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Perhaps the director was trying for another PIRATE (Good Garland and Kelly musical) -- but this lame musical epoch falls flat. Sinatra and Kathryn Graysons voices do not blend well -- and their chemistry together lacks spark. The premise of Sinatra as a sweet guy who tries to impersonate his late "bandito" father is okay, but he seems awkward in the role. What's amazing and wonderful here, is how Sinatra can take a rather insipid song and make it seem special -- his phrasing and eloquence as a singer make you want to hear it again. When Grayson sings the same songs it's hard to believe she's not singing something entirely different and not nearly as interesting. She has her big moment with "Love Is Where You Find It" which suits her perfectly and shows off her abilities. The photography is lucious and both stars look appealing as do the costumes and sets. Co-stars Mildred Natwick and J. Carroll Nash put lots of energy into making the impossible work. Aside from Sinatra's singing there is a strange menage-a-tois dance with Ricardo Montalban, Cyd Charisse and Ann Miller. It's fascinating and weird. Montalban and Charisse were a wonderful dancing team and this number is a real oddity.
The Kissing Bandit was the third and final film that Frank Sinatra and
Kathryn Grayson co-starred at MGM with. The first two were Anchors
Aweigh and It Happened in Brooklyn. And in both Sinatra wooed and lost
Grayson. I guess the third time's the charm.
For romance maybe, but definitely not for screen image. Sinatra in his forty's films once again plays the nice little schnook only this time in toreador pants. Poaching on Tyrone Power's territory laid out in The Mark of Zorro, Sinatra plays the son of a man who was a hotel owner by day and The Kissing Bandit by night. He's gone and left California for an education and has come back ready to take Dad's place, but in the hotel business only. And where does he learn the hotel business, Boston.
Of course some of Dad's former gang members, grown a little old and paunchy led by J. Carrol Naish, want him to lead the gang again. But Frank's just not cut out for the outlaw life. But he does make a good impression on the Governor's daughter, Kathryn Grayson.
Somebody must have had it in for Sinatra at MGM to cast him in this after the bad reviews he got in Miracle of the Bells. Frank's in a part that was more suitable for Red Skelton. But since this was a musical, I guess the brain trust at MGM figured Kathryn Grayson had to have a singing co-star.
In fact the best number in the film are for her, Love Is Where You Find It. Also Ricardo Montalban, Ann Miller, and Cyd Charisse do a dance specialty that is nice. Frank's songs are nice, but nothing spectacular.
In later years, Sinatra would wince at the mention of The Kissing Bandit and with good reason.
Okay, so it's not West Side Story, but The Kissing Bandit is darned
cute. There were so many silly musicals throughout motion-picture
history, I'm surprised that this one is getting such a bad rap.
The 1940's, regardless of how thinly the stories were laid-on, was the most beautiful decade in history for films. The remarkable lighting, set, and costume design of the '40's can make just about every movie enjoyable. Sinatra and Grayson are delightful; any scene in which Kathryn appears is worth watching just because she was so adorable and lovely. Mildred Natwick's role isn't very vivid, but she's a wonderful actress no matter how small the part.
If you don't care for the silliness of the "filler", just fast-forward to any scene with singing, dancing, or an actress -- Heck three of the most beautiful and talented women in film are all in the same movie. Just enjoy the pretty colors and all will be well... sleep... sleeeep...
A strange post-World War II Technicolor curiosity from the Joe Pasternak musical unit at MGM, which had neither the budget nor the taste of the Arthur Freed unit on the same lot. Set in Mexican California as imagined by the Culver City art department, the bandit Chico is played broadly by the dialectician J. Carrol Naish (Irish) with a fake bulbous nose worthy of W.C. Fields; Don Jose by the Moscow-Art-Theater actor Mikhail Rasumny; and Ricardo by Hoboken-born Italian-American Frank Sinatra in his skinny bobby socker's heart-throb days. Along the way you'll see Ann Miller, Ricardo Montalban and Cyd Charrise dancing and not acting to choreography by soon to be director Stanley Donen. Future cowboy star Ben Johnson did some of the stunts. Cinematography by Robert Surtees is replete with soft- focus close-ups of Kathryn Grayson who often looks as if she was photographed through Vaseline. The film was directed by the Hungarian Laslo Benedek, best remembered today for THE WILD ONE (1963) with Brando. Sad to note, the real Mexicans in the cast were delegated to minor roles.
A klutzy young man returns West after being schooled in the hotel business via Boston; he quickly learns his friends in Spanish-colonized Old California expect him to fill his deceased father's shoes instead--that of a romantic thief known for kissing his female victims after robbing them. Colorful but silly M-G-M production has a great deal of talent before and behind the camera, but it never takes off. This might have been fun, second-string material for Abbott & Costello, but Frank Sinatra looks lost and embarrassed in the lead. Combination of raucous comedy and musical interludes are hindered by the poor staging (Sinatra is photographed singing at one point in a mirror, but one doesn't concentrate on his performance so much as noticing how odd the star appears reflected in this way!). Kathryn Grayson is the Governor's daughter who falls for Frank, and her high soprano trilling turns her singing scenes into self-parody. Aside from Robert Surtees' cinematography and the decent art direction, this "Bandit" remains kissless. * from ****
This rarely seen musical gets a bad rap probably because its as silly as it gets. It's not what audiences expected or could accept from MGM in 1948 or now. It starts silly and ends silly, and has equal amounts of good and bad in-between. The writers had a basic idea of Sinatra being weak-willed (similar to parts in Anchors Aweigh and On The Town) so it's not totally different than his other early films. The story meanders all over the place with comedy and musical sequences, a bizarre whip dance with Sono Osato (whose character doesn't show up again) and a total dud of a song called "Siesta". Movie rules: never have a musical number where everyone falls asleep on-screen; the audience will follow. Everyone works hard, especially the excellent character actors, and its tough to create the silly atmosphere. What can't be faulted are the outstanding MGM production values, the excellent "Love is Where You Find It" sung by Grayson and the generally good songs. This movie sat on MGM's shelf from 1947 with an eventual release at the end of 1948 due to poor audience previews and attempts to salvage the film. MGM added the "Fiesta" dance with Cyd Charisse, Ricardo Montalban, and Ann Miller after production ended to spice things up and it's probably the best thing in the movie. It's exciting, the music is propulsive, and the dancing and costumes are beautiful. The movie is cute, deluxe and enjoyable and certainly better many musicals of the period.
Frank Sinatra as a mild mannered young gent from Boston who arrives in
Old California expecting to run an inn, but instead is persuaded to
assume the persona of the notorious "kissing bandit" of the title, a
leader of highway robbers and a lady killer.
It's a Zorro-esque idea and it might have been an enjoyable romp with better writing and direction. The MGM production values are there, and so is some pretty good music. Walter Plunkett designed the costumes, and Stanley Donen choreographed. Robert Surtees shot it on the lavishly appointed MGM sound stages and on location in the Sierra foothills around Murphy's, California. It's beautiful to look at in Technicolor, and good to listen to, when music is featured. But the story fails to entertain.
The director, Laslo Benedek, whose first credited Hollywood job this was, went on to more prestigious projects like the film version of Death Of A Salesman, as well as the iconic Brando motorcycle picture, The Wild One. Musicals probably weren't his forte.
There's a good supporting cast in the acting department: Mildred Natwick, Mikhail Rasumny, Billy Gilbert, Clinton Sundberg, and J. Carrol Naish (sporting heavy makeup and a heavier accent). In the musical department, there's dancer Sono Osato (from Broadway's On The Town) in a stunning solo, as well as a "Dance Of Fury" from Ricardo Montalban, Ann Miller, and Cyd Charisse that is possibly the highlight of the film.
Kathryn Grayson is Sinatra's love interest; she looks lovely and gets to sing several nice numbers, the most famous of which, Love Is Where You Find It, was also sung that year by Jane Powell in a Pasternak musical, A Date With Judy. It's another highlight.
Frank Sinatra was not well cast in this film, he didn't want to make it and he was right. A fun actor in most of his MGM pictures, and later, a fine actor, he just seems unable to believe the situations he finds himself in, here.
I guess The Kissing Bandit is worth seeing once, but it's not a classic.
The Kissing Bandit was an attempt by MGM to build up Frank Sinatra as a
leading man. This is a lively, bright, and goofy comedy musical.
Sinatra plays Ricardo, a California born, Boston-bred young man who
returns to California to take over the family business, not knowing
that his father was the infamous Kissing Bandit. So named because he
kissed all the women after he was done with his thievery. Ricardo is
the last possible candidate to take up his father's mask. He is a
proper and uncoordinated, and in his funny entrance he literally
crashes through the inn that his father owned, having fallen off of his
horse. J. Carroll Naish plays the comic relief on the male side as
Chico, who was Ricardo's father's right hand man. Frank Sinatra is
fine, but stiff at times in his role.
Sinatra's leading lady is operatic coloratura singer Kathryn Grayson, and this is a strange pairing. When they are doing songs by themselves, both actors shine, but their lone duet in the film (and thank goodness there is only one!) just doesn't work. Sinatra's smooth, jazz crooning is an odd, almost jarring pairing with Grayson's operatic arias. The film would have been stronger had they paired Frank with someone whose singing style wasn't as vastly different. The songs in the film are all good and memorable, including the Grayson solo "Tomorrow Means Romance", the Sinatra solo "Siesta", and my favorite song in the film "What's Wrong With Me?", which both Grayson and Sinatra sing. The songs were written by Nacio Herb Brown and Earl K. Brent. Brown had been paired frequently with Arthur Freed in the '20's and '30's and their songs were later used as the basis for possibly the best known movie musical of all time, Singin' in the Rain. "What's Wrong With Me", in fact, was used in the stage version of Singin'.
In addition to Naish, the film has a fine supporting cast of character actors, including Mildred Natwick as Grayson's man hungry aunt, and Clinton Sundberg as the bumbling Colonel Gomez, who keeps getting demoted. The plot line is thin and pure silliness, and Sinatra and Grayson have a flimsy chemistry, but it is held up by several strong musical performances and two cool dance sequences, one that includes Ricardo Montalban, Cyd Charisse, and Ann Miller. The comedy is not lacking though, and I had a smile on my face throughout. Overall, The Kissing Bandit, provides a fun time-filler for a late night or rainy day.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
If, Hope, Skelton, Crosby or even Kelly had taken the place of Sinatra,
this much maligned film might be considered an entertaining, if still
flawed, lavish romantic musical farce. But, someone with a good voice
and style for romantic ballads was needed for the lead role of Ricardo,
and Sinatra was the most available choice for MGM at the time.He didn't
want to do it, and Kathryn Grayson didn't want her lead role either. In
fact, both later said this was their least favorite film role. But, it
doesn't really show that much. Yes, Sinatra often looks uncomfortable
in his role, but any man would. The main problem is the often trite
dialogue that makes the players seem like unbelievable idiots,logical
holes in the script, and the characterization of Ricardo, that makes
him more suitable for Hope or Skelton to play. If you have seen the
Minnelli-directed musical "The Pirate", released around the same time,
or the previous non-musical Hope-Mayo-starring "The Princess and the
Pirate" farce, you will no doubt see significant similarities in plot
and style. However, both these films are rated much higher at IMDb.
The story begins with the death of Ricardo's father: an inn keeper and notorious bandit chief in the Mexican province of Upper California.He was especially noted for kissing the female passengers of the stages he held up, often to their liking.Ricardo(Sinatra),who has been cloistered away in Boston for most of his life(why?), arrives by horse, crashing headfirst through the inn door when his horse stops too suddenly. He learns from innkeeper Chico(J. Carrol Naish) that his father was a famous bandit chief and that he is expected to take his place. No way, Jose, says he. But, he makes a brave attempt at robbing a stage, in which the governor's daughter, Teresa(Kathryn Grayson) is riding. The stage horses bolt, with only Teresa and Ricardo aboard. They get acquainted, and Teresa is disappointed because he refuses to kiss her. Later, at her mansion, she sings "What's Wrong with Me", when told Ricardo kisses all the women. Ricardo,at his inn, sings a version appropriate for him. He then rides to her mansion, and serenades her with "If I Steal a Kiss". But bullets then fly,so he has to leave. Back at his inn, the arrogant Count Belmonte and sleepy General Torro, from Spain, arrive to spend the night, before traveling to collect taxes from the Governor. Chico, Ricardo's new father figure, is caught stealing from their treasure chest, and they fight.The Count and General are tied up, Ricardo and Chico put on their clothes and take their letter of introduction to the Governor. Teresa recognizes them as imposters, but keeps quit. Meanwhile, middle-aged Isabella is warming up to Chico.Teresa sings a version of "If You Steal a Kiss", as a reply to Ricardo's previous serenade. Teresa gets jealous when Ricardo tells her he has kissed many women, but not her, because she is too beautiful.Later, she sings "There is Nothing Wrong with Me", after Ricardo suggests they elope. Ricardo then sings "I Offer You the Moon" and Teresa sometimes chimes in with a reply, as they confirm their love for each other. Later, Teresa sings "Love is Where You Find It" to express her joy. But, the real Count and General then show up, and have Ricardo and Chico thrown in jail. They escape via a halfwit jail keeper, and Ricardo wrestles with the Count, beating him, after he sees him trying to seduce Teresa. At Isabella's suggestion, Chico is appointed the new tax collector. Ricardo tells Teresa he no longer wants to be a bandit, thus she will not be entralled by him. She replies 'no problem' and serenades him with a reprise of "If You Steal a Kiss". He tells her he never was a bandit, never kissed a woman, and inherited none of his father's charisma. She kisses him and faints. He remarks "Or did I".
There are two spectacular specialized dances. At the fiesta, Ann Miller and Cid Charisse compete for Ricardo Montalban in an adaptation of some kind of traditional Mexican dance, I assume.I'm no expert on such. Earlier, Sono Osato(not Cid Charisse, as one reviewer claims)included a spectacular bull whip cracking ballet in her unsuccessful attempted seduction of Ricardo(to divert his attention from the politically dangerous Teresa). Rather reminds me of Astaire's firecracker dance in "Holiday Inn", the whip snapping sounding like firecrackers. Sono was trained in ballet, mostly in Europe, and mostly performed on stage. Most notably, she developed the character 'Miss Turnstiles'in the Broadway musical "On the Town". Vera-Ellen would later take this part in the film version.
I recommend that you give this film a chance, despite Sinatra's and Grayson's relative lack of comedic skills in their roles. Kathryn, at this age, was always a delight to look at, with large expressive eyes. There are a number of decent romantic ballads, although none made the hit parade. Naish's talent as a supporting actor helps make the film more palatable. He would return for a similar comedic role in "The Toast of New Orleans", starring Mario Lanza and Kathryn Grayson. Despite costarring with Sinatra in 3 musicals,Grayson reportedly did not find him romantically attractive.
I saw this when it was first run and enjoyed it (I was 11). I recently saw it on DVD and, while I didn't enjoy it as much as the first time, it was still fun. First the good: Kathryn Grayson is beautiful as ever and her voice is as good as it ever was. Frank Sinatra handles his singing duties in great style. Ricardo Montalban, Ann Miller and Cyd Charisse perform a dance that is the best part of the movie. Now the bad: the story line is weak and unbelievable and both Sinatra and Grayson seem uncomfortable with their roles. Sinatra in particular seems out of place in the action scenes. Sinatra and Grayson have no spark between them which makes the love story part seem a little hard to believe. It is not one of the greatest musicals, but it is far from the worst. The music is forgettable, except for Kathryn's "Love Is Where You Find It", and there are not real laugh-out-loud moments, but all in all it is pleasant enough way to spend a couple of hours.
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