Jane plays a Texas girl who is a reluctant millionairess - she has inherited her late father's ranch, which happens to be sitting on copious oil fields. But poor Jane only wants a man who will love her for who she is, not her money. She bewails her lot to her friend and guardian, ranch hand Arthur Hunnicutt, when her latest beau, Craig Stevens, jilts her before heading to the altar because he, like all the others, can't handle having a rich wife. Hunnicutt talks her into not canceling her planned wedding cruise to Paris on the French line, the Liberte (as pronounced by Jane, the Li-burr-tay), only she decides to go incognito so she can catch a man who knows nothing about her money.
Well, first of all, do you really think a millionairess who happens to look like Jane Russell would have such problems? This is purely a confection of a film and not worth worrying about plot lines, but its all just pretty damn silly. And unfortunately, someone decided it should be a musical except all the blah numbers are staged very awkwardly. Jane is beautiful, but hasn't much to work with here and leading man Gilbert Roland seems both a bit too mature as a match for her and definitely too Spanish to play a Frenchman (they try to pawn it off by giving him a Spanish mother). It all ends with a fashion show which just may be the most ludicrous of many far-fetched Hollywood fashion shows. And by now, all the naughtiness which got this opus condemned by the League of Decency and denied a Production seal (Jane's skimpy costumes and bumps & grinds) seem fit for a toddler to watch.
This island is populated only by Eduardo de Filippo, his nubile and soon-to-be of age daughter Rosanna Podesta, and Jeff Chandler, a mysterious beachcomber who is betrothed to Podesta and helps out de Filippo. Rik Battaglia plays a date farmer from the mainland who is Chandler's rival for Podesta's affections. The rest of the film, which keeps a fairly light tone while throwing in bits of melodrama and a badly done attempt at action at the end, involves Williams' and Thompson's efforts to get off of the island while unraveling the mystery of who Chandler is and what he is doing there.
The only real interest the film has is the pretty Mediterranean scenery and the only teaming of Williams and Chandler, who were engaged for a time. Williams later did her best to posthumously trash Chandler's reputation in her autobiography by describing him as a cross-dresser! Not a very gallant thing for her to do, but whether or not it was true at least it might have livened things up a bit if Jeff had modeled some of Esther's frocks in this pointless exercise.
Maybe no other performer in the history of show business fit the description of "love him or hate him" as well as Liberace. He had a huge and devoted following from the 1950's till his death, while all the rest of humanity either laughed or groaned at the mere mention of his name. This was the one and only film ever built around him, though he made appearances in others. It is, not surprisingly, a campy schmalzfest which makes plenty of room for Liberace's piano playing. The look and decor of the film is really the epitome of 50's kitsch. I won't go into the plot and all the lines and situations which bring a raised eyebrow because it would turn this review into the length of "War and Peace". I must say a word about the hilarious hospital scene at the end, though, where our hero learns whether or not he can hear again after a delicate operation. While William Demerest (Uncle Charlie from "My Three Sons") smokes a cigar in the hospital room, the doctor, played by Edward Platt, the Chief from "Get Smart" (fitting to have these situation comedy stars in this opus) cuts Liberace's bandages off to test his hearing. The sight of his chubby-cheeked, smooth face against the pillow offset by his famous wavy silver hair in disarray brought to mind nothing less than the Bride of Frankenstein!
In all fairness, this is a professionally made film, with that stylized, glossy, sanitized look that most Hollywood films of the 50's had. The supporting cast does the best they can under the circumstances. You'll either gush tears if you typically fall under Liberace's spell or be laughing and groaning your way all through the film, but one way or the other you'll be entertained!
Here, she plays a young Hungarian music student who receives a prize for outstanding graduate from her conservatory from John Boles and John Barrymore, respectively the leading opera singer and leading impresario in Budapest. She follows Boles to the capital and when he doesn't remember her, takes a job as his maid to insinuate herself into a singing career. He eventually takes note of her talent and hits upon a scheme to pass her off as a mysterious Persian prodigy to lure Barrymore into signing her while leaving the coast clear for him to woo Claire Dodds as a snooty countess both men are pursuing. Complications ensue.
The plot is foolish piffle, not to be taken seriously. Swarthout sings admirably and is attractive enough, but merely gets by as an actress. Boles gets to sing here and is livelier than in his straight acting roles, while Barrymore coasts along in support, not hamming it up as much as in some of his other later roles, with a few amusing moments. Many of the more pleasurable moments come via veteran supporting actors Fritz Feld and Curt Bois (who late in life had a role in Wim Wenders classic "Wings of Desire"). I guess what this really could have used was an Ernst Lubitsch behind the camera instead of H.C. Potter!
Grable is hardly recognizable here as her future glammed-up persona. She plays the barely 17-year-old jailbait sister of John Darrow, who is out of work but doing his best to look after her. He comes home one day, hoping to surprise her on her birthday with a cake, but is told by Clara Kimball Young, his landlady, that she has had the little tramp sent to juvenile detention after watching her make a date with wealthy playboy Eddie Phillips. (By the way, even though she was only 42 and this only a decade after her biggest success, "Eyes of Youth", Kimball Young is middle-aged and positively matronly here). Darrow then stumbles on Wells, who has come by to pick up Grable for their date, and gives him a thrashing, for which he is arrested. It so happens that J. Farrell MacDonald is his judge and Sally Blane (Loretta Young's sister) is the judge's niece. The judge takes pity on Darrow and in lieu of jail, puts him on probation for three months, serving as Blane's chauffeur.
Its best not to even think about the plot: its all very silly and unrealistic and dated. Unless you are an admirer of Kimball Young's silents and curious what happened to her or wondering what the very young Betty Grable looked like or if Loretta Young's sister was as talented or pretty as she was (no), then there's really no reason to watch this programmer. Richard Thorpe, the director, went on to become one of MGM's house directors and later did such big budget hits as "Ivanhoe" and the Stewart Granger "Prisoner of Zenda", but he certainly brought no distinction to this dud. And just because this was pre-Code, don't think there's any real naughtiness on display, other than Grable being an overactive 17 year-old who is quickly and unrealistically reformed by film's end.
After his rehabilitation, Hayward does indeed attempt to be better to O'Sullivan and marries her, but finds that his attachment to Harding has developed into love. Harding finds that she reciprocates his feelings also and the dilemma must be resolved. Sounds like an interesting, even juicy movie could have been made of all this, but I'm afraid not. Ann Harding had a blonde, patrician beauty that is lovely and her acting could be subtle, thoughtful and surprisingly modern. However, the one thing I have not seen her capable of in what I admit is my limited knowledge of her acting (3 performances) is physical passion. She and Marshall strike no sparks and seem to have no more than a companionable friendship, but neither does she give any indication that she burns with passion for Hayward, so the viewer is left with no investment in either relationship. O'Sullivan has a good scene or two, but her character is awfully inconsistent, swinging from noble to nutsy, without enough exploration by Goulding of what could account for her feelings, just neediness. The now jaw-dropping sexism of some of the attitudes expressed, as well as the simplistic look at the mechanics of psychiatry also work against the drama and make it quite dated.
This is a fairly big budget, lushly made film, set in what looked like possibly San Francisco (?) with a side trip to Acapulco. I'm kind of a sucker for films from this era, their look and style, so it was enjoyable enough though certainly nothing great. Borgnine gives the best performance, though even his character showed a lot of inconsistency - at times, he was quite likable then you wanted to beat him over the head. Gina is voluptuous and sexy, but Franciosca, playing the weakest character, could not overcome the deficiencies of the writing. The biggest problem with the film is the inherent double standard of the time, making the sexually free woman the victim who must pay for her "sins". I'm certainly happy that things have changed in that regard.
Some of the more hilarious scenes include a wedding dance where the entire village takes part and come across more like a Broadway troupe with decades of experience and the depiction of the "typical" Russian village,which looks like a Slavic version of Andy Hardy's small town. Miss Peters character is also quite the Russian Superwoman - a concert pianist who can cook a mean dinner when she's not riding tractors, shooting machine guns and teaching a class of schoolchildren how to make a Molotov Cocktail. Its amazing she was able to be convincing in the slightest degree in this role, but she does as well as anyone could.
The most impressive actors to me were Conrad Veidt as the Rajah and Bernhard Goetzke as Ramigani the Yogi. Both have rather amazing and memorable faces. Goetzke's presence is remarkable and he was just as impressive in the same year playing Death in Fritz Lang's "Der Mude Tod". He is unknown today, possible because it looks as if he appeared in several Nazi productions in WWII so was perhaps blacklisted afterwards, but he was quite memorable in these two performances, the only two pieces of his work I have seen. I was not very impressed, however, by the nominal leads of the film, Olaf Fanss as the architect who travels to India to build a tomb for the Rajah and Mia May as his sweetheart. They both seem a bit too middle-aged and stodgy to be the center of all this intrigue, but perhaps that was the style of the times. The decidedly pudgy Ms. May, who was married to the film's director, Joe May, was reputedly 37 when the film was made, but could pass for 57 and in certain scenes has an unfortunate resemblance to George Washington in a dress. It was a big mistake in the "sacrifice" scene to put her in a bare-midriff outfit.
Still, this film is good nostalgic fun with man-eating tigers, leper colonies, globe-trotting action, all-powerful yogis and insanely jealous rajahs. Only Steven Spielberg could get away with it nowadays.