Even by the standards of 1960s melodrama, “Love Has Many Faces” is a weird and unintentionally hilarious piece of work.
At the time, the 1965 Lana Turner vehicle puzzled reviewers who couldn’t tell if it was meant to be mystery or a soap opera. The plot — such as it is – never seems to get started as the movie observes the lives of decadent, alcoholic gigolos and their rich playgirl customers on the beaches of Acapulco.
Lana Turner plays a super-wealthy woman – at one point, we find out that she has homes on almost every continent — who financed a series of kept men until settling down with one of them (Cliff Robertson) in what looks like a miserably unhappy marriage. Because the picture was made before the loosening up of censorship a few years later, we have to read between the lines and assume there is a lot of (off-screen) extramarital sex going on.
At the start of the movie, the body of one of Lana’s ex-gigolos washes up on a beach (in remarkably good condition) and the cops can’t decide if it was a suicide or murder. This element that seems major in the opening scenes is virtually forgotten about in the rest of the narrative (someone mentions in passing, near the end of the movie, that a mailed suicide note has turned up).
The plot is so disconnected and everyone in the movie is so unhappy that you might wonder if director Alexander Singer and screenwriter Marguerite Roberts were aiming for some kind of glossy variation on the 1960 Italian ennui classic “L’Avventura” where a bunch of jaded rich people search for a missing heiress (who is never found).
Most of the oddball humor and energy in “Love Has Many Faces” comes from supporting players, including a very fit Hugh O’Brian as the most venal of the beach gigolos. He spends most of the movie in a Speedo and gets the best lines. The guy hooks up with a rich vacationing American, played by Ruth Roman, and is so cocky that he grins as he shares his working philosophy — “Always treat a tramp like a lady and a lady like a tramp.”
Later, Hugh tries to blackmail Ruth with a Polaroid camera in his beach shack, but it’s hard to see what dirt he can have on a picture that he is taking from the other side of the room (The fact that she is on a very messy bed in a rundown gigolo’s lair?) Ruth sadly writes him a check for $1,000, telling him she doesn’t care about the picture – why would she? — but that he just blew a chance for more money from her. (She is one jaded single lady!)
Later, the gigolo makes a pass at Lana, who tells him, “You know Hank, you’re 90 percent man and 10 percent rat.”
“Any time you want the 90 percent just reach,” he says.
“I’d break my arm first,” Lana replies.
One of the “many faces” of love that the movie now seems to be hinting at, but never addresses, is the close relationship between Hugh and the younger man (Ron Husmann, below) he is mentoring as a male prostitute. The two guys live together, share clothes, and reference Fire Island. Are we supposed to be reading between the lines of a situation that couldn’t be dramatized in 1965 Hollywood?
The young man asks the older beach boy, “Is there anything you wouldn’t do for money?” and is told “If there is, I haven’t found it yet.”
Just when you think that nothing of much real import is ever going to happen in “Love Has Many Faces” Lana and the other beautiful people visit some sort of bullfighters’ camp near Acapulco where the star is gored by a runaway bull. The scene takes place with less than 10 minutes of the movie left and is edited so ineptly – with the bull appearing to charge furiously right into Lana’s midsection – that we assume Lana’s been killed, but she lives on for a teary reunion with her husband.
O’Brian delivers the movie’s tawdry moral — “Money may wrinkle, but it never gets old.”