Night in the tropics. Jungle drums pound as a woman gazes out her bedroom window. The camera pulls out, tracking over acres of dark jungle, to settle behind a man standing on his porch, gazing at the woman’s bungalow in the distance.
Sure, the shot’s tracking over an obvious paper-mâché model, but kudos to director Alfred Green for trying. This is a movie whose reach exceeds its grasp.
The man in the shot is Hugh, played by William Powell. The woman is Phillipa, played by Doris Kenyon.
As the film opens, they’re en route to Khota, a small tropical island. Hugh has returned alone after supposedly running off with another man’s wife. Phillipa has come to marry the local doctor, whom she hardly knows. Hugh pursues Phillipa, but she rebuffs his advances.
After they arrive in Khota, Phillipa marries. The marriage leaves her unfulfilled. She wants him to sweep her off her feet; he wants her to find his socks.
Hugh and Phillipa flirt. Her resolve weakens. Things come to a head when Phillipa, believing her husband to be out of town, accepts Hugh’s invitation to dine at his bungalow.
Green aims for lusty romance but falls short, with too many characters delivering their lines while staring off at nothing in particular. But Powell proves impervious to the mediocre melodrama and carries the film with the best performance of his career thus far.