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"The Wife of the Centaur" was a popular novel by Cyril Hume, notorious in its day for its sexual frankness (by the standards of the time). Hume is now remembered only for working on the screenplay of "Forbidden Planet", to which his chief contribution seems to have been the idea of turning Shakespeare's "Tempest" into a space opera.
By modern standards, Hume's novel "The Wife of the Centaur" is exceedingly tame ... and so is this film version. Firstly, the title is misleading. There are no mythological creatures here. The protagonist is described in the title cards as a "centaur" because he's so highly sexed that he has the prowess of a stallion. John Gilbert plays the "centaur" Jeff Dwyer, who is ostensibly a poet (apparently this is his full-time profession!) but he's so busy with his non-stop wenching, I can't see how he ever has any time (or energy) for writing his deathless poems.
Dwyer has married Joan (played by the very attractive Eleanor Boardman, wife of film director King Vidor) ... but one woman is never enough for Dwyer the centaur, and now he's busy romancing Inez (Aileen Pringle, less attractive than Boardman). He decides to abandon Joan and run off with Inez (presumably remaining faithful to her until he finds his next bit of fluff), and he leaves a note for Joan explaining his intentions. Then he elopes with Inez.
The most annoying thing about this movie (and its source novel) is the attempt to have it both ways: we're expected to leer and enjoy all the sexual shenanigans, but then the story suddenly comes over all moral and pious for the fade-out, and we're supposed to go along with this too. After he goes off to a ski lodge with Inez, Dwyer has a very unconvincing change of heart, and he realises that Joan is his true love after all. He desperately rushes home on cross-country skis (a centaur on skis?) just in time to retrieve the note and plight his true troth to Joan. Fade out.
The production design, sets and costumes are uniformly excellent, as are the cross-country skiing sequences (featuring an obvious stunt double for Gilbert). But this film is nothing special. Vidor was a great director, but this is one of his lesser efforts. Some portions of "Wife of the Centaur" are now laughable, and most of the film moves too slowly ... including the skiing sequences, which are meant to be a suspenseful race against time.
All in all, a sad waste of talent and resources.
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