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In 1787, British ship Bounty leaves Portsmouth to bring a cargo of bread-fruit from Tahiti but the savage on-board conditions imposed by Captain Bligh trigger a mutiny led by officer Fletcher Christian.
Benson, is a Casanova who despises women and invents all sorts of tricks to bed them and leave them. His favorite one is going through Germany posing as an American GI of Teunonic extraction. Whenever he spots a girl he likes, he takes a Polarod picture of her house, knocks on the door waving the photo and pretending to be on a pilgrimage to this very cottage his grandmother so vividly described. It is an infallible system for a hit-and-run seduction. Benson seems content with his game until he meets Jamison, a real operator who has learned to combine sex with money. Jamison poses as an exiled prince and not only gets women to share his bed but also to bestow their jewels on him for the sake of the counterrevolution. Benson decides to corner Jamison's market on sex plus finance. A contest develops, and whoever wins will dominate a small Riviera resort as "King of the Mountain," the film's original title. Remade in 1988 as "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels." Written by
For David Niven, Bedtime Story was the kind of part he could play in his sleep although he's quite wide awake here. But for Marlon Brando this was his second foray into comedy, he would not do another until the Nineties when he was accepting roles for money to pay his son's lawyers. Brando does quite well in Bedtime Story as the sleazy GI conman.
We meet both of them separately at the beginning, Niven in his guise as a prince living in a palace on the French Riviera, fleecing money from rich tourists trying to free his country from the rebels, presumably Communists. And Brando manages to con his commanding officer Parley Baer more worried about getting his promotion to general than in dealing out justice to the guy who disgraced his daughter into an early discharge with a private separation package.
Brando as civilian meets with Niven on board a train heading to the Riviera and brags about his exploits and talks about trying his luck on the rich babes there. Niven not wanting any competition arranges a small frame up with the cooperation of the police chief Aram Stephen. Of course when Brando gets wise to it, they're forced into a partnership of sorts.
Niven sort of glides right into a part that he's done on many occasions, in this case not even having to rely solely on his considerable charm to carry a weak film. Brando had done comedy on screen before in Teahouse of the August Moon, but the role of Freddy Benson, GI Conman extraordinary fits him far better than Sakini in Teahouse.
If Paul Henning and Stanley Shapiro on hiatus from their rural franchise at CBS had really wanted to make this a better film, they would have invested a surprise in Shirley Jones traditional good girl character. Remember she won an Oscar for playing against type in Elmer Gantry as a prostitute. Think of the ending in the John Wayne film The Train Robbers and think how it would have really fit here.
Still Bedtime Story is not a bad film and it even got remade as the Steve Martin classic, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. And hats off everyone to Dody Goodman, the legendary Fanny of Omaha.
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