Monday, December 31, 2018

Strange Bedfellows (1965)




"She knew what she wanted when she saw what she wanted."

Strange Bedfellows (1965) stars Rock Hudson as Carter Harrison, a strait-laced American executive living in London. One day he meets feisty activist/painter Toni Vincente (Gina Lollobrigida). The two have instant chemistry and just 24 hours later are married. But they are as different as two people can be. She's an outspoken bohemian with a temper. He's a professional who likes to maintain the status quo. The two separate and don't see each other for 7 years. When Carter is up for a major promotion, his company's PR agent, Richard Bramwell (Gig Young), works on cleaning up Carter's image. They have two weeks to get Carter back together with his estranged wife. However Toni is already engaged to fellow Bohemian activist Harry (Edward Judd). When the two meet again, planning a divorce, they rediscover their undeniable attraction. Their physical chemistry brings them together and their personalities pull them apart. Things begin to escalate as Harrison prepares for his boss' visit to London at the same time Toni is planning to protest against censorship at the American embassy. What results is an outrageous series of events complete with Lady Godiva riding into London on a horse.

This film reunites Rock Hudson and Gina Lollobrigida after their romantic comedy Come September (1961). It's not nearly as good as their first collaboration but it does show what great chemistry and screen presence these two had. This movie is steaming hot. It puts the sex in sex comedy. There are two scenes in particular that are rife with sexual tension. In one the two meet with their lawyers about a divorce and cannot keep their eyes off each other. Toni tries to look away but can't help but steal glances and Carter boldly takes in every bit of Toni's figure while failing to light his cigarette. In another scene, Carter drops Toni off at her place and he makes this seductive walk in her direction and Toni can't help but be completely flustered. It's such a delight to see these '60s icons at their prime.

There is also a lot of gay subtext in this film. Rock Hudson frequently meets with Gig Young while in some state of undress. When Young's character Richard discusses Carter's state of affairs, he proclaims, "no more gay, married bachelor. It's got to be Carter Harrison, family man." There is a ridiculous scene in which Carter tries to communicate to Toni while she's in another cab via their two cab drivers and a radio dispatcher. Willful miscommunication has one cabbie telling another that Carter wants to have a baby with Harry Jones, Edward Judd's character. When the cabbie tells the radio dispatcher that the "husband has shown up" when Hudson enters Lollobrigida's cab, the dispatcher asks "his or hers?" And in another scene Toni invites protestors to stay at her place. Carter thinks he's going to bed with his wife Toni while the protestors sleep elsewhere. But while in bed he turns around to find that he's actually in bed with Harry.

Strange Bedfellows was a collaboration between filmmaking partners Norman Panama and Melvin Frank for their Panama and Frank Productions company. Panama and Frank met while studying at the University of Chicago and worked together for many years. Their collaboration resulted in such films as Thank Your Lucky Stars (1943), Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House (1948), White Christmas (1954), The Facts of Life (1960), and ended with The Road to Hong Kong (1962). Strange Bedfellows was an original idea by Panama and Frank and Frank went on to adapt the screenplay with writer Michael Pertwee. Frank also directed the film. It was shot on the Universal Studios lot (not in London alas!) and in Technicolor.

The costumes in Strange Bedfellows are to die for. Costume designer Jean Louis dressed Gina Lollobrigida in the most fun and colorful wardrobe. It was a bit too sophisticated a look for her character but made for great eye candy. Rock Hudson looks chic in his professional attire and I love Edward Judd's bohemian wardrobe.

As I mentioned before, Strange Bedfellows is not as good as Come September but worth watching to see Lollobrigida and Hudson together again. The part of an outspoken and feisty artist fits Gina Lollobrigida like a glove, even if her wardrobe doesn't always quite match. And Hudson is in his element as the suave bachelor. The beginning of the film is heavy on the narration which felt unnecessary. And the final 30 minutes of the film are one ridiculous scenario after another. The script tries to be too zany and had the writers pulled back a little bit it might have been more fun with a lot less of the craziness. I wish Judd's character Harry was more of a threat to Hudson's Carter. He seems more like a plot device than an important member of the love triangle. Not a perfect film but still fun if you enjoy zany '60s comedies.






Strange Bedfellows (1965) is available on Blu-ray and DVD from Universal Studios. You can purchase a copy at my MovieZyng store.



Thank you to Allied Vaughn for sending me a copy of Strange Bedfellows (1965) for review.

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