The TROPIC ZONE Files
Films with Rhonda Fleming that have not yet been released in good quality on DVD or Blu-ray are presented in the “Files”
In 1952, producers William H. Pine and William C. Thomas bought the rights to Tom Gill’s novel “Gentlemen of the Jungle” (G. P. Putnam’s Sons, New York, 1939) specifically for Rhonda Fleming for TROPIC ZONE, the last of the four films under her first contract with them. “The tropics where blood runs hot” promises the new edition from Dell Publishing Company, and continues: with a price on his head and the hand of the world against him, a down-and-out young beachcomber is forced into a treacherous conspiracy against a lovely girl who operates a banana plantation in a Central American republic. There is quality in the man and he meets the chalenge squarely. Fighting tremendous and dangerous odds, he blazes his way along a twisty path of breath-taking adventure and flaming romance to win an exciting duel of wits.
In TROPIC ZONE Flanders White (Rhonda Fleming) operates a banana plantation in Puerto Barrancas, where Hans Lukats (John Wengraf), dishonest town boss and shipping head, crookedly controls the independent growers via his export power. Dan McCloud (Ronald Reagan) lands in the place on a plane pilofied by Tapachula Sam (Noah Beery), and accompanied by entertainer Elena (Estelita), who is in love with him. Lukats hires McCloud to serve as foreman for Flanders but his real job is to disrupt Flanders’ operations, now managed by Bert Nelson (Grant Withers). Instead, McCloud falls in love with Flanders. Action in the outdoor Technicolor adventure drama boils when McCloud goes about exposing Lukats, reaches an exciting climax (from the press book by Paramount Pictures).
In the press:
Producer William C. Thomas:
„As the fermenting bananas mellowed, TROPIC ZONE was the most talked-about picture on the Paramount lot. Gamblers took even-money bets on which would go first – the actors or bananas. The actors wouldn’t touch the bananas, and they wanted to go!“ („Hollywood’s Fabulous Dollar Bills; or, How to Make Money Making Movies,“ 1970).
„A typical western plot is transported to a tropical banana-growing country for this round of love and adventure offered under the Pine-Thomas banner … Reagan and Miss Fleming, the latter very attractive in Technicolor and several brief outfits designed by Edith Head, make a pleasing hero-heroine team. Estelita as a fiery café entertainer with a big yen for Reagan gives Miss Fleming some competition“ (Dec. 17, 1952).
Ian and Elisabeth Cameron:
„The inevitable romance is complicated by the presence of a third party, a jolly little singer who does most of her numbers dressed up as a chicken. Such a lady is not to be taken seriously as a rival to Rhonda … Nevertheless Rhonda is keen to see her: ‘They say she has a special appeal to the men. I’d like to study her technique.’ When they meet, Estelita tells her with raised-eyebrow defiance, ‘You try to take my Danny away and I think I kill you!’ ‘Some other time, please,’ replies Rhonda undeterred. The next day she’s discovered practising a few wiggles with bare midriff (or slightly above mid – because of Hollywood’s remarkable attitude at the time to the human navel)” („Broads,“ London 1969).
The TROPIC ZONE Gallery:
Click on thumbnails to see gallery
(German title: Tropische Abenteuer)
USA 1953 (Pine-Thomas Productions/Paramount Pictures), 94 min., 35 MM (1.37:1), Technicolor.
Producers: William H. Pine, William C. Thomas; Director: Lewis R. Foster; Screenplay: Lewis R. Foster (based on the novel by John Gill); Cinematography: Lionel Lindon; Technicolor Color Consultant: Monroe W. Burbank; Editor: Howard A. Smith; Music: Lucien Cailliet; Art Direction: A. Earl Hedrick, Hal Pereira; Set Decoration: Sam Comer, Ray Moyer; Make-up: Wally Westmore; Costume Design: Edith Head.
Cast: Ronald Reagan (Dan McCloud), Rhonda Fleming (Flanders White), Estelita Rodriguez (Elena Estebar), Noah Beery Jr. (Tapachula Sam), Grant Withers (Bert Nelson), John Wengraf (Lukats), Argentina Brunetti (Tia Feliciana), Maurice Jara (Macario), and others.
Premier: Jan. 1953; US box office rank (in the year of release): 158; US domestic actual box office grosses: $2.1 million.