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It is certainly not true that because a film has as its central character a female protagonist that it must be a "woman's picture". But in an era when the novel market in cheap-minded fiction seems hopelessly divided between mindless male violent thrillers and mindless female Gothic romanciful fantasies, the viewer must expect this debate to spill over into films. Fortunately for moviegoers, as late as the 1950s, films such as "The Ambassador's Daughter" were still being made and these were films with enough realistic characters, intelligent dialogue and interesting action to please adult viewers. This is a very fine script indeed by veteran writer-director Norman Krasna. It was directed very ably and beautifully mounted. The noteworthy cast included Edward Arnold, Myrna Loy, Adolph Menjou, Frances Lederer, Tommy Noonan plus Olivia de Havilland and John Forsythe as the romantic leads. The setting is postwar Paris, and the sets are beautiful to behold. This is a film about upper crust folk; and as such we are treated to costumes by Christian Dior, impeccable lighting and gorgeous art direction. But the fact that these are members of the wealthy set does not stop the scriptwriters from devising lively and challenging involvements for all. The very good idea for the story involves de Havvilland trying to prove to her ambassador father, professionally and personally worried about such matters, that all French-based American soldiers are not "wolves". She picks on Forsythe to prove her point--and discovers she may have picked too well for her own safety, since she finds herself falling for the shy G.I. Arnold and Loy are particularly good, Menjou is his usual charming self; and de Havilland is superb. Only Forsythe seems a bit low-voltage, as he sometimes did early in his career, before "The Trouble With Harry". The film's technical elements, such as lighting, sets, art direction and all else provide the usual first-rate MGM realization. The color is lovely as well, adding to the gemlike quality of this underrated and very intelligent comedy. In an era devoted to Medieval character flaws, misbehaviors and irresponsible folk floundering in a sea of surrealistic bad writing and worse thinking, this earlier work stands out as a cinematic delight, one to be watched many times over.
Olivia de Havilland spent most of her post-Oscar years in serious dramas, so it's nice to see her looking so radiantly lovely in a technicolor comedy, enjoying herself in a comedy for a change. Paris is the setting and the color photography is excellent. The slight story concerns de Havilland seeking to prove to her father (Edward Arnold) and a senator and his wife (Adolphe Menjou, Myrna Loy) that American servicemen aren't all wolves and to prove it has a harmless fling with a young G.I. (John Forsythe). Unfortunately, as in all Norman Krasna comedies, plot complications develop before she winds up in Forsythe's arms for an amusing final scene. The cast sparkles with some fine work by de Havilland, Myrna Loy, Adolphe Menjou, Edward Arnold and--in one of his funniest roles--Tom Noonan. Only bad piece of casting is John Forsythe--who looks wooden and uncomfortable throughout with no comic flair whatsoever. Despite this, de Havilland manages to give a spirited performance that won the Belgian Prix Femina for Best Actress in a comedy in '56. Slight but amusing and very watchable.
The only reason that Olivia de Havilland agreed to appear in this trifle must have been because it was going to be filmed in Paris where she was living at the time. On the positive side, there are great stars supporting de Havilland such as Edward Arnold, Adolphe Menjou and Myrna Loy, and they are very very good, as is the Star, but negatively speaking, the story has been done many times, but it could have been quite good, if a decent leading man had been engaged - there is no doubt John Forsythe was out of his depth, trying to compete with the players listed above. There were some bright moments of comedy, and it was good to see the Stars having a bit of a romp, but at times it is hard going. As lovely as she is, Olivia was too old for the part, but some of the shots of Paris helped a lot.
THE AMBASSADOR'S DAUGHTER is a generally well made film with a great
cast. The story and direction though are uninspired and workman-like
and robs the story of any vitality. In more capable hands, this film
would have been a charmer but the producers were clearly aiming for
average. It just doesn't sparkle as it should be and because the pacing
or tone, which should have been lightning fast and sharp for this kind
of story, is lackadaisical, this big studio production feels and looks
exactly like an episode of THREE'S COMPANY. One that takes place in
The great thing about this movie is Myrna Loy. Whenever she's on screen the movie comes alive. Loy, who starred in the great THIN MAN movies, has a knack for delivering light and funny dialogue and her timing here is perfect. She easily eclipses the whole cast, which includes Olivia De Havilland, John Forsythe, Adolphe Menjou, Tommy Noonan! Thank god Myrna was in this film or else it would have been totally forgettable. Well, the location shooting was also great.
All in all, I enjoyed watching THE AMBASSADOR'S DAUGHTER for what it was but it could have been much better, a classic in fact. Now it's just average.
This was a very entertaining film from 1956 with some great veteran actors who have had great roles in their careers and this is a rather silly film which seems to go on and on. However, this is a comedy concerning an American Ambassador's Daughter named Joan Fisk, (Olivia De Havilland) who live in France and meets up with a soldier named Danny, (John Forsythe) and Joan is modeling various dresses for an American Red Cross Benefit and Danny becomes very attracted to Joan. Joan does not tell Danny she is the daughter of an American Ambassador and pretends to be a French girl who is a professional model. There are wonderful actors in this film, namely, Myrna Loy, (Mrs. Cartwright); Adolphe Menou, (Sen. Jonathan Cartwright) and Tommy Noonan, (Cpl. Al O'Connor all gave outstanding supporting roles. If you like old time comedy films, this is the film for you.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
What I learned about the fascinating Paris sewer system was easily the
best part of this film. Unfortunately that scene lasts for about 2
minutes. The rest of the film just seemed flat, dull, limp.
The production values of this film are the next best thing. It is, indeed, a Technicolor treat to the eyes. The women's costumes are lovely. The sets are also nice. However, the director is totally clue-less about the artistic use of a camera or a soundtrack.
Much of this film lacks background music. This lack of comedy-mood-setting music is devastating because this story is not inherently funny, and the only member of the cast that has a sense of comedy (or really has any funny lines) is Tom Noonan. So whatever comedy is there, is undermined by the lack of an appropriate soundtrack. There are a couple of scenes when we hear some ambient, "street" music - the predictable Parisian accordion, and the completely unexpected Breton bagpipes droning in an over-packed Eiffel Tower elevator - preposterous and rude, but not funny! There is also music, of course at the ballet, where the scenes are photographed in a totally static, pedestrian, uncreative way. However, background piano or light string music is conspicuously absent in the charity fashion show scenes. And transitional scenes such as Forsythe's walking along a street toward the airline ticket office are music- less. Without music, such scenes contribute nothing to the erstwhile "comedy" atmosphere of the film. Instead, they are just flat plot devices. The entire film is similarly flawed, leaving it to the actors, themselves, to convey the comedy. Unfortunately none of these actors is up to the task.
The plot is a lot like Clash of the Titans - a mythical melodrama! But instead of Greek gods testing the character of a "mortal," here we have a senator, a general and the U.S. ambassador to France testing the character of a U.S. serviceman in Paris. Except for Noonan, the cast plays this movie like a Greek tragedy. Noonan is a little more restrained than usual, although he still seems very hammy because his role is in such stark contrast to the rest of the cast. He seems like he is performing in a completely different movie.
The repetitious wallet-losing has potential for comedy that is totally lost. The first instance sets off a heated accusation-and-denial confrontation between Forsythe and DeHavilland. After such heat, it is so suddenly and easily dismissed that it is very awkward. It is not simply a lost opportunity for comedy, but it's unreal. When the wallet is lost a second time, while DeHavilland and Forsythe are at a nightclub, the comedy is supposed to be conveyed by the two actors yukking it up with stage laughter. DeHavilland's predictable line, "I didn't steal it" is supposed to be the cause of such belly-laughing for them (and presumably for us). Sadly, the line would have been only moderately humorous had it been well delivered.
The nightclub has another lost opportunity for comedy. Instead of ending in a funny encounter between Forsythe, the club host and the gendarmes, it is a mere plot device - everybody playing it straight - most polite, gracious and sincere!
What one commentator mistakenly calls the final scene is actually the penultimate scene. It is admittedly one of the better scenes AND (coincidentally) one of the few with soundtrack music to help set the mood! (This scene WOULD have made for a nice ending, but the director is too heavy-handed for that. So in a totally superfluous scene tacked onto the end, we see Bride DeHavilland and Groom Forsythe, with the rest of the cast kneeling in a cathedral before a priest during what is obviously their wedding ceremony.)
Olivia DeHavilland is, as several commentators have noted, hopelessly miscast. She is not only too old, but comic delivery is a part of her craft that totally eludes her.
John Forsythe, likewise has no sense of comedy or comic timing. He plays his role almost exactly the same as Harry Hamlin portrayed Perseus in Clash of the Titans!
Menjou, who I usually enjoy, delivers a very unfunny performance as the senator. The senator is (unbelievably!) a tightwad. His touching of DeHavilland's face at the ballet is not only unsporting, but also offensive. His character is very unsympathetic, if not downright despicable - and definitely NOT funny. And the lip service paid to penny-pinching is not ever comical.
Myrna Loy... WHY? She is another one of my faves, but here she seems bereft of energy. She seems rather wistful or even sad when attempting to discuss the Prince with Menjou or offering "motherly" advice to DeHavilland. Then her scene with Forsythe at the ballet is definitely NOT funny. She tells Forsythe that she was in the presence of Menjou when he struck "a woman" (HA-HA! Now THAT'S hilarious! I wonder who she meant? Wink, wink, nudge, nudge! )
The general is a mere functionary, and Edward Arnold almost a non-entity.
Finally, there is DeHavilland's fiancé, the Prince. What was he doing in this film? He has about 3 "straight" lines, and the rest of the time he strains to sit around looking "princely." He provides no conflict with Forsythe or resistance to DeHavilland's leaving him. He is a totally superfluous "prop!"
I never felt any chemistry among ANY of the cast members. Consequently, I was pretty indifferent to their respective fates. They all seemed to be actors delivering lines and receiving a paycheck at the end of the day. I suspect each one of them regards this film as a personal embarrassment. The plot is weak, the lines weaker. The cinematography is totally unimaginative, wasting some nice sets. The direction is clue-less. The acting is uninspired, failing to strike the right tone. And the lack of a good soundtrack is the nail in the coffin of this cadaver. Lifeless.
Frothy bit of fluff but with a great deal of charm. The entire cast are
expert comedians excepting Forsythe but his role is really that of the
straight man anyway.
This was Myrna Loy's first supporting role after years in the star spot but while she is clearly secondary her skillful presence keeps her in mind even when she is off-screen. Tommy Noonan is most amusing as Forsythe's befuddled pal, his gauche hayseed with a good heart makes a nice counterpoint to the sophistication of the other players.
Shot entirely in Paris with clothes by Dior this is a chic soufflé of the type that Hollywood has no idea how to make anymore.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This is one of those 1950's romantic comedies that, judged by 21st
Century standards, just doesn't work. Not that it doesn't have its
charms. Watching this film is akin to drinking cheap champagne. As
Tommy Noonan finds out, it doesn't taste very good going down, but all
champagne will make you happily dizzy if you drink enough of it. Every
now and then you hear a clever line delivered in a clever manner. Every
now and then you see an actor sparkle. And every now and then you get
to see Paris. Ahh, Paris. Has there ever been a movie that made you
The major problem is the miscasting of the two leads. Olivia de Havilland and John Forsythe were both around forty when they made this. So many young actors of that era would have been perfect for these roles and just might have saved this work. Tommy Noonan, also a bit too old, is a funny guy and he has a few good bits in the movie, but he's a certain type of funny. Even allowing for the fact that he's an outsider, his method of comic acting clashes with the general level of sophisticated wit that, one assumes, was intended. But at least he can do funny. John Forsythe, whose dry approach was perfect for "The Trouble With Harry" failed miserably in the humor department in this movie. Of the rest, Myrna Loy stands out. She always seems to twinkle no matter what film she's in.
There are lack of logic elements that make one unexpectedly chuckle for the wrong reason. The musicians boarding the elevator to go up the Eiffel Tower and the choir boys descending on that same elevator. The whole concept of Forsythe really believing that de Havilland is a Dior model. And then there's the fiancé! Good Lord! Why was he even in the movie? I laughed out loud when I saw him sitting in the first pew during the Wedding scene. As if.
One scene in the movie brightened my day. It brought back an old, old memory. The M.C. at the nightclub was singing a French song that I heard Maurice Chevalier sing in an I Love Lucy episode. And then Ricky sang it in Spanish followed by Little Ricky singing it in English. I believe the song is called Valentine. Charming little tune. I only wish I could say "The Ambassador's Daughter" was a charming little movie.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Two elements noticeably kept "The Ambassador's Daughter" from becoming
a classic: Norman Krasna's uninspired direction and Olivia de
Havilland's age. I've always enjoyed Krasna's writing, finding it
charming, witty, and slightly subversive. The script for this movie
carries all of the "Krasna touch", but none of this is apparent from
the lifeless direction. As a result, jokes were held too long, the
actors stood around looking uncomfortable in long-shots, and it wavered
between sharp social satire and frothy romantic comedy, touching
neither elements successfully. As a result, Olivia de Havilland appears
a bit out of place as a 40 year old woman, for the plot and direction
kept trying to palm her off as someone 15 years younger.
Granted, de Havilland was beautiful and elegant, but she brought too much maturity and groundedness to the type of character who launch such a harebrained scheme and lead John Forsyth on a merry chase across Paris. I would have believed her portrayal of Joan had she been written as a widow or longtime spinster devoted to her father, rather than a sparkling, youngish role in which Audrey Hepburn, Grace Kelly, or Jean Simmons could have filled without a hitch. The rest of the cast gives a game performance, though as stated above, the direction really did them a disservice. Really wasted was Myrna Loy, who was only 10-12 years older than Olivia de Havilland, and was much too luminous and witty to be stuck in such a small part!
However, the main issue I had with this film was its inability to make up its mind. By the second half of the film, de Havilland and Forsyth are obviously very smitten, but a series of contrivances keep them apart. I also found the outrageous matchmaking mind-boggling, considering that de Havilland's character clearly had a fiancé (underused Francis Lederer) who we know nothing about to make us believe he is wrong for de Havilland. Ultimately, the direction, flat jokes, and under-written script leaves this a classic-that-could-have-been, and is a dull point in Krasna's long and celebrated career.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Norma Krasna has a reputation for being one of the best of Hollywood's
script writers, but even he made errors. He was the co-writer, with
Groucho Marx, of the tepid play TIME FOR ELIZABETH, which Groucho's
fans point at as proof that Groucho had vast literary abilities that he
really did not have (based on this play one might say the same about
Krasna). THE AMBASSADOR'S DAUGHTER was one of Krasna's errors. It was
also one of Edward Arnold's final films. One wishes that Arnold's
listing of credits had a better one than this silly comedy.
Arnold is playing Ambassador William Fisk of the United States, who is stationed in Paris. He is currently being host to Senator Jonathan Cartwright (Adolph Menjou) and his wife (Myrna Loy). Cartwright is a cantankerous but smart Senator (somewhat isolationist in sentiments - he voted against the St. Lawrence Seaway, and the only country involved in that with us was Canada!). He served in World War I, and remembers how he and his fellow Doughboys had misbehaved in Paris. So he wants to make Paris off-limits to G.I.s. Ambassador Fisk and his friend General Andrew Harvey (Minor Watson) feel this is unfair, but are trying to diplomatically convince the Senator that his views are too draconian. Aiding her father in the matter is Joan Fisk (Olivia De Haviland) who is currently engaged to an older man (Prince Nicholas Obelski - Francis Lederer).
The full party are attending an upper class fashion show for charity, which is crashed by two G.I.s: Danny (John Fortsythe) and Al (Tommy Noonan). They start making themselves too visible by mildly ogling some of the young women. When Joan shows up as one of the models, they turn their attention to her. Knowing how Senator Cartwright feels, she decides to make a test of the situation using Danny and Al as guinea pigs. She manipulates Danny into inviting her out on a date (Al is to be sidelined with the assistance of General Harvey). It works too well, of course, as she and Danny fall in love, but Danny believing her to be a French model (or part-time model).
I won't go any further in the plot. It's a comedy so one can guess the eventual outcome. It is an old kind of plot, with a socially prominent person mistaken for a plebeian type. The cast does try hard to push the material. Arnold is restricted to a few scenes (his appearance shows his aging and it is just possible that his health was beginning to fail). Watson is also in only a few scenes (best with Noonan). Menjou's perfect delivery of lines remains intact. Witness the scene when he has to help keep Noonan incommunicado, and finds that Noonan is on the phone trying to "get some aspirin" (actually trying to speak to Forsythe). When Noonan hangs up and says that he had a slight headache and needed the aspirin, the smart Menjou says, "In that case, you shouldn't have the phone because it will affect your headache", and he has the phone taken out before Noonan can stop him.
Loy is good in a scene that shows her reminiscing about the courtship by Menjou when they were young. She is trying to show De Haviland that Forsythe's behavior is typical of men's behavior in general (like her husband's). It's a good scene, but it reminds one of a better, briefer scene with Fredric March and Theresa Wright in THE BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES.
Forsythe, just starting his career (which included other films like TOPAZ but was mainly on television with DYNASTY and BACHELOR FATHER) gives a good account as a lover. But Noonan really takes acting honors here. He is tagging along with Forsythe for a good time in Paris (precisely what Menjou was warning about) and then finds his hopes for that good time screwed by the test set up by De Haviland, Menjou, and Watson. As he is not the sole target of the test, he has to be controlled, and Watson and Menjou are just the sort to do it. So as the film progresses Noonan gets more and more jittery, to the final part of his performance when he has to race up and down about eight flights of stairs at the Paris Ballet to speak to Forsythe (who took him there) and to Watson, Menjou, Loy, De Haviland, and Arnold. Even as a messenger he is screwed, as he has to report that Forsythe thinks Menjou looked like an old goat (much to Menjou's resentment).
Finally the real flaw of the film (outside of the story): De Haviland is charming in her role, but she is not a twenty year old or twenty four year old. In fact (as several have pointed out here) she and Loy look like what they really were - contemporaries. Because of his aging, Arnold does look older than De Haviland, but not older like thirty years. One can make a illogical jump (for the purpose of enjoying the film) accepting her as a younger woman. But it is very hard to do so.
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