When You Get Really Close to a Movie Screen, Film Emulsion Looks like…
Boiling Sand

The closest thing produced in the History of Cinema that could approximate the hamfisted, insinuating and obsessively repetitive rhetoric of this year’s U.S. Republican presidential candidates must be Columbia’s 1965 scandalous hootenanny of liquor and sex, LOVE HAS MANY FACES.

This movie, lensing lusty and hustling lifestyles of Acapulco expats from beachbums to millionaires, brings tasty elements like wrongful death and sexual blackmail into the plot mix; however, the movie’s baseline — and the obsession of almost every character — brings it back to the knowledge that Lana Turner’s character, Kit Jordon, loves to fuck.  And somehow that’s a bad thing.

In a parallel manner to Republican communication strategies, LHMF‘s script finds as many ways (within the standards of mid-1960s censorship) to cloak itself in self-fabricated, self-comforting moral superiority while fixing a voyeuristic (yet spurning) gaze at Lana’s urge to leap on the nearest available man.  As with candidates and their stump speeches, this issue is repeated obsessively, despite the protestations of those who obsess that the topic is distasteful.

The era of the film’s release, 1965, was when the Production Code’s enforcement was slipping, so in many ways the film plays like a pre-Code film, where risqué topics (like abortion and sex for pay) are talked about but never actually shown.  This probably explains one serious fault in the film:  it’s top-heavy in dialog with a lack of real movie moments — everyone stands and delivers what they’re feeling, disclosing their motivations, but the camera seldom gets a chance to do its real job.

OMG!  Lana gets gored by a bull in this one!

Yet this constant dribble of crypto-insinuation and innuendo makes LHMF one of those rare ‘bad’ movies that plays better with another viewing:  when you de-code the taboo topics they’re talking about, you know what the hell they’re getting at the second time around.

The responsibility for its weaknesses in filmmaking language seems due to front office devotion to the script, making sure the titillation stays intact, plus perhaps demands of the top performers.  (Forty years ago, Pauline Kael explained to me the reason mega-stars like Dean Martin, Sinatra or Taylor and Burton made such awful movies on location during the ‘sixties was because they would only work for a few hours each morning so they could golf and swim all afternoon.  It’s an easy conjecture that a similar situation could have happened with Turner at one of her favorite destinations.)  The lackadaisical feel of the film doesn’t seem due to any shortcomings of director Alexander Singer.  A high school friend of Stanley Kubrick, Singer also entered the movies via camerawork.  (When James Wong Howe made a 1954 documentary in New York on Chinese American artist Dong Kingman, Singer was his camera operator.)  Before LOVE HAS MANY FACES Singer showed a mature hand on his first movie, the visually and verbally literate cult feature, COLD WIND IN AUGUST, about an aging stripper’s infatuation with an innocent young man.  Afterward, he helmed many episodes of the rulebreaking, hypercinematic TV series The Monkees.

But Singer’s fresh talent seems weighted down by the unwieldiness of the production package assembled by the front office, and perhaps the dictates of the veteran heavy-players overruling the talented-yet-rookie director.  As with almost all later Lana Turner vehicles beginning with the box office goldmine of 1957’s PEYTON PLACE and continuing with Ross Hunter epics like IMITATION OF LIFE and PORTRAIT IN BLACK, packaging was everything.  This time it’s a layer cake of stars on the wane (Turner, Ruth Roman), those in peak form (Cliff Robertson, Hugh O’Brien), and those on the upswing (Stephanie Powers), with no scrimping for the cake’s icing:  big paycheck professionals signed on to give luxurious harmonics to the experience, like the deeply warm cinematography by legendary Joseph Ruttenberg and a score (with tie-in pop tune) by David Raksin (LAURA).  Marguerite Roberts (author of another hodgepodge of elliptical innuendo:  M-G-M’s postwar, kinda-sorta adultery-ish Greer Garson vehicle DESIRE ME), who was jumpstarting her career that stalled due to the Hollywood Blacklist, penned story and script.  But judging from her effort, perhaps she was rusty due to professional idleness during the ‘fifties.

For in LHMF, nothing really is at stake and there’s nothing to hang onto.  The whole film is stacked as titillation upon titillation (or probably back then as shock upon shock), which delivers an experience similar to listening to a tableful of bored tweens being pottymouthed at a McDonald’s on Saturday night.

Hmmm.. this movie has jokes about Oscar Wilde, Fire Island, and scenes like this?!

So this bread and circus offering of purple passion among the parasol drinks surprisingly isn’t much of a crowd-pleaser.  But what’s even more bizarre is how it’s stuffed with Gay eye-candy and Queerified (but unfortunately not Camp) outlooks:  the body of a beachboy washed ashore is in a position that looks like he’s begging to be fucked; at Hugh O’Brien’s entrance he’s nearly trampled by a gaggle of male admirers who can’t get close enough to him (in some scenes, his swimtrunks are so tight you can discern whether or not he’s circumcised); two beach studs shack up in a manner more emblematic of lovers than stallions-for-hire (fussing over who gets to wear the burgundy sport coat?!), etc.  There’s even a couple of jokes about Fire Island and Oscar Wilde.

Despite the lax morality of the plot, the tidy ending supports family values.  Cliff Robertson, tempted to stray from his marriage to Lana by philandering with young, fresh Stephanie Powers when both have rooms at the same hotel, is saved from wearing a Scarlet Letter by Powers’ sudden attack of turista.  (How poignant!)  And again, mirroring contemporary American conservatism, Lana gets gored by a bull as if a ‘punishment’ from the Almighty for being a ‘slut.’

However, going as far back as the American Mutascope Company’s 1897 footage of a belly-dancing Little Egypt, the movies have always tried to tease and titillate us.  This movie was Little Egypt, Class of ’65.  And if you’re in the properly receptive state, there are intentional and unintentional kicks to be sampled in this film. 

Watching the faked dramatics and ersatz clinches of LOVE HAS MANY FACES, it’s hard to believe that EASY RIDER was just three years down the road.  Yet, like LHMF, EASY RIDER had its teases too:  of free love and LSD.  Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose…

LOVE HAS MANY FACES can be watched instantly or downloaded at Amazon by clicking here.

PostModern Joan

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9 Comments to “LOVE HAS MANY FACES (1965)”

  1. chris schneider says:

    AS far as Marguerite Roberts is concerned … leave us not forget THE BRIBE (speaking of hodge-podges filled with with gorgeous people)!

    • Doug says:

      Never seen THE BRIBE, but now I’m curious! Especially because I’m interested in how MGM used John Hodiak during this period. Lots of interesting stuff such as LADY WITHOUT PASSPORT filmed in Havana with Hedy Lamarr.

  2. Ralph Benner says:

    Lana proved the impossible: that she really was an even worse actress in just about every succeeding picture. In “Love Has Many Faces,” she’s right on schedule to display her zilch talents at their next new low until she bottomed-out in “Madame X.” (She made several more movies but they don’t count because no one saw them.) Just what did Hollywood think it had with this boob-deficient wonder who used every can of hair spray on the studio lot? Actors kissing her endangered their health by having to inhale the fluorocarbons. Her glamour image is Max Factor petrifaction — you’re afraid to touch any part of her for fear she’ll crack open and ooze taxidermy goo. She hit her apex in “The Postman Always Rings Twice” and went sliding down Sluts’ Row ever since, with only sporadic detours. No one argues that she isn’t her own shrine to whorishness, which is the greatest of low pleasures she brought audiences, and there’s no argument that here in “Love” she isn’t the over-dressed symbol of the kind of rich bitch who once invaded Acapulco to relax supinely (which she does a lot of) when not slugging down the local brandy or sampling the meaty enchiladas in her swankienda. It may be a simple yet very depressing fact that Lana never enjoyed being what we enjoyed about her. (A respite of limited sorts in Bob Hope’s “Bachelor in Paradise,” in which her smiles suggest she might be having some fun. And in a 9 minute musical number filmed for The Ed Sullivan Show back in 1954 that TCM broadcasts occasionally, Lana appears to be having a good time doing a ditty entitled “The Safety Pin,” surrounded by Edmund Purdom, Richard Anderson, Steve Forrest and John Ericson.) But, but…“Love” has its goodies: Cliff Robertson and Hugh O’Brian as imported studs dueling for Lana’s trust fund, and Ruth Roman, looking a bit like a brunette Susan Hayward having packed on several pounds too many, waiting to use her checkbook. She asks Hugh, “What do I like about you?” and his response guarantees him an eternal spot in the annals of “Bad Movies We Love.” She is the sudzer’s only real fun. While Hugh looks pretty tasty, he seems to want to keep using his arms to cover up his bare-chestedness. This really is a disguised gayfest about the worship of bikini-clad beach bums, the kind that cruise the resort in two-seater Thunderbirds and drag as matadors, and with Edith Head getting into the spirit by designing a reported $1,000,000 (not pesos but dollars) worth of pre-Divine ensembles for Lana. There’s a Roy Thinnes twin named Ron Husmann as O’Brian’s roomie (more like bitch?) who doesn’t seem too interested in or up to the task of servicing pathetic Virginia Grey. The early 60s Acapulco where so much of the inaction takes place is nostalgically uncrowded, if brown from draught, with waiters in jackets and ties serving the boozers escaping their hangovers under palapas.

  3. Doug says:

    Some people say that when Liz Taylor is on the screen, no matter how bad the movie is, they just can’t take their eyes off her. That’s how I am with Lana. I drink her in. And her acting could be just as shallow as Liz’s (altho Liz definitely hit some high points in her career). I love Lana’s version of THE SAFETY PIN, and her entourage was Stud Heaven. (Do you think she was really doing the talk/singing or was it dubbed?)

    • Ralph Benner says:

      Took another look at it over at youtube and the beginning appears to be lipsynched by the boys from a previous recording, and then at some point recorded live on the set? Lana sounds as if she’s doing it live, with the mics not catching her voice as she turns. The great Kay Thompson wrote the material years before, and she, as well as Judy, probably helped Lana in private rehearsal.


      • Doug says:

        Chorus and orchestra were probably recorded together, then Garland (and later Turner) came in and did the lead tracks. Just as films have separate Music & Effects Track and Dialog Tracks which facilitates foreign language dubbing for international release. I really wish Greer Garson had disobeyed her mother and done the original. Those in the know said she had a wicked and ironic sense of humor, and this number would have finally let that shine.

      • Doug says:

        I also have to say (speaking as a career sound man in the Industry) that I’m impressed that you picked up Lana’s voice going off-mic as she turned. Nice observation. Do you work in the Industry?

        • Ralph Benner says:

          No, but I’ve learned a lot by listening, and I’m a very good friend of Patrick Drummond, whose credits are too long to list here but can be viewed over at IMDb.


          Now, I have a question for you: why aren’t you uploading more? Your comments are terrific.

          • Doug says:

            Thanks! I’d love to write more on movies. However, since I’m working in China now, I lose a lot of work when I try to post to this site. Something to do with servers down for maintenance in the middle of the night in the USA, which is afternoon for me in China.

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