Film Legends Of Yesteryear (2021): Rita Hayworth in… Fire Down Below (1957)

We’ve come around to November 17, which means that it’s time for the second-to-last “Film Legends Of Yesteryear” featuring Rita Hayworth (at least, for 2021, anyway)! So for that, we’ve got her 1957 film Fire Down Below, also starring Robert Mitchum and Jack Lemmon!

Coming Up Shorts! with… Dogs Is Dogs (1931)

(available on Blu-ray as part of The Little Rascals: The ClassicFlix Restorations, Volume 2 (1930-1931) from ClassicFlix)

(Length: 20 minutes, 53 seconds)

Wheezer (Bobby Hutchins) and Dorothy (Dorothy DeBorba) are stuck with the unkind Spud (Sherwood Bailey) and his mother (Blanche Payson) when their father doesn’t return. This one traded in humor for heart, as we come to feel sorry for the kids as they are treated poorly by their “evil” stepmother. This short is very much in the vein of stuff like Cinderella or A Little Princess. For its length, it’s hard not to feel for both Wheezer and Dorothy. It may not be one of the series’ best shorts, but it’s still worth seeing just the same!

And Now For The Main Feature…

A pair of Americans, Felix Bowers (Robert Mitchum) and Tony (Jack Lemmon), have been pulling odd smuggling jobs around the Caribbean. They are offered the job of smuggling a beautiful woman, Irena (Rita Hayworth), to another island. It seems that she has no passport, so she has been moving around constantly to avoid being deported. Tony is interested, but Felix doesn’t want to take the job. He only relents when they are offered a lot of money. Still, Felix is less than thrilled with having to take Irena anywhere, and makes sure his feelings are well known when she comes to the dock the next morning. Tony, on the other hand, is captivated by her. After a while, the two men fight each other due to their opposing opinions on her. When they stop at a port to go to a carnival, though, even Felix finds himself falling for her, although she rejects his advances. When the boat gets to the port they were hired to take her to, Felix lets her go it alone, which angers Tony enough that he follows her and ends his partnership with Felix. However, Irena finds herself in trouble when a hotel clerk realizes that she shouldn’t be there, and offers to keep quiet if she will sleep with him. When he hears about this, Tony (who had been planning to propose to Irena) decides to smuggle in a shipment of contraband to earn enough for them to live on. He tries to convince Felix to help, but he turns him down (but lets him take their boat for the job). However, Tony finds the Coast Guard waiting for him and abandons the boat to avoid being arrested. At the moment, he has no choice but to run away. He is certain, though, that it was Felix who tipped off the Coast Guard, and plans to get his revenge when he returns. After some time, he decides to come back, and gets a job on a freighter. However, the freighter collides with an ocean liner in very foggy weather, which causes a beam to fall and leave him trapped. When the port doctor, Sam Blake (Bernard Lee), is brought to the ship, he feels the best chance for Tony to get out is to have his legs amputated, but Tony refuses. Wanting to give him hope, the doctor goes looking for his old friends. But will the doctor’s efforts work, as filled with hate as Tony is?

After making Miss Sadie Thompson, Rita Hayworth again left the big screen as a result of her new marriage to singer Dick Haymes. During that time, she brought a lawsuit against Columbia Pictures in an attempt to have her contract terminated, but her case ended up being thrown out of court. Left without a choice, she agreed to do two more films for Columbia. Producers Irving Allen and Albert Broccoli had gotten the film rights to the 1956 novel Fire Down Below by Max Catto, and had planned to cast actress Ava Gardner in the lead. When she turned it down, they sought out Rita Hayworth (who had gone to Europe while waiting for Columbia to come up with a good film vehicle for her), who took the part. Joined by Robert Mitchum and rising star Jack Lemmon, they went to Trinidad and Tobago to do some location filming. Originally, the film was to be presented mostly in flashback, starting with some of what is currently the last scene, but the studio put it together in chronological order. In spite of the cast, though, the movie ended up losing money at the box office.

This was my first time seeing Fire Down Below, and I definitely would have to say that I liked it. For me, all three leads gave quite good performances, which certainly helped me to keep watching the movie, especially when Jack Lemmon’s Tony gets trapped on the ship. I know I liked the song “Limbo Like Me,” which was performed by the “Stretch” Cox Troupe (and it was stuck in my head for a while after, so I can identify with Tony and Edric Connor’s Jimmy Jean having it stuck in their heads and trying to do the limbo themselves). As I hadn’t read anything on the film beforehand, I thought the whole film worked well, but, upon reading about how the studio changed things around, I find myself thinking that there are aspects that certainly would have worked better had the studio left it the way the director originally intended it to be. But, we do get Rita Hayworth doing some dancing (and even Robert Mitchum gets in on it, even if it is only to get another guy away, but it’s still hilarious to watch). This was a very entertaining drama (one I certainly think was better than its original poor box office performance would have indicated), and I have no trouble whatsoever in recommending it!

What’s Old Is A New Release Again (2020) with… Fire Down Below (1957)

This movie is available on Blu-ray as part of the twelve film Rita Hayworth: The Ultimate Collection from Mill Creek Entertainment. This is one of the better looking films in the set. The color looks pretty good, and little (if any) dirt and debris is present. All in all, I think this set presents the best way to see this movie!

Film Length: 1 hour, 55 minutes

My Rating: 9/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Miss Sadie Thompson (1953) – Rita Hayworth – Pal Joey (1957)

Holiday Affair (1949) – Robert Mitchum – Home From The Hill (1960)

My Sister Eileen (1955) – Jack Lemmon – The Notorious Landlady (1962)

Miss Sadie Thompson (1953)Rita Hayworth: The Ultimate CollectionPal Joey (1957)

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