The Las Vegas Story

The Las Vegas Story

The thing about having Howard Hughes produce a movie is that the man never seemed to know what kind of a movie he wanted to make. He wanted a musical, no he wanted a noir, no he wanted an adventure, or maybe a comedy, no no he wanted a murder mystery. It must have been like being supervised by a hyperactive Pekingese. This worked well at least once, with the lovably strange HIS KIND OF WOMAN. With THE LAS VEGAS STORY, despite Hughes’ purported desire to showcase the gambling mecca he was heavily invested in, what you get is a film about how great Jane Russell looks in 1952 dress bodices, occasionally accessorized with the plot’s MacGuffin, a Cartier diamond necklace. Advertorial touches include a showstopping Las Vegas hotel penthouse, one posh casino and another that looks like it was patched together from decade-old THE OUTLAW leftovers. (I like how the posh casino manager says proudly that they never close, and a few scenes later they’re vacuuming the carpet of his obviously closed gambling floor.) Vincent Price gets everything right about gambling addicts in his role as Russell’s husband, but the movie doesn’t care about him or indeed gambling. Victor Mature directs an array of pained glances at Russell, until such time as he must commandeer a helicopter to rescue her from the villain, in an action sequence that feels like the one time director Robert Stevenson worked up an interest in the proceedings. There is a bizarre (even for 1952) subplot about the wisdom of letting underage teenagers get married. Hoagy Carmichael narrates and contributed a couple of good songs performed by Russell (“I Get Along Without You Very Well,” “My Resistance Is Low”) as well as one number that is sheer horror (“The Monkey Song”) although I should admit the era’s cutesy novelty songs give me the willies. It’s not good, but it’s enjoyable, especially if you like Russell, and I do.