Tyrone Power and his frequent co-star Loretta Young team up once again in this tale that aims to inject some history and exotic locales into its matinee trappings. Power plays a dashing French diplomat named Ferdinand de Lesseps who gets dispatched to Egypt to take over his father’s role as consul general. Young plays his sweetie back home in France, a royal with the ungainly moniker Countess Eugenie de Montijo. Left unexplained is any screenwriting justification for the completely fictional romance between these two real characters. They get just a few brief moments together at the beginning of the film, allowing the two actors to engage in their winning, although completely out of place, romantic banter. After that, Power is off to Africa, and Young only appears sparingly in the rest of the film.
Once in Egypt, Power falls under the spell of local beauty Toni Pellerin, played by the one-named French actress Anabella. Acting as his personal attaché, she leads him on a tour around the wilds of the region, giving the production team the opportunity to show off both their foreign locales and her foreign charms while the pair fall in love. While Anabella is easy on the eyes, she completely lacks the charisma and chemistry of Loretta Young, making it all the more surprising to learn that she was married to Power in real life.
Even without knowing any of the real history of the Suez Canal, it’s completely obvious that the film makes no attempts at historical accuracy, instead focusing on romance, exotic scenery, and big-budget spectacle. In fact, the Canal is barely a subplot, with Power’s character just suddenly seizing upon the idea out of the blue one day and then effortlessly bringing its construction to fruition. Sure, he gets to age quite a number of years while overseeing its completion, but for a movie titled Suez there’s barely any actual focus on that subject.
With its laughable plot and shameful underuse of Loretta Young, the film gets by solely on its location shooting and the strength of Power. There’s also a well-done sandstorm near the end of the film that showcases decent effects for its era. It’s fun to watch Power chew up the local scenery, but without a strong match for his nimble repartee and with a completely unsatisfying and uninformative narrative arc, this one is best left for only the most devoted Power fans.
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