“Las Vegas Story” (1952) is like the seductively slow Mona Lisa smile of its star, Jane Russell: both sly and simple, secretive and open. It’s a noir that loses a lot of its noir shadows in the bleached, unblinking sunshine of the desert. Like the city for which it’s named, this movie does its own thing in its own way.
This week we adventure in Las Vegas -- with Jane Russell and Victor Mature today, and on Thursday we’ll have Dan Dailey and Cyd Charisse in “Meet Me in Las Vegas” (1956). I hope it proves to be a lucky start to a lucky year. By the way, we once featured publicity for this movie at this previous post.
The necklace will figure prominently in a murder.
There are a few subplots to the story that keep us entertained while we’re waiting for the crime to happen. So entertained that, in fact, the crime story seems almost like an afterthought. First, there is the back story about Jane Russell, who during the War was a singer in one of the casinos here. She’s here not to gamble, but to come to grips with her past.
Vincent Price, too focused on gambling to pay much attention to her anyway, indulgently allows her to sort out a few old ghosts, and suggests she go off on her own to explore the Strip.
“Go ahead. Get it out of your system,” he tells her.
What Jane Russell does just with her eyes, and with the slightest flicker of sublte expression is so impressive. This scene is a skillful union between a starlet who rose to fame on her voluptuous figure but who clearly really could act, and a director, Robert Stevenson, who with admirable delicacy, pays more attention to her face than her chest.
The movie was produced by Howard Hughes, second to none for his famous appreciation and promotion of her décolleté. While we have the obligatory costuming and camera angles that showcase Miss Russell’s physical attributes (including a gratuitous shower scene, and the demonstration that she wears nothing but heavy makeup to bed), there is still more even more here about her broken heart.
“That guy was a chump. He believed that if he left his hat or his girl at a table they’d be there when he got back.”
Which is something we have to consider when this same new owner ends up dead.
Lots of suspects, and an unresolved love story in the middle of them.
The movie is capped by a nifty chase scene between an old woody station wagon and a helicopter.
The car is not unlike the old woody rumbling through the Nevada desert in “Split Second” (1953) seen in this post, and another reminder of that film is the abandoned military installation where the final confrontation between helicopter and car occurs. I don’t know if any atomic testing went on here, too, but it’s deadly eerie.
The movie ends on an upbeat note with another of Hoagy’s songs. Not very noir, but Vegas makes its own rules.
Come back for more Vegas and more songs on Thursday in “Meet Me in Las Vegas” with Dan Dailey as a most unlucky gambler, until he grasps the delicate hand of dancer Cyd Charisse.