Part of the effect of an extended project seeing a lot of similar films is that the repetitions bear noting even at danger of retreading familiar ground. To that end, Calcutta (John Farrow, Paramount) is typical on a number of fronts. For starters, it represents a vein of Hollywood Orientalism that sometimes colored all aspects of narrative, music, and mise-en-scene but particularly marked subgenres of "exotic" locale. From the imdb plot summary:
Neale [Alan Ladd] and Pedro [William Bendix] fly cargo between Chungking and Calcutta. When their buddy Bill is murdered they investigate. Neale meets Bill's fiancée Virginia [Gail Russell] and becomes suspicious of a deeper plot while also falling for her charms.
Paramount seems to have specialized in this material: their 1943 Night Plane from Chungking was itself a remake of their Shanghai Express. I'll have more to say about this orientalism when I write up Universal's Singapore, but in some respects Calcutta muddles Eastern geography further, combining India, Burma, and China in some strange unspecified cultural imaginary that's both incidental (the main characters are white and American) and not (the noir sense of enigma draws metonymically from the "enigma" of the East).
The film, too, exemplifies a workhorse classicism, neither loose nor flourishing in its style. The blocking, for instance, anticipates character movement as a series of distinct compositions.
I have not done the research, but the style strikes me as a well-made B, an intermediary programmer (A or B), or at best low-A film. The narrative is not as fully developed, nor the production values as high as Paramount's more prestigious A pictures.
Finally, while like many noirs, the femme fatale is drawn in full unknowability, the lighting obsessively distinguishes a harsh, dark light on Ladd from a glowing bright light on Russell.
I find Ladd's star image fascinating. I think there's a real study to be done to explain its dimensions and appeal, historically. There's a case to be made that he marked a new style of American screen masculinity (hat tip to Marc Vernet for his observations along these lines - "Film Noir on the Edge of Doom"). And perhaps more than stars whose images seem immediate, something about Ladd's image resists semiology: what's most important in it is an apparent spectatorial desire for sadistic, suave patriarch.