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This is where Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr first displayed the chemistry that worked so memorably in the classic AN AFFAIR TO REMEMBER. This plot, however, is silly - Grant dumps workaholic Kerr for simplistic, adoring, "old fashioned" type of wife imported from the orient. However, before the wedding Kerr starts to educate the meek one. This is all Grant and Kerr - they are marvelous to watch. The trappings are mediocre. The film received an Oscar nom for the elaborate oriental costuming and Kerr's constantly changing fashion statements.
Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr are a wonderful couple. Throwing each other
after line with Grant's usual and very his -facial expressions. The dinner
scene between the two in the beginning is a blast. The whole beginning is
great, funny, very promising, but it's obvious where it's going plot-wise,
and with the plot the movie flops. The funny scenes become scarce,
predictable and I just waited for it to end. Walter Pidgeon must be one of
the best supporting actors ever. Catch the first 30 minutes or so than
watching, or just pass. Nice idea that went wrong.
PS How that "Dream wife" of his learns English so quickly is absolutely amazing! She does speak with a few mistakes, of course.
In Stewart Granger's memoirs he mentions that after seeing future wife
Jean Simmons in Black Narcissus, he was so overcome with sexual desire
that he felt he had to marry her. It's almost as if Sidney Sheldon had
a few drinks with Granger and was told this story years before it came
out and decided it would make a great movie plot.
Cary Grant is an oil executive and Deborah Kerr a female diplomat in the previously all male world of Foggy Bottom in the not too distant past. In negotiating for oil leases with the mythical kingdom of Bukistan, Cary is really bowled over by the fact that Princess Betta St. John is so unlike the career minded Kerr. A few words here and there and the engagement between Grant and Kerr is off and between Grant and St. John is definitely on.
Of course the culture clash occurs and it ain't quite what Grant envisions. And Kerr starts to work on St.John and she's got some new ideas sprouting in her head.
The Fifties were so different than now. Those kind of ideas in some Moslem countries would have gotten St. John killed now. Relations between the west and the Moslem world has certainly changed over 50 years.
Grant and Kerr make fine leads and notice should be paid to Walter Pidgeon as Kerr's State Department boss and to Eduard Franz as the King of Bukistan who turns out to be a very wise fellow indeed.
I wonder what Stewart Granger must have thought in seeing this film?
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This is not one of Cary Grant's more famous pictures and it's obvious
why--it's not particularly good. In fact, through much of the film,
Grant walks through his scenes as if he's trying to convey that he's a
bit embarrassed at the silliness and shallowness of the film, as his
performance is very subdued. In addition to Grant, Deborah Kerr stars
in this comedy.
Oddly, Kerr and Grant are very miscast. Grant plays a man born in Connecticut and Kerr's nationality isn't mentioned, but she works for the U.S. State Department--yet both of them are clearly British due to their accents. Why they just didn't make them Brits, I don't know.
The film begins with Grant negotiating oil contracts with the king of the fictional Muslim nation of Bukhistan. While they are celebrating the deal, the king's sexy daughter entertains them with a dance that isn't all that good but frankly, given how beautiful she is, Grant doesn't seem to notice. It seems that he's a bit smitten with the girl, though he is already engaged to Miss Kerr and so he soon leaves to begin married life in America.
Unfortunately, Miss Kerr is a hard-driven workaholic who really isn't all that concerned with when they'll marry or where they'll go on a honeymoon--if they go at all! She's a rather clichéd character--you know, the "working woman who has no time for love or romance". So naturally, Grant is irritated with her and decides to call off the wedding. And, to spite Kerr, he asks the king's daughter to marry him, as he likes that she's very old fashioned and submissive--and very little like the cold and almost sexless Kerr.
What follows pretty much looks like a 1950s or 60s sitcom--with Kerr assigned to act as liaison between Grant and his new bride to be (since she doesn't speak English and Kerr speaks both languages). The usual sexual tension you'd expect between Kerr and Grant is all there along with some kooky adventures as the new fiancée learns what it's like to be a liberated American. And, when the film degenerates to the kooky level, you can't help but want it all to end.
The bottom line is that this is a second-rate plot--too filled with lousy writing, clichés, sitcom-like plotting and dumb situations. Plus, is it at all realistic that a devout Muslim king would even allow his beloved daughter marry an infidel? Overall, this is a passable film only because it stars Cary Grant. Even in one of his poorer efforts, he's STILL Cary Grant and managed to enliven this mess enough to make it a decent time-passer.
I really love Cary Grant but this movie must have been one of those
scripts that crossed his desk and was marked with a $$$ sign on it.
There's no excuse for such schlock. There was no chemistry with his fiancée 'Effie' and there was none with his 'to be bride' Tarji'. The whole damn movie was a mess. There's probably some goofs that's going to complain about racism or sexism in the whole mess, I was just wondering if there was another movie that the very cute actress Betta St. John is in. She's a looker but even she's no reason to bother with this flop of a 'movie'. I wonder what were they thinking???? I honestly can't give this more than a couple of stars in good faith.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Directed by Sidney Sheldon, who wrote the screenplay with Herbert Baker
and Alfred Lewis Levitt, this late screwball, flat sex farce reunites
actor Cary Grant with writer Sheldon, who'd won an Academy Award on his
only nomination for The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer (1947) in their
only other collaboration. That's just one of the reasons that make one
feel that this comedy could have been better, another is its veteran
cast that includes Deborah Kerr and Walter Pidgeon.
As it is, the storyline incorporates dated male and female gender roles in a way that's infrequently funny and more often silly. What begins as a promising, although greatly simplified look at the primitive wants and needs of each sex, devolves into a less than amusing review of old stereotypes. The film did receive an Academy Award nomination for its B&W Costume Design.
When Clemson Reade (Grant) finally realizes that his fiancée Priscilla Effington's (Kerr) state department job takes too much of her time and will likely delay their wedding, he decides that he's had enough. When 'Effie' realizes that 'Clem' was expecting her to give up her job when she'd married him, they mutually agree to end their engagement. He then sends a telegram to the Khan (Eduard Franz) of oil rich Bukistan, where he'd just been on business, to see if can wed the royal Princess Tarji (Betta St. John), who's been trained since birth, as per their 3,000 year tradition, to care about nothing else but pleasing her future husband. The only trouble is, the state department's Walter McBride (Pidgeon, with a rather minor role) and his assistant Effie, have been negotiating a big oil death with the Khan. They intercept Clem's crude telegram and express their concerns about his plans messing up theirs. McBride then assigns Effie, who understands Bukistan's customs and speaks their language fluently, to act as a liaison between Clem and Tarji, who's father accepts the proposal of marriage.
Of course, Tarji is perceived by Clem and his jealous co-worker friends (Les Tremayne, Bruce Bennett, and Richard Anderson's characters) to be the perfect wife, but her native customs (e.g. having to walk 3 feet behind him at all times, being unable to dine with him, etc.) and the fact that the wedding is scheduled 3 months in the future (during which the Princess's imposing bodyguard is to keep them from kissing one another), gives him second thoughts. Heavyweight boxing champion Max Baer's younger brother Buddy plays Tarji's bodyguard and, in the screwball tradition, Dan Tobin does his best "Franklin Pangborn", playing a befuddled hotel manager. So Clem asks Effie to help Tarji to become more sophisticated, or domesticated for U.S. customs, and of course his ex-fiancée is only too happy to educate the Princess about famous suffragettes and other early feminists. Effie's efforts help to undo 3,000 years of Bukistan culture in just 3 months! Meanwhile, Effie begins to see Clem's attraction to Tarji (or at least his ideal of a subservient wife), in a new light. When the now English speaking, yet still very naive Tarji goes out for a walk alone, she attracts men (including Steve Forrest) like flies. It doesn't take a genius to figure out where all this is leading and, in the end, the predictable is delivered.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Cary Grant is Clemson Reade, an American on a business trip to a
fictitious Middle Eastern country, Bukistan. He is there to sell
oil-processing equipment to the reigning khan, played by Edward Franz.
Back home, Reade is engaged to Miss Effington (Effie) who has a career
in the U.S. State Department. Deborah Kerr's Effie is in the high ranks
of the Middle East section. One can imagine where this story will go.
This 1953 MGM film was 20 years ahead of the oil "crises" of the 1970s that had a devastating effect around the world. But it gives a glimpse of the world of foreign relations and international business dealings. And, in this case, how they can overlap and interact with an amusing angle. The younger audiences of today may not know much about the cultural changes in society during the mid to late 20th century. So, things like male chauvinism and women's lib may be nothing more than something they've heard about from the past.
Well, this film clearly seems to poke fun at some customs of the time. And, it is an early jab at women's lib way before the movement became widespread more than a decade later. We see that in the early scenes when Reade returns to the U.S. With his arms full of packages at the airport a woman won't open the door for him, but another man does. Then, other men remove their hats when a woman enters an elevator. Reade fumbles his packages to remove his hat while the woman has a glare of indignation on her face. Then, there's something of a role reversal with Reade having to wait on Effie all the time as she has to work late and gets calls away from their dinner and evening out to go back to the office.
All of this seems to be juicy fodder for a very good comedy. And, with these two leads and Walter Pidgeon as Effie's State Department boss, Walter McBride, "Dream Wife" should have been a big hit. But it wasn't when it hit theaters in 1953, and it's not even mildly entertaining today.
This is clearly a case of a terrible screenplay that sinks a movie. Sometimes, the roles of actors will lift weak scripts to make fair movies. But in this case, the dull script is so bad and humorless that even Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr can't save the film. As other reviewers have noted, Grant seems to grow detached from the film as it goes along. In the early scenes he seems to strain to give a sense of comedy, as he is so adept at doing with his side-glances and facial expressions. This script is so bad it's hard to imagine the producers, directors and studio seeing any humor in it.
Others have noted that Grant was embarrassed by this poor film so much so that he didn't do another movie for two years and almost hung up his stage spurs. Thankfully, he didn't and we have some wonderful and great films with Cary Grant in the lead into the next decade. On everyone's list of most memorable love stories is Grant and Kerr's pairing for the 1957 blockbuster, "An Affair to Remember." They showed that they did have chemistry on film if the screenplay was right.
A big disappointment considering the two legendary leads, Grant and
Kerr. And that's despite a rather promising opening. There's comedic
potential in a jilted love translating a guy's flowery affections to a
non-English new amour. As a result, the movie's best passages involve
Kerr doing just that. Here, however, the idea's bound up with Middle
East intrigue, and distinctly non-comedic mid-eastern types. There's
also comedic potential in watching a woman transition from traditional
subservience to modern freedoms. Trouble is these themes fail to catch
fire in what amounts to a sloppy screenplay.
Too bad too that Grant appears to be walking through his role in very uncharacteristic fashion. There's none of his usual bounce or spark. Apparently, he was on the brink of retiring and would not make another feature for two years. So there may well be an inside story to the MGM production. Kerr too seems too dour to be droll in a rather thankless role. At the same time, the results look like director Sheldon had no feel for the antic material, being more a popular writer than director. At least there's a winsome Betta St. John as the Arabian princess, an aptly commanding Walter Pidgeon as a government honcho, and a fearsome Buddy Baer as a towering enforcer. All in all, however, I expect this was not a movie Grant would like to be remembered by, nor one that his fans will revere him for.
(In passingIran's Prime Minister of the time, Mohammed Mossadegh, gets a quick mention in the dialog. No wonder, because he had just nationalized the country's oil production and would quickly be deposed by a notorious CIA plot. These events culminated about the time this movie was in production, ie. early 1953, and may well have inspired the premise.)
American businessman Cary Grant is engaged to diplomat Deborah Kerr but
grows tired of her putting her career before their relationship. So he
breaks things off and becomes engaged to a Middle-Eastern princess
(Betta St. John) who has been taught from birth "how to make a man
happy." But the customs of her people (and Kerr's interference) ensure
that Grant won't find any happiness with her.
Inane romantic comedy that is neither romantic nor funny. A terrible movie on nearly every level. The characters are very unlikable no matter how hard I tried due to my fondness for the actors. The best thing I can say about this is that I liked the name of Cary's character, Clemson Reade. Cary Grant didn't make many stinkers but he did here. It's one of the worst films in his career. It was so bad Cary considered retiring from acting after this and didn't make another movie for two years. Worth seeing if you're a die-hard fan of the stars or on the slim chance you might find something interesting about the socio-political stuff.
This film is a fascinating look at our culture's post WWII attitude
towards women and the Middle East. The movie showcases the big message
of get-the-women-back-into-the-kitchen that followed the War. As for
our attitude towards Islamic peoples, it IS all about oil as far as our
government in this film is concerned. The rulers are fabulously wealthy
and exotic, the portrayal of them and their customs betray Hollywood's
gross ignorance of the peoples and the religion. The princess' dance
(seductive and Martha Grahamish) in the opening scene says it all. The
women in the court all wear short sleeves. No one bothered to find out
anything about the religion, it would seem. The behavior of the
'Bakistanis' is made up only to create comic moments, no matter how
inaccurate, unseemly or unrealistic.
The plot is silly and implausible, but it's fun to watch Grant and Kerr in their first on screen performance.
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