"She found love."
"For only one night? She ceased to be human"
This version of The Road to Singapore is a pre-code from 1931 and stars William Powell before his detective roles. The film is super rare to the point where I was unable to find to a poster anywhere for it and IMDB only has three fan reviews. Last month TCM had William Powell as their star of the month which is how I was able to see it.
Philippa Crosby (Doris Kenyan) is a nurse traveling to meet her husband Dr. George March (Louis Calhern) on an island in the south Pacific. On the ship she sees a dashing and charming man named Hugh Dawltry (William Powell).
When Philippa gets on the ship she has no idea where she is going. Hugh decides to “rescue” her and seem like he wants to bring her to where she is supposed to go. He bribes the other carriage runners to leave so his is the only one left leaving her with no choice but to go with him. At first Philippa is none too happy but she accepts. Hugh does not take her to her place where her husband and a few friends are waiting for her but back to his place. He tries to seduce her and for a while she likes it until she realizes that he lied to her to get her to his place.
From the beginning of the film when the town hers that Hugh is coming back we see that no one really likes him. They say he is a cad who takes other men’s wives away. Unfortunately for George his younger sister Rene (Marian Marsh) likes him and invites him to a party. Philippa does not see why everyone thinks Hugh is so bad since he is a gentleman with her. They dance and he dances he elegantly, when she dances with George he is a disaster.
One night Hugh and Philippa are standing outside where they can see and hear the natives pounding away on drums to their goddess of love. That night in their own homes they stare out their windows towards each other with intense stares of want and lust. From that night on they begin to see each other when George is not around. At first George thinks Rene is the one that Hugh has been seeing so he takes her away on a business trip.
While George and Rene are away Hugh and Philippa spend the night together. She plans to leave George and follow Hugh on to Singapore. George and Rene come home early. She finds Hugh’s letter to Philippa but unfortunately it falls into her brother’s hands. He goes to shoot Hugh. Philippa tells him that she does not want to be just a plain wife like he was going to make her and that she wants a divorce and she will be leaving with Hugh on the morning boat.
I was dying with Louis Calhern his character was so annoying. I guess that was the point though we wanted Philippa to end up with Hugh. For some reason he reminded me of Vincent Price in Laura… not so much as a character but in looks. Don’t ask too many questions about this.
Eh, so not that exciting. The film is based off a play of the same name so there is limited sets and movement. The story sounds like a god awful melodrama but trust me with William Powell in the lead he keeps it from being bad. First of all the man was the perfect dashing, charming gentleman. If I knew a man like that I am sure I would be putty in his hands so you cannot blame Philippa and Rene for falling for Hugh. You can totally believe that women would fall for his charms and that men would hate him.
The best part of the whole film is when they show Philippa and Hugh looking at each other across the field in their houses. The camera starts on Philippa than it pans across the field and zooms in on Hugh. It worked so well because the drums were beating fast and the intense sexy stares both Kenyan and Powell had on their faces were incredible.
Another part I really liked was when Rene surprised Hugh at his house. She was waiting for him and once he came home she tried her hardest to turn him on and tease him. The part I liked was when she put her hand on Hugh’s belt. Of course you do not see the action fully but you can just see her wrist. Really sexy, one of the best moments I have seen in a pre-code.
The Road to Singapore was a good film. It is definitely not one of the best but it does not suffer too bad because William Powell is awesome as always and the rest of the cast was very good.