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KISS AND MAKE-UP (Paramount, 1934), directed by Harlan Thompson, gives
promise as being some sort of domestic comedy about troubled marriage,
but in fact is a very silly, virtually plot less comedy dealing with
cosmetics. Starring Cary Grant, the story is set in Paris, France,
where he plays Maurice LaMarr, a doctor in charge of a modernistic
beauty salon in which women come to be made beautiful and glamorous. He
is loved by Annie Hensen (Helen Mack), his loyal secretary, however,
after encountering Eve (Genevieve Tobin), the wife of Marcel Caron
(Edward Everett Horton), whom he has made more beautiful than the rest,
he falls madly in love with her. After Marcel divorces his Eve, it
leaves her free to marry Maurice, who soon realizes his mistake after
he finds that she isn't really beautiful after all. During their
honeymoon after Maurice sings a song looking towards the waves at the
beach, Eve approaches him in saying, "Kiss me." Getting a full view of
a face full of cosmetics, he replies in a frightful way, "No, NO!" As
for Annie, who feels she has lost the man she loves, decides to run off
and marry Marcel.
With Grant in the role that appears to be Maurice Chevalier influenced, the film's introductory opening goes at great lengths in not only showcasing the facial clips of the major lead actors and their character roles, but a list of young starlets billed as "The Wampas Baby Stars of 1934" including some now obscure names as Lucille Lund, Jacqueline Wells (both of Universal's "The Black Cat" fame); Jean Gale, Hazel Hayes, Gigi Parrish, and much more. Look fast for future film star Ann Sheridan as one of the models who asks, "Doctor, what is that terrible noise?" in regards to some hammering. The supporting actors who partake in the story are Mona Maris as Countess Rita; Lucien Littlefield as Max Pascal; Toby Wing as Consuelo Claghorne; and Rafael Storm as Rolando.
A Paramount gag comedy that makes little sense, and getting plenty of laughs, includes several key elements where a woman customer comes to the shop to be made beautiful only to come out completely bald; and a chase climax, reminiscent to Laurel and Hardy's COUNTY HOSPITAL (1932), having Grant, becoming dizzy and confused while under either, going on a merry mad chase after Annie and Marcel in a taxi down a very crowded street.
Aside from comedy, which this movie has plenty to offer, contains two songs, the campy "Cornbeaf and Cabbage - I Love You" (sung by Helen Mack and Edward Everett Horton) and "Love Divided By Two" (sung twice by Cary Grant), by Ralph Rainger and Leo Robin, the latter used frequently through underscoring. In spite of Grant's reputation as a debonair leading man of screwball comedies, and a fine actor when it comes to heavy dramatics, he demonstrates how well he can sing, and how sparingly he's done so in his long career. Genevieve Tobin, on loan from Warner Brothers, is showcased in the usual manner as a free-spirited woman far from being loyal to the men who love her; Edward Everett Horton, with curly hair and red lips, as the jealous ex-husband to be; and Helen Mack (best known for her performance in RKO's THE SON OF KONG, 1933) satisfactory as the good but sensible girl. Grant and Mack would share another movie, the better known comedy of HIS GIRL Friday (Columbia, 1940), with Grant and Rosalind Russell in the leads, and Miss Mack in a smaller but notable performance.
KISS AND MAKE UP is harmless fun, enjoyable by those who appreciate this sort of material where writers tend to throw in anything to stretch out the story to feature length 70 minutes. Interestingly, of all the movies from the Paramount library that were broadcast on New York City's WPIX, Channel 11 (1965-1974), KISS AND MAKE-UP survived the longest, making its final air date on that station in mid 1975 before drifting to obscurity.
KISS AND MAKE UP may not be top-of-the-line Cary Grant, but no disaster by any means either. It's a sort of offbeat film Grant might have looked back and asking himself, "Did I really do this?" Distributed to DVD in 2006, on the double-bill with another Grant comedy, THIRTY DAY PRINCESS (1934), KISS AND MAKE-UP is a worthy re-discovery. (***)
Dr. Maurice Lamar is a world famous, egotistical, Parisian plastic surgeon.
He prides himself on making women slaves to their new beauty. Maintenance,
always maintenance. Overt innuendo abounds that his patients, once
transformed by his skilled hand, become his conquests. His affairs he refers
to as "lovely episodes."
Enamored of his masterpiece, Madame Caron, they soon ditch her husband and marry. We soon see that "Dr. Frankenstein" has married his monster. The moral of the story is that Dr. Lamar discovers that it's no fun to love (Kiss) a woman,when that same woman has become obsessed with her looks, figure and Makeup to the exclusion of all else. Beauty, truly, is in the eye of the beholder.
An underrated picture of veritable wackiness, KISS AND MAKE UP is a
forerunner to the classic screwball comedies of the late-thirties and
early-forties. The storyline of a progressive plastic surgeon (Cary
Grant) who becomes involved with his greatest creation (Genevieve
Tobin) has a great FRANKENSTEIN-esquire aura that contains some
surprisingly dark overtones for a film comedy of this era a darkness
which is present, but not really explored. The film is benefited
greatly by Cary Grant, who gets an early chance to display his grand
prowess at farce, which is one of the many qualities that inevitably
made him a huge Hollywood star. The rest of the cast is also rounded
out acceptably, with Tobin, Helen Mack, and Edward Everett Horton all
turning in fine work.
On the downside, the film is extremely episodic, which is not inherently a problem in many cases, but here it prevents the picture from gelling into the knockabout farce it intended to be. Also somewhat detrimental is director Harlan Thompson's approach to the material, which often lacks energy or pizazz; make no mistake, Thompson's work is perfectly acceptable, but I could not help but imagine how truly dynamic the film could have been with Howard Hawks or (later) Peter Bogdanovich in the director's chair. Thompson earns major points for the frantic final chase scene, however, which concludes the film with a thunderous, side-splitting, wig-ripping bang! The movie as a whole is solidly enjoyable, but this terrific end sequence alone raises it's rating by at least a notch or two.
I liked this movie more than I had expected. It is a light comedy that
kept me entertained throughout. At one moment we see an American couple
going to a traditional Italian restaurant (chequered tablecloths, vines
overhead and all) ordering corned beef and cabbage. As if this weren't
enough, they break out in song: I love - cooorned beef and cabbage!
It's disarmingly silly. Dark haired lead actress Helen Mack is cute and
funny, a kind of an early Holly Hunter.
Kiss and Make-Up delivers mainly eye candy. At the center of its story is a beauty parlor in Paris which is also a gym and a clinic with the general aim to improve the physical appearance of the female. Cary Grant is the owner and boss of the outfit and supposed to be a kind of a health guru who helps nature along with creams and ointments etc. which he also markets through radio programs and books (a kind of Dr Lovell?).
A great many beautiful girls and bare legs are on display, and the whole set up of the parlor is just as good and elegant as one designed by famous set designer Cedric Gibbons for the later made, more famous movie The Women. Also very notable is some of the set design during the middle part of the movie which takes place in a Mediterranean holiday resort. It is clearly inspired by the Italian version of Art Deco, with curved walls and furniture, circular windows, slender railings and discreet floor patterns. The hotel suite of the couple played by Grant and Genevieve Tobin features a kind of a gallery on very slender chromium pillars in front of a huge window which leads to a big terrace with a view of a historical Italian town on a sea or a lake shore. It's just great to imagine those smart people sitting in a Hollywood bungalow leafing through the latest issues of Italian architectural magazines like Casabella or Domus.
maybe I'm a fool for silly Depression comedies, but even though "Kiss
And Make-Up" is a very minor comedy, and not particularly well written,
it does have most of the elements needed for people who love pre-code
Depression films to enjoy it.
Everybody knows that Cary Grant's Paramount films were generally weak, and that he was nowhere close to establishing his screen personality during these early years.
I had never seen this film before, and I quite enjoyed it. But, jeez, gang, you haven't lived until you've heard Cary Grant, Helen Mack and Edward Everett Horton attempt to belt out the songs! Absolutely incredible. Some of the worst examples of singing in a film from a major studio.
You will enjoy it too....if you sit back and not expect a "Citizen Kane"-quality screenplay!
A year before Kiss And Make Up came out from Paramount, Sam Goldwyn
produced Roman Scandals for Eddie Cantor in which Cantor sang the song
Keep Young And Beautiful. While watching this film, it occurred to me
that rather than any of the songs that Leo Robin and Ralph Rainger
wrote for this film, Keep Young And Beautiful could have served better
as the theme for Kiss And Make Up.
Not only that Eddie Cantor should have played the part that Cary Grant did in this film. A few more sight gags and the kind of humor that Cantor did would have served this film better.
With only a few establishing shots to make us believe this is Paris in the film, Cary Grant plays a noted French plastic surgeon who has become a celebrity of sorts with his success rate in turning out women who rate being called a 10. He guarantees doubling their rating value. One woman, Genevieve Tobin is pleased with his work, but her husband Edward Everett Horton is not. Finally Cary has a secretary in his office played by Helen Mack who sees him as a human being and not a celebrity beauty queen maker.
When MGM's compilation film That's Entertainment was released audiences were treated to a clip from Suzy which came out two years later than Kiss And Make Up and had Cary Grant singing Did I Remember. He sings here some songs that surely have been served better had they been done by Paramount's singing star Bing Crosby. In Suzy Grant did the number for laughs, here someone thought maybe he could be a musical star. Big mistake. In fact Edward Everett Horton and Helen Mack singing an ode to that St. Patrick's Day delicacy Corned Beef And Cabbage was the musical highlight.
Not the best Cary Grant film though the wild taxi chase in the end does liven the film up somewhat.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
What starts off as a feature variation on the Eddie Cantor song Keep
Young and Beautiful from Roman Scandals quickly turns into My Baby Just
Cares For Me as beauty doctor Cary Grant finds out when he breaks up
the marriage of client Genevieve Tobin, marries her and learns that
life with a glamour girl ain't always so glamorous. Edward Everett
Horton is her ex who takes up with Grant's jilted secretary Helen Mack
who loved him from afar. Pre-code in every shape and form, this
features some deliciously raunchy dialog and plenty of innuendo.
At first, you think that the movie is going to be a plug for Max Factor, but then it suddenly switches to an obvious crack at the obsession with beauty and the genuine ridiculousness of the industry that still obsesses today. Ugly old women yearn to look decades younger, those still young prove themselves to be shamefully materialistic and foolish. Not much has changed in 80 years! Grant gets to sing a bit and Tobin spoofs the ridiculousness of vanity with delightful tongue in cheek. Horton as usual is a delightfully funny pompous fool. Mack is noble but nobody's fool yet her pairing with Horton is never convincing. If you pick up on the parody, you'll see past the shallowness and find a handsome romantic comedy with plenty to enjoy.
Cary Grant, Genevieve Tobin, Helen Mack, and Edward Everett Horton star
in "Kiss and Make Up," a 1934 film. Grant plays a popular plastic
surgeon, Dr. Maurice Lamar (the film takes place in France). He falls
for one of his makeovers (Tobin) who leaves her husband (Horton) and
marries Lamar. Despite her looks, Lamar soon realizes he has created a
monster. Meanwhile, Lamar's secretary Anne is in love with him and
becomes increasingly unhappy as he seems to need her constantly but
takes her for granted. Can you guess what happens? This actually is a
musical with three songs, and Grant does his own singing. He must have
- no one could have dubbed his awful tremolo. Other than that, he
actually had a pleasant singing voice.
A very slight comedy, and I was surprised to read that Carole Lombard was supposed to play the role of the secretary but turned it down. Good move. And that casting wouldn't have worked. Lombard was certainly too beautiful to have been ignored by Lamar. Mack was pretty without being an absolute knockout. Genevieve Tobin does a good job as the annoying Eve, and Horton is funny as her husband, who wants his wife's old looks and personality back.
This film was really beneath Grant but he was too new to turn it down. He is perfect for the role of a handsome, dapper womanizer and is very good.
See it for the young Grant, but don't expect too much.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Because KISS AND MAKE-UP was made very early in his career, I guess I
can understand why Cary Grant could make such a bad film. But make no
mistakes--this is a bad film. While the first 90% isn't great, the
finale is truly one of the most wretched scenes in Grant's wonderful
The film has very unusual casting because Cary is cast as a plastic surgeon and beauty guru of sorts. He is so famous that his practice is making him a fortune, he has a radio show and women adore him. Through all this, he has a secretary who adores him. It's incredibly obvious to the audience and, of course, Cary can't see this--a movie cliché indeed. This potential romance with his nice secretary is nixed when a vain society lady falls for Cary. This lady is considered the ideal beauty and Cary is proud of his creation--the only trouble is that she's still married to Edward Everett Horton. though he is only too happy to give divorce her. Cary finds out why, as his new wife spends every second of the day working on her beauty--taking 4 and a half hours to dress for a dinner, eating lettuce and lean ham, refusing to go into the sun or swim. She's as much fun as an enema and the marriage fizzles almost immediately. At this point, Cary FINALLY realizes that his secretary is the woman for him---but she's about to marry Horton. So in a "madcap" finale, he chases her in a cab through the streets of Paris.
As for the finale, it truly stinks. It looks more like a chase scene from a 3 Stooges short--one of their poorer ones at that!! From the film to go from subtle comedy and romance to slapstick was abrupt and unnecessary. In fact, nothing about this ending worked at all and made me cringe. You'll just have to see it for yourself to understand how a sub-par Grant film became one of his worst due to this ending.
By the way, if you care, the worst film Cary Grant made during his great career was ONCE UPON A TIME--a film he made during the height of his fame. It's a "heart-warming" story of a cute little kid with a dancing caterpillar--and Cary is the promoter who wants to make them famous. It's so bad that it's actually worth seeing--just to see how bad it is!
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