|Directed by||Richard Thorpe|
|Written by||Manchester Boddy (story)|
|Produced by||Edwin H. Knopf|
|Cinematography||George J. Folsey|
|Edited by||Ben Lewis|
|Music by||Bronislau Kaper|
Malaya is a 1949 MGM war film set in colonial Malaya during World War II directed by Richard Thorpe and starring Spencer Tracy and James Stewart. The supporting cast features Lionel Barrymore, Sydney Greenstreet, Valentina Cortese, John Hodiak, Richard Loo, Gilbert Roland and DeForest Kelley.
In January 1942, the month after the United States entered World War II, reporter John Royer returns to the United States. He goes to see his friend, newspaper publisher John Manchester, about a scheme to smuggle desperately needed rubber out of Japanese-occupied Malaya. Manchester, though he has been selected by the government to deal with the rubber shortage, does not seem interested. However, later, government agent Kellar takes Royer to a meeting with Manchester and others. Royer is granted approval to put the smuggling plan into action.
Royer needs the help of his old friend, the smuggler Carnaghan. He succeeds in getting Carnaghan released from Alcatraz (where the reporter's exposé had landed him) to help. They slip into Malaya and contact Carnaghan's associate, the Dutchman, who recruits a gang for them from customers in his saloon, including Romano. Carnaghan also renews his acquaintance with the saloon's singer, Luana from Italy.
Using money and intimidation, they succeed in purchasing all the available rubber, but eventually the Japanese commander, Colonel Tomura, gets wind of the scheme. On the last trip to transport the remaining rubber - belonging to part-German plantation owner Bruno Gerber - to a waiting freighter, Carnaghan smells an ambush. He forces Gerber to confess that he tipped off Tomura. Royer decides to try going around the ambush, but Carnaghan refuses to go with him. Royer is killed by the waiting soldiers.
Tomura hints to the Dutchman that he would be willing to look the other way and let the rubber go in return for gold. Despite the Dutchman's certainty that Tomura is lying, the cynical Carnaghan takes him up on his offer. The Dutchman is right; Carnaghan is captured by Tomura. He takes Tomura to where the freighter lies hidden, but when a Japanese warship arrives, it is met by two PT boats, which proceed to sink it with torpedoes. Carnaghan first shoots the soldiers guarding him, then Tomura, but is himself wounded in the exchange of gunfire.
When Malaya is liberated by the Allies, Kellar - hoping to present Carnaghan with a medal - tracks the smuggler to an island where he has settled down with Luana. Carnaghan refuses the honor, and tells Kellar to give the medal to the Dutchman.
- Spencer Tracy as Carnaghan
- James Stewart as John Royer
- Valentina Cortese as Luana, bargirl and Carnaghan's former girlfriend
- Sydney Greenstreet as The Dutchman. This was Greenstreet's last picture.
- John Hodiak as Kellar
- Lionel Barrymore as John Manchester
- Richard Loo as Colonel Tomura
- Gilbert Roland as Romano
- Roland Winters as Bruno Gerber, a plantation owner
- DeForest Kelley as Lieutenant Glenson
The film was based on Manchester Boddy's plan to get rubber out of Japanese-held Malaya after a fire destroyed a large part of the US government's supply of raw rubber at the Firestone Tire & Rubber Company's plant in Fall River, Massachusetts. The character John Manchester, portrayed by Lionel Barrymore, was based on Boddy.
The film was originally developed by Dore Schary for RKO under the title Operation Malaya. Howard Hughes rejected both Operation Malaya and Battleground, which led Schary to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. The film was completed at MGM in late 1948 and delayed release due to hesitation about making a film about World War II.
This film's shooting was the first occasion on which James Stewart worked with Spencer Tracy since his screen debut in Murder Man (1935) in which he had a minor role, as Shorty, and had sixth billing.
The New York Times critic Bosley Crowther called the film "a rousing, old-fashioned thriller about bold men with wily minds and crushing fists. Scenarist Frank Fenton crowded plenty of action into the script and Richard Thorpe's direction keeps the screen pulsing with excitement".
- The Eddie Mannix Ledger, Los Angeles: Margaret Herrick Library, Center for Motion Picture Study.
- p. 187 Mavis, Paul The Espionage Filmography: United States Releases, 1898 through 1999 McFarland, 3 Mar 2011
- p. 724 Porter, Darwin Howard Hughes: Hell's Angel Blood Moon Productions, Ltd., 2005
- p, 232 Parish, James Robert & Mank, Gregory W. The Hollywood Reliables Arlington House, 1980
- Bosley Crowther (February 23, 1950). "The Screen: Six Newcomers Mark Holiday; Capitol's 'Malaya' Has Tracy and Stewart in Leads-- Two Imports Offered Walt Disney's Feature-Length 'Cinderella,' at the Mayfair, Heads List of Arrivals At the Capitol At the Criterion At the Rialto At the Palace At 55th St. Playhouse". The New York Times.
- "Top Grosses of 1950". Variety. January 3, 1951. p. 58.