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Three decorated Navy pilots finagle a four day leave in San Francisco. They procure a posh suite at the hotel and Commander Crewson, a master of procurement, arranges to populate it with party people. Lieutenant Wallace is trying to get the pilots to make speeches to rally the homefront at shipyard magnate Eddie Turnbill's plants, but they're tired of the war and just want to have fun. While Crewson begins falling in love with Turnbill's fiancée Gwinneth Livingston, he tries to ignore the distant call of war. Written by
Ed Sutton <firstname.lastname@example.org>
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Kiss Them For Me has a lot to offer - Cary Grant, Stanley Donen (Singin' in the Rain, Charade) as director, and Julius Epstein (Casablanca, Arsenic & Old Lace) as screenwriter - but it never really lives up to its potential. There are some funny moments here and there, but the film is more of a drama with comic elements, and the balance doesn't always work well. Viewers expecting one of Cary Grant's great comedic romps will be disappointed. Still, it's not a bad film, just an uneven one.
The story is about three Navy fliers, each considered a "war hero," who embark on a four-day leave in San Francisco. They secure the "Ambassador's Suite" in a fine hotel and order up tons of liquor for their large, rowdy parties, where there are three women for every man. In the end, however, they don't get to relax and momentarily forget the war as much as they have to deal with the awkwardness between the civilian world and their own. They also have to confront the reality of life after the war. Grant, in particular, realizes that he's good at what he does (flying planes), and he's giving himself to a worthy cause that's bigger than himself, neither of which he may be able to do outside of the Pacific theatre. He's offered more than one chance to turn his reputation as a war hero into a cushy job, but he sees the emptiness and boredom that waits for him in the normal American lifestyle. Instead of talking with the powerful owner of a shipbuilding company who could help him with his financial future, he sits on the floor listening to jazz and flirting with the owner's fiancée.
Unfortunately, Donen and Epstein don't seem to trust these dramatic elements and inject a poorly developed romance into the film, which undoes some otherwise good writing and leads, finally, to a flat ending. Maybe if they'd found a suitable female lead to play off Grant, the romance would have worked better, but Suzy Parker is stiff and wooden on screen, and her character grows wearisome after a while. The best that can be said for her is that she provides a little relief from the grating presence of Jayne Mansfield, who is described in the original 1957 NY Times review of the film as, "grotesque, artificial, noisy, distasteful - and dull." And that pretty much sums it up. In the original play on Broadway, in 1945, these two women characters were evidently blended into one, played "with brilliance" by a young Judy Holliday. Oh, for a woman of her grace, wit and energy in this film version. (As a side note, Judy co-starred in the play with Richard Widmark, who played Crewson.)
In the end, though, there is still Cary Grant. He saves the film from being a total waste of time. And Epstein's script has some wonderful gems scattered here and there. Also, the camaraderie between Grant and his two Navy buddies, one of them played by Ray Walston, works well most of the time. For those interested in a 50's drama about Navy fliers, you're better off watching The Bridges at Toko-Ri, with William Holden and Grace Kelly. If you want a great Cary Grant comedy, try his much better effort with Julius Epstein - Arsenic & Old Lace. If you've seen just about everything else with Cary in it, and you want something different, this one will do in a fix.
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