Port of New York

Director: Laslo Benedek

Reviewed by Paghat the Ratgirl

In Port of New York (1949), Toni Cardell (K. T. Stevens) assists her boyfriend in a drug smuggling operation on board the S. S. Florentine, but is alarmed when her criminal lover Paul (Yul Brynner in his film debut) murders the pursur who assisted them. She begins freaking out very foolishly in front of Paul, who doesn't like to keep weak links alive.

Port of New YorkAgent Michael Waters (Scott Brady) pursues the narcotics smuggling case & murder, & brings in Jim Flannery (Richard Rober) to assist.

Two heroes is one too many for a story this simpleminded, so the script can spare one; toss a quarter to decide which one's most apt to get killed.

Toni wants to turn against Paul, who has thrown her over for Lily (Lynne Carter). Not only can she get revenge as a woman spurned, she can also get a fat reward with which to get out of town.

She arranges to meet the feds, who might've been more successful providing her with protection if she hadn't been amazingly stupid in her methods. Her attitude toward Paul is way out there in the category of "kill me now, I can't be trusted" as if he'd ever think twice about doing so.

Flannery goes undercover to find the top guy, posing as Wylie, a Canadian client for the drugs whom no one in New York has met before. He'll be unmasked on board Paul's boat to drum up some suspense, but the harbor police will arrive in the nick of time.

Port of New York is often listed as a film noir, but is actulaly one of those crime-films for which G-men are purely heroic & villains really stink. The moral certainty is as far from film noir as crime fiction gets, & almost never as good as film noir.

Far too much of the story is told by a voice-over in the form of a documentary mode akin to The Naked City but doesnot work as well. It sometimes looks like they lost the vocal soundtrack & patched it over with the hoky narration. So it's not exactly a good film, but it's just great fun to see Yul in an early role, with hair, playing an art-loving sophisticated crimnal mastermind.

As an aside, in this role Yul looks so what he was, half Mongolian, & though I'd never thought of it before, racism kept Asian actors from great roles. How'd he escape that? I mean, Mako won an Academy Award, too, but then spent most of the rest of his life playing such dumb roles as Conan's sidekick.

Sure, Yul's gigantic break was playing the king of Thailand, a rare instance of classic Hollywood letting Asian play Asian, & he cinched his fame as Ramses the Egyptian pharaoh. But had he continued to be typecast as Asians & exotics, he'd've had the choice of playing Chopchop the Houseboy, or Fu Manchu.

Yet his career never had the race barrier other Asian actors had in his day. He was half Russian too of course, & I guess it could be argued he was "passing." But you can't look at that face without realizing he's not your standard American cowboy, though often enough he'd be playing one. I'm glad of it. But every other Asian actor of the era has a story of casting woes.

copyright by Paghat the Ratgirl

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