Tag Archives: gigolo

Love Has Many Faces (1965)

There are no secrets in this sandpile.”

Love Has Many Faces (1965), directed by Alexander Singer, is a tawdry look at Acapulco  “beach bums,” a polite euphemism for gigolos, and their wealthy prey–lonely, middle-aged American divorcees. The film shows the culture clash between the native Mexicans and the jaded Americans in the first scene when a gang of happy Mexican children, running along the beach stumble upon a body washed ashore. The body is of a young American named Billy whose last known relationship was with wealthy, aging playgirl Kit (Lana Turner). She’s since married and moved on to former gigolo Pete  (Cliff Robertson) who helped her pick up the pieces in hospital after yet another drunken car wreck. Billy, left only with an ID bracelet from Kit inscribed “Love is thin ice,” is possibly the victim of foul play. Hot on the case is local cop, Lt. Andrade (Enrique Lucero), the moral centre of the film, who doesn’t bother to hide his contempt for the hedonistic lifestyle of the male American gigolos who crowd the Acapulco beaches looking for fresh meat.

posterKit happens to be the biggest catch around, but she’s stopped playing the field since Pete moved in, and the couple spend their time on the beach in a cabana, lounging on her yacht, or in her gorgeous beach home. This leaves envious Hank Walker, a hunky, tanned and well-oiled Hugh O’Brien, strutting around in skimpy trunks, waiting like a dog for a dropped bone for the day Kit tires of Pete, or Pete tires of Kit. Either scenario is fine with Hank, and he makes sure that both Kit and Pete know that he’s ready for the job.

But in the meantime, a gigolo has to make a living… enter Margo (Ruth Roman) and Irene (Virginia Grey), two lonely women who arrive in Acapulco right in time to catch the attention of Hank and his protégé of sorts, Chuck (Ron Husman). There are no illusions as to the relationship between these young men and their middle-aged prey, and Hank notes as he moves in for the kill:

“A new shipment. A little over ripe, but choice. Lesson number 1, that’s the best.”

It’s through his relationships with Margo and his training lessons with Chuck that we see just what a lowlife Hank really is.

Into this sandy Peyton Place, arrives one of Billy’s former girlfriends, Carol (Stephanie Powers). Initially, she has no idea that she’s stepped into a male flesh market, but she soon sniffs that everyone’s for sale. But since she still has some integrity, Pete feels an attraction and a desire to protect her from the ugly truth about Billy’s death. Opportunist Hank, however, sees Carol as a way to bag the big catch, by prying Kit away from Pete.

hunky hankWhile Pete and Kit are mired in self-loathing by the things they’ve done in the past, in complete contrast Hank clearly has no scruples or conscience whatsoever; he’s as oily as his suntan lotion, and that makes him a joy to watch as he smooches worldly divorcee Margo, a woman who’s onto Hank’s game but still hopes that he’s not as sleazy as she thinks he is. But Hank knows himself well and doesn’t bother to hide his unscrupulousness: from his shabby shack walls covered with polaroids of former conquests, his strategic posing in skimpy trunks on the beach, to his statement: “It’s too bad I’m not illegal. Just immoral.” Hugh O’Brien as Hank steals the film, and if Lt. Andrada is the film’s moral centre, the  hunky Hank is the polar opposite. Even Chuck, the gigolo-in-training is disgusted by Hank and he asks:

“Is there anything you wouldn’t do for a buck?”

Smirking, Hank replies: “There must be something but I’ve yet to find it.”

Love Has Many Faces is surprisingly suggestive at times. At one point, for example, a woman asks Hank to help her with her swimming stroke. He tells her “go ahead and get wet. If I’m not there in 5 minutes, you start without me.”

Lana Turner’s clothes are designed by Edith Head, and you’ll notice a similarity to some of them, the cut in particular. Lana Turner, who was married 8 times to 7 different husbands, looks wonderful here, and she throws her heart into the role of the neurotic aging playgirl who’s afraid to show any weakness. This is a glossy soapy, drama, and while this viewer hoped, in vain, for everyone to go a little wilder on the beaches of Acapulco, nonetheless this is an interesting film for fans of Lana, and the well-acted support performances from Ruth Roman and Hugh O’Brien make this film and its tacky tale of a world in which (almost) everything is for sale well-worth watching.

Here’s a clip

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Bombshell (1933)

bombshellI’ve never seen a Jean Harlow film I didn’t enjoy, but I think Bombshell may very well be my favourite, and that surprises me a bit as I really enjoy the pairing of Harlow-Gable in some of her other major films. Perhaps the film’s success lies partly in the fact that it’s pre-code, and the perfectly timed performances mesh with a sparkling script that matches Harlow’s talents. Bombshell is a thinly disguised homage to Harlow and the cult of celebrity, yet at the same time, Harlow so seems to enjoy taking a sly dig at her own real-life career.

Bombshell begins with images of actress Lola Burns (Jean Harlow) and then clips of Harlow’s real-life films mingle with shots of adoring, fixated fans as they stare at the big screen. Quickly establishing the way in which Burns is seen on the big screen and how she is idolised by her fans, the film then cleverly leads into the way Lola Burns really lives.

The film opens with a very typical day-in-the-life of Lola Burns. It’s morning and she wakes up in her splendid mansion in a bedroom complete with frills, silk and feathers for that despotic harem-brothel look . Even though she’s a wealthy woman and surrounded by servants, Lola’s life is a mess. Both Lola’s drunken brother and her obnoxious gambler father sponge off her while trying to manage her career, and this translates to ensuring she stays in harness, earning the money they spend. To make matters worse, she’s surrounded by out-of-control servants who take advantage of her good natured generosity. Lola’s chaotic life even follows her to the studio, and the fact that everywhere she travels she’s accompanied by her three Old English Sheepdogs doesn’t exactly help matters. If she’s not tripping over dogs, she’s juggling interviews, fans and gossip-hungry reporters. And on top of all this, the studio’s publicist, E.J. “Space” Hanlon (Lee Tracy) exploits every angle of Lola’s personal life in order to keep her on the front page. There is literally nothing that Space wouldn’t sink to in order to get a headline. 

Merging real-life with fiction, Lola is filming Red Dust with Gable while she has a romance with slimy Hugo, the Marquis Di Pisa Di Pisa (Ivan Lebedeff). The Marquis, a notorious gigolo (also called a “fungi,” a “rummage sale Romeo,” and a “glorified barber“) sponges off of vulnerable female Hollywood stars who are impressed with his foreign accent and his title. Of course, to the Marquis, Lola is a perfect target.

The plot follows Lola’s romance with the Marquis, her various whims (such as adopting a baby) and her romance with snotty poet Gifford Middleton (Franchot Tone). Meanwhile Space subverts snd sabotages Lola’s decisions about her life turning everything into a smutty headline for the studio. While the film keeps an even beat and a steady stream of comedy, some of the film’s funniest scenes occur when Lola meets blue-blood Gifford and his family. Tone’s romantic lines are priceless: “Your hair is like a field of silver daisies. I’d like to run barefoot through your hair!” Tone, of course, gained a great deal of notoriety a few years later in 1951 when he was in a fight with actor Tom Neal over the beautiful, self-destructive actress Barbara Payton.

The very lovely, luminous Jean Harlow is marvelous as the blonde Bombshell. She was just 22 when the film was released and tragically died just four years later in 1937. She’s so young in Bombshell and yet she delivers the performance of a confident, seasoned performer, never missing a beat, full of life, and simply perfect for this role.

This precode film includes a few hints at sex. For example, early in the film, Lola wonders what happened to the negligee she just gave to her maid, and the following exchange takes place:

Lola: I didn’t give you that for a negligee. That’s an evening wrap.

Loretta: I know Miss Burns, but the negligee you gave me got all tore up the night before last.

Lola: Your day off is sure brutal on your lingerie.

And in another scene, Lola is planning to adopt a baby but Space jumps to the wrong conclusion and thinks that Lola is about to be an unwed mother. Then horror of horrors, the dialogue leads Space to think that Lola doesn’t know who the father of her baby is. It’s a funny scene and of course the audience is on the joke, but when the Hays Code came into power, this exchange simply wouldn’t have happened.

Anyway, if you want to watch a Harlow film and don’t know where to start, Bombshell is a marvellous film and showcases Harlow at her glittering best. Directed by Victor Fleming.


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Priceless (2006)

 “It seems a man like you can’t be bought, even by me.”

pricelessIn Priceless (Hors de Prix) Irene (Audrey Tatou) is a svelte gold digger who haunts the playgrounds of the stinking rich looking for her next victim. Irene gets herself picked up by solitary, wealthy men, and then she milks the new relationship for all it’s worth before she moves on and latches onto the next sucker. One night she spies Jean (Gad Elmaleh) a waiter in the swanky hotel bar. She mistakes Jean for a wealthy millionaire, and he doesn’t bother to correct her mistake.

Fast forward to another encounter, and Irene and Jean find themselves in hot water. Irene reverts to her profession of choice, and Jean, well Jean picks up some lessons along the way.

Priceless, with its 30s madcap comedy feel, is from director Pierre Salvadori, and it’s a much more polished film than his earlier comedy, Apres Vous, a film that never quite managed to maintain the laughs–in spite of the talents of seasoned actor Daniel Auteuil. Priceless is…well, priceless, slick while seemingly almost guileless, this highly polished film manages to pass off some very awkward moments delightfully.

Irene is essentially a hooker, picking up customers and bleeding them for hotel stays, clothes and expensive jewelry. The film doesn’t tackle the idea of sexual favours traded for stuff  head-on, but neither is the story a preposterous Cinderella tale (the very silly Pretty Woman springs to mind). While Priceless glosses over the seedier aspects of Irene’s manipulative ways, nonetheless the plot does address the sex-for-hire aspect–lightly and with humor. Plus a few plot surprises keep us guessing, and ultimately the plot works. Jean finds himself broke and homeless, and once he’s in this vulnerable position, he finds out first hand how it feels to be Irene. It would have been a horrible mistake for the film to emphasize this point and create a heavy moral point in the middle of the laughs, but instead the plot makes its point and then continues on. The next point the film makes is that the lifestyles of the rich and famous can be addictive….

Wealthy socialite Madeleine (Marie-Christine Adam) is a marvelous addition to the film, and when she enters the picture, the comedy ramps up a notch. Jean and Irene are ultimately people who do some sleazy things to maintain their lifestyles, but the film never once dips into that sleaze. Yet at the same time it’s not too sticky sweet, and this is achieved partly through meeting the ‘victims’ who are played here as not very nice people who know what they want and are perfectly willing to pay for it.

Tatou is an actress who has been criminally underutilized and it’s great to see her here, showing her claws and playing a whole range of emotions as she steps away from the ingénue role. If you like frothy French romantic comedy, well it doesn’t get much better than this. Highly recommended


Filed under Comedy, France

The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone (2003)

“Now I know the meaning of addiction.”

After bad reviews begin rolling in for her role as Juliet, aging actress, Karen Stone (Helen Mirren) retreats to Rome with her wealthy husband (Brian Dennehy). Rome is supposed to be a refuge, but Karen soon finds herself facing life alone without the solid protection of her husband. As a wealthy widow in Rome, she becomes the prey of a shady Italian Contessa (Anne Bancroft) who specializes in providing beautiful young men to older, lonely wealthy American women. The Contessa introduces Karen to the beautiful–but petulant–Paolo (French heartthrob, Oliver Martinez).

The original, excellent 1961 film The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone stars Vivian Leigh, and I approached this re-make version with skepticism. When remakes are made of already-excellent films, the remakes tend to be a disappointment. I am happy to say that this remake was not a disappointment–in fact, the remake exceeds the original. While the remake version is faithful to the original film, it also expands upon the story–making it much richer. This newer version explores the physical relationship between Karen and Paolo, and there is some nudity involved. The casting of the three main characters in the film is perfect–Anne Bancroft is the wily, mean-spirited, grasping Contessa. The contrast between her real life and the face she shows to society is shocking. Oliver Martinez as Paolo is perfect in this role. He’s pretty boy-Paolo–and he’d prefer to not think about the nitty-gritty financial details underneath his role with Karen. Unfortunately, financial considerations are a reality for both Paolo and the Contessa. When Paolo starts telling his ridiculous, fictional stories, Martinez actually manages to act the role with an insincerity that is astonishing. But it is the exquisite Helen Mirren as Karen Stone who steals the film. Karen’s humiliation increases as the affair deepens, and she struggles to maintain some sort of dignity and some sort of balance in the relationship. Karen begins using more and more make-up in desperate attempts to keep Paolo interested. When Karen and Paolo are in public, passer-bys look at the couple with ridicule. The sets are luscious, and Mirren’s costumes are spectatular. The only complaint I have concerns the rotten accents (Mirren and Chris, the playwright)–if you can’t do an accent properly–don’t do one at all). This version of The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone was a delight and fans of the original should not be displeased. From director Robert Allan Ackerman

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Private Lives (2001)

 “Anyone who survives has to change.”

private-lives42-year-old Carmen (Cecilia Roth) leaves Madrid and returns home to her native Argentina to visit her dying father. She’s lived in Spain for the past twenty years with infrequent, brief trips home.

Carmen has arranged to rent an apartment during her two-week stay, and she’s also arranged for the services of a young male model Gustavo (Gael Garcia Bernal) and a female companion. While Gustavo wants to get to know Carmen better, she holds him and everyone else at a distance. Carmen clearly has emotional problems, but her family is very adept at hiding secrets. Younger sister Ana (Dolores Fonzi) is determined to extract Carmen’s secrets from her brother-in-law Dr Rossemberg (Luis Ziembrowsky).

Part kinkfest, Private Lives fails to adequately explore many issues dragged front and centre by the script. Several scenes cover Carmen’s erotic fetishes, but there’s little substance–beyond the moaning and the grinding–to explain Carmen’s past. Instead the emphasis is on kink–at least for the scenes in Carmen’s apartment. The film shifts focus between Carmen’s fetishes and Ana’s determination to discover the truth about Carmen’s past. The result is a film that addresses Carmen’s kinkiness, but fails to delve into Carmen’s political past. There’s so much here politically that could be explored, but it isn’t. The sense remains, however, that both Gustavo and Ana are amazingly ignorant about life in Argentina before they were born. Ultimately, the most interesting aspect of the film is Carmen’s need to recreate a cell-like structure for gratification. Private Lives is a tepid drama made a little steamier with Cecilia Roth’s charged sexuality. In Spanish with English subtitles. From director Fito Paez.

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Mauvaise Passe/The Escort (1999)


“You’re a bit of a dark horse, Pierre.”

With a plot that belongs to a Jackie Collins novel, the film, The Escort (Mauvais Passe) displays French actor, Daniel Auteuil as a gigolo. Auteuil is an impressive actor, so it’s no wonder he looks embarrassed and out-of-place in most of the scenes in this tawdry French film. Directed by Michel Blanc and written by Hanif Kureishi (amongst others) I expected a bit more.

Pierre (Daniel Auteuil) is a French lecturer who flees to London during some sort of mid-life crisis. He tells himself he’s going to write a novel, but it’s not too long before he finds himself beaten up and thrown out of a stripper bar. Passerby, Tom (Stuart Townsend) implausibly takes pity on the wayward Frenchman. Tom takes Pierre back to his flat, cleans him up, and the two become unlikely friends.

Tom, it seems, manages a cafe by day, but he’s a gigolo by night–and a rather high priced one at that. He introduces Pierre to the delights of a plethora of lonely women who are willing to pay for ‘company’. Pierre, who experienced some sexual hurdles back in France, takes to the lifestyle of a jet-setting gigolo with gusto. Soon he’s even on a helicopter being flown in for a ‘party’ at the castle home of the filthy, and decadent rich.

Life isn’t really a slippery slope for Pierre. He dives into his new gigolo lifestyle with no moral qualms whatsoever. He strikes up a relationship with a female prostitute who works for the same agency, and soon finds that illegal substances are a necessity. And throughout all this tawdry slumming through the seamy side of London, Auteuil never ever stops looking ill-at-ease and uncomfortable. I wonder if he feels as embarrassed as I do that he ever accepted this unfortunate role? Most of the film is in English–with just a bit of French spoken. Auteuil’s French accent makes his speeches in English almost indecipherable at times (remember The Lost Son?). Pierre’s character is utterly unbelievable, and the plot smacks of middle-age fantasies. There’s one scene that depicts Pierre at the gym for the first time pathetically trying to lift a weight bar. A couple of months into his expensive gigolo lifestyle, he’s sweating and panting furiously at the gym. Beauty has its price, I suppose. I’ve read reviews calling this film “gritty” and “realistic”. I’ll add a third adjective–“tripe”. Daniel, you’re still my favourite French actor, but you may need a new agent.

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Female on the Beach (1955)

“I have such a nasty imagination.”

Currently, Female on the Beach is not available commercially, and it’s very difficult to find a copy. For Joan Crawford fans like me, that’s a shame. Let’s face it, she’s everyone’s favourite screen bitch, and in Female on the Beach, Joan has her mellow, melting moments when she casts those huge eyes at the camera, and then she also has her tough, “don’t screw with me” moments too.

Lynn Markham (Joan Crawford), the wealthy widow of a Las Vegas gambler returns to her gorgeous beach house. She’s seeking solitude and privacy, but it seems that the previous tenant, Eloise Crandall, another older wealthy widow, had an ‘open door’ policy with the local beach bum, hunk Drummond Hall (Jeff Chandler). Lynn thinks that Mrs. Crandall simply moved out, but she died, under mysterious circumstances, the very night before Lynn returns to take possession of her home.

Beautiful real estate agent, Amy Rawlinson (Jan Sterling) tries to hide the nitty gritty details about the tragic death of Mrs. Crandall from Lynn, but it takes just a few minutes for no-nonsense, self-assured Lynn to icily cut through the lies. Lynn also tries to keep Drummond at a distance, and that’s not so easy. He waltzes in and out of the house at all hours (he has a key), and he thinks it’s ‘neighbourly’ to wake her up with offers of coffee and breakfast. Gigolo Drummond tries too hard to ingratiate himself with Lynn, and she doesn’t buy his lavish complements and cheesy pick-up lines: “There must be some way I can amuse you” and “You’re cold. Let me warm you.” Lynn always has a sharp retort for his clumsy advances, finally telling him, “You must come with the house. Like the plumbing.”

Meanwhile Lt. Galley (Charles Drake) isn’t so sure that the death of Mrs. Crandall was an accident–especially when he discovers that toy boy Drummond and his con artist “aunt and uncle” were slowly bleeding money from Mrs. Crandall….

Joan Crawford was 50 years old when she made this film, and she looks great. And it seems that she wants her audience to know that she looks great too. Scenes are staged to show off her body; she slips out of bed with her nightgown up around her hips. She makes a grand entrance which shows off her slim, trim figure in dark, form-fitting trousers, and in several languorous moments, we get full view of those long, long legs. This isn’t Joan’s best film, but it’s a lot of fun for her many fans. From director Joseph Pevney.

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Heading South (2005)

“I always said when I was old, I’d pay young men to love me.”

It’s the 70s, and three single female tourists–all middle aged and white–make a habit of taking their holidays at a lush, private Haitian resort in Laurent Cantet’s film Vers le Sud (Heading South). Wellesley French literature professor Ellen (Charlotte Rampling) is 55, and she spends all summer at the resort and has done so for the last five years. Brenda (Karen Young) is 48 and she comes from Georgia. Brenda and her husband were on holiday at the resort three years ago, and it was during a stolen moment that Brenda had sex with local lad, Legba (Menothy Cesar), and she never forgot the brief liaison. The third woman is Sue (Louise Portal), a plump, uncomplicated and genial woman who can’t really seem to establish relationships with men.

When the film begins, Ellen and Sue are firmly ensconced in the languorous setting of the Haitian resort. They spend their days lolling on the beach, drinking exotic concoctions, and being the center of attention of a band of young, husky islanders. Brenda arrives, it seems, with the goal of reconnecting with Legba, and discovering if that moment they shared three years ago meant as much to him as it did to her.

In intimately confessional moments, each of the three female tourists argues her case for being at the resort and why they find it acceptable to whoop it up on the beaches while they feel constrained to behave differently in their natural environments. All three women bemoan the lack of suitable men at home, but none of them really question exactly why they feel so uninhibited in Haiti. To the viewer, however, it seems apparent that the relationships Ellen and Sue enjoy in Haiti bear no consequences. It’s just all fun and games–no responsibilities, and no nasty surprises. In addition, the white female tourists are firmly in the power seat here, and they are all divorced from the realities of Haiti–the ugliness, the corruption, and the grinding poverty. It never seems to occur to these women that the Haitian men pay them attention simply because they need to eat, and neither do any of the women question how the men survive when the summer’s over, and the tourists go home.

The plot plays with the idea of exploitation. On one level, there’s the issue of the white women tourists and their relationships with the native men, but on another level, these relationships are symptoms of the exploitive colonialism of Haiti. Tourists are on holiday to have a good time, and being face-to-face with starving people isn’t something tourists want to see. There are those who argue that tourism is a good thing for the economy of any nation, but it’s impossible to see that in Heading South. While the natives are turned into seasonal gigolos, the tourists are completely divorced from the morality of their situation, and ultimately the tourists are just passing through while the Haitians are locked into the turmoil of a disastrous social and political climate. Heading South is a morally complex film, and its depth resonates long after the closing credits. In French and English with subtitles.

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Mad Youth (1940)

“Aren’t you a little bit ashamed to sell yourself to women?”

According to the tawdry morality tale Mad Youth there’s a direct connection between the delinquency of parents and the delinquency of their children. In this over-the top melodrama, there’s no cliche spared as a delinquent mother and precocious daughter are pitted against one another as rivals for the same European gigolo. If you appreciate Trash Cinema, then chances are you’ll enjoy the questionable merits of Mad Youth.

In this sordid tale, middle aged, divorced and lonely Marian Morgan (Mary Ainslee) spends all of her alimony money on gigolos she employs as her escorts. She likes them young–in their late twenties–and if they claim to be European nobility, that’s even better. One evening, her latest gigolo, Count DeHoven (Willy Castello) meets Marian’s nubile young daughter, Lucy (Betty Compson), and there’s an instant attraction. Soon mother and daughter are squabbling over the same stud. And it doesn’t take long before the claws are out, and the fur flies as both women exchange nasty comments.

Don’t approach this film expecting serious cinema–Mad Youth is Trash Cinema with a High Camp Factor, spotty acting, and bad lines loaded with double entendre. There’s a lot packed into this relatively short film–a wild teenage party complete with some great jitterbug sequences, flamenco dancing, and even a game of strip poker. And one of the best features of this film is that it doesn’t bother with subtleties. Marian Morgan, for example, one of the escort agency’s “best customers” is forthright with the statement that she likes her men “around 27 or 28” because that’s “right around” her own age. A great deal of the dialogue is preposterous and stagy–with lines such as “You ought to realize, mother, that you’re no longer attractive to young men” “I’m saving you for a very special customer” and my personal favourite–“Don’t you realize, some of their customers are criminals, morons, or people who are mentally or physically diseased.” Directed by Melville Shyer, this Alpha DVD print is acceptable. Look for a pair of split trousers during a fight sequence towards the end of the film.

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