Showing posts with label Deborah Kerr. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Deborah Kerr. Show all posts

Monday, March 19, 2018

Cinema Shame: The Grass is Greener (1960)

Anyone who knows me knows I love Robert Mitchum. He's my favorite actor. Bar none. So why did it take me so long to watch him in The Grass is Greener (1960)? Well I was getting around to it. It's been on my to-be-watched list for years. There aren't many Mitchum comedies so maybe I was saving this for a rainy day. When I was working on my Cinema Shame list for 2018 I decided I was finally going to sit down and watch it. Perhaps I should have kept waiting.

The Grass is Always Greener is a genteel British comedy starring four Hollywood heavyweights: Cary Grant, Deborah Kerr, Robert Mitchum and Jean Simmons. Earl Victor Rhyall (Cary Grant), his wife Lady Hilary (Deborah Kerr) and their two children live in a sprawling British estate that the Rhyalls can't afford to keep. Even their butler Trevor (Moray Watson) has little to do and offers to take a pay cut, which they refuse. To make ends meet the couple harvest mushrooms and opened their estate, with all it's antique furniture and art, as a museum open the general public. One day, an oil rich Texas millionaire, Charles Delacro (Robert Mitchum), wanders into the private part of the estate and meets Hilary. He is enchanted by her and her by him. The two begin an affair. What Hilary doesn't know is that her husband Victor is on to her but let's her travel to London to see Delacro, under other pretenses of course, hoping she'll wise up and come back to him. Hattie Durant (Jean Simmons), Victor's old flame and Hilary's London friend, gleefully gets caught up in the love triangle. She's a glamour queen, with too much time on her hands, who hopes to steal Victor away from Hilary. Will Hilary go back to her old life of growing mushrooms in a museum with her first love or will living a life of plenty with the handsome new stranger win her over?

The Grass is Greener was directed and produced by Stanley Donen. This is one of many films in the 1960s Donen worked on in Europe including Once More, with Feeling (1960), Surprise Package (1960), Charade (1963), Arabesque (1966), Two for the Road (1967), Bedazzled (1967) and Staircase (1968). Donen and Cary Grant own the company Grandon Productions which produced Indiscreet (1958) and The Grass is Greener.  After their film Indiscreet, Donen and Grant bought the rights to
the British stage play by Hugh Williams and Margaret (Vyner) Williams which premiered in 1956 and had a successful run in the West End. Stage actor Moray Watson played the part of Trevor the butler in the production and was the only actor from the original cast to appear in the film adaptation.

Grant initially turned down the role of Victor. Actor Rex Harrison came on board. When Harrison's wife Kay Kendall became ill, she died soon after, he had to drop out and Grant stepped in. According to Grant biographer Marc Eliot, Grant insisted the movie be shot in London so he could spend time in his home country. Deborah Kerr had been avoiding the cool English lady roles but wanted to appear again with Grant, Mitchum and Simmons. Mitchum had been in London filming The Sundowners, along with Kerr, and stuck around to make this movie.

The cast members were quite familiar with each other. In addition to The Sundowners, Mitchum and Kerr appeared together in Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison (1957). Simmons and Mitchum appeared in She Couldn't Say No (1952) and Angel Face (1953). Simmons and Kerr were in Black Narcissus (1947) and Young Bess (1953). Kerr and Grant were in Dream Wife (1953) and An Affair to Remember (1957). For Grant and Mitchum, however, this was their only film together. Off screen they were polar opposites which worked for their on screen personalities. But inevitably they clashed on set. Grant worried that Mitchum's coolness made him look uptight and Mitchum worried that Grant's dialogue heavy role made him look like a man of too few words. Which it did on both counts. Mitchum biographer Lee Server points out that Grant and Mitchum were served poorly by the material. The same could be said for Kerr and Simmons. In his interview with Stanley Donen, author Marc Eliot remarked "Donen remembers the film as a milestone of sorts, marking the end of a certain type of sophisticated British comedy, before the antic humor of Peter Sellers arrived and dominated the English cinematic 1960s.

The cast and crew were made up of some of the most talented names of the era. There was original music by Noel Coward. Simmons wardrobe was designed by Christian Dior (and Kerr's by Hardy Amies). Moray Watson struck me as familiar but I couldn't quite pinpoint him. When I looked him up I was pleased to see that he also played one of my favorite characters, the Brigadier, in the British mini-series The Darling Buds of May.

Unfortunately, The Grass is Greener was a bore. Not even the amazing cast, beautiful sets, a mid-century aesthetic I so adore and Simmons' gorgeous Dior wardrobe could have saved this for me. The allure of having not seen the movie all these years outweighed any pleasure I experienced actually watching it.  Perhaps for me the grass seemed greener on the other side when it really wasn't. The movie wasn't a complete loss though. Staring at Robert Mitchum didn't hurt (and yes I'd pick him over Cary Grant any day). Any scene with Simmons was a delight because she added much needed levity to the story. Also the duel scene was quite fun, even if it was because Grant, Mitchum and Watson wore thick-rimmed glasses, a style of the era I'm obsessed with.

The Grass is Greener (1960) is the second of eight films that I am watching for the 2018 Cinema Shame challenge. Check out my original list and stay tuned for more reviews! Special thanks to my good friend Frank who loaned me his Olive Films Blu-Ray copy of The Grass is Greener.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

The Arrangement (1969)

As the DVD sat snug in its Netflix sleeve, I was reluctant to take the extra step and to put The Arrangement (1969) into my DVD player. Approaching a movie you know nothing about is almost like going on a blind date, there is that internal conflict of either seeking security and safety and not going through with it, in case the experience would turn out to be traumatic, or taking a risk hoping that this time things might work out in your favor. In this case, what I thought might be a strange, weird '60s film that I wouldn't enjoy, would turn out to be a strange, weird '60s film that I did enjoy.

Based on his own novel, The Arrangement (1969) is a lesser-known Elia Kazan classic. Its a film that contemporary film afficianados might enjoy because of its chaotic, psychadelic, A.D.D. type of cinematography. Shots come at all sorts of strange and interesting angles and any remotely chronological timeline is thrown askew my patches of memory flashbacks. Watching this film felt new, fresh and invigorating in a way older films don't usually.

The story is about an ad executive, played by the ever superb Kirk Douglas, who suffers a major mid-life meltdown. He is torn between the life he leads, with his idyllic wife, played by Deborah Kerr, and his current job and the life he wants to lead, as a bohemian free-spirit with his lover, played by Faye Dunaway. The viewer is trapped in his mind, which is terribly chaotic making for amazing sequences.

I don't know how else to intrigue people enough to watch this film. So instead of rambling on and on about its merits, I'll simply leave you with a few crazy shots that I enjoyed in hopes that they might pique your interest.

1) Kirk Douglas hallucinating by the pool with a bunch of grapes which he dangles over the water's surface. In his imagination, the mythic Faye Dunaway emerges from the water to take a bite.

2) Kirk Douglas, again hallucinating, but this time flying an airplane over the city. The scene to which my mother reacted by saying "Ay yay yay! El loco va en un avion!" (Ay yay yay! The crazy guy is flying an airplane!)

3) After Deborah Kerr, tears up the naughty pictures she finds of Douglas and Dunaway at the beach, a neat camera trick shows live action in the scraps of the pictures left behind.

4) Kirk Douglas, hallucinating, (does he do anything else?). But this time its Kirk Douglas dressed as an ad executive, in bed with Kirk Douglas, in the buff as they both smoke cigars!

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