few years prior) all seems juicy enough to be the subject of a noir of its own, or indeed a film in the vein of Sunset Boulevard.  However Affair in Trinidad is itself largely a misfire: it lacks any real tension, and the sparks between Hayworth and Ford feel sudden and forced (Hayworth’s character is married to Ford’s brother, but when Ford arrives to discover his brother died just a few days prior to his arrival, he grieves for five minutes then falls madly in love with Hayworth- wholly formulaic and unconvincing, ironic considering their purported real-life chemistry). 

Indeed, it struck me that perhaps the most noir thing in the whole film is how, by the films end, that Hayworth’s husband/Ford’s brother has been utterly forgotten and doesn’t even get any mention when the bad guys who apparently killed him are brought to justice. Watching the finale, my wife commented “but what about her husband, why did they kill him?” asking a question the film totally forgets to answer. It suggests the laziness with which the film was made, its plot hastily drawn together from pieces of perhaps Gilda and other dramas of the period.

Its not that I didn’t enjoy the film- it has good, often moody cinematography and an excellent score by George Duning that drives the plot onwards and attempts to intensify any atmosphere/tension – indeed this music score really impressed me, reminded me of 1970s John Williams, oddly enough, which made the film feel rather ‘modern’ to me. Curiously, Duning also wrote the score for The Mob, the previous film in this set and a score that I was also taken by. But these elements aren’t enough to save a film that feels awkward, and which clearly needs a better script. Mind you, Affair in Trinidad would prove to be Columbia’s biggest hit of 1952 so what do I know? I guess the public could forgive the film anything as long as it brought Rita Hayworth back to their cinema screens.

5 thoughts on “Columbia Noir: Affair in Trinidad (1952)

  1. It felt like an attempt to recapture the magic of Gilda when I last saw it and that’s a thankless task. That earlier movie was and remains Hayworth’s signature role, the one she’ll forever be associated with and you should definitely seek it out at some point.
    Shortly after this she would take a longer break from the screen and see her personal life take an even bigger nosedive. I’m fond of the three movie she made in quick succession on her return: Fire Down Below, which I wrote up myself not long ago, Pal Joey with Sinatra and Kim Novak & a lovely study of vulnerability and desperation in Delbert Mann’s brittle and moving Separate Tables.

    Nice to see you mention the work of George Duning, a composer I really like – his scores for 3:10 to Yuma and Picnic are outstanding, in my opinion. Then again, there’s a lot to admire in the music of so many of that era’s studio composers.

    1. Sometimes I think its really funny when I realise “I’ve only ever seen one Rita Hayworth movie” (albeit its two now) when, you know, her name is so famous and her poster plays such a big part in The Shawshank Redemption etc. But in a way, its great that there’s some great (and not so great, but…) movies out there waiting for me to catch up with. Like all these Columbia Noir that I haven’t seen, or the obscure Hammer films etc. Sure, its kind of depressing too, after all there’s possibly so many movies that I would adore but which I’ll simply never get to see. Its impossible to see it all, in just the same way as there’s books I will never read or music I will never hear.

      Which brings me to Duning. What I’ve heard of his are great scores. The Mob was good, but Affair in Trinidad, there’s some really sophisticated flourishes in it that deserve a better movie really. It actually stood out to me when watching the film, I’d hear moments and think, whoa, that was neat… that’s like something from a 1970s thriller, but this is, what, 1952? And how many people outside of film-music forums likely mention George Duning? Film music has lost such a great deal in the past few decades, the way its utilised (or not) in movies today.

  2. Pingback: The 2021 List: March – the ghost of 82

  3. Pingback: The Killers (1946) – the ghost of 82

  4. Pingback: Gilda (1946) – the ghost of 82

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s