PS How that "Dream wife" of his learns English so quickly is absolutely amazing! She does speak with a few mistakes, of course.
Dream Wife (1953)
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PS How that "Dream wife" of his learns English so quickly is absolutely amazing! She does speak with a few mistakes, of course.
Oddly, Kerr and Grant are very miscast. Grant plays a man born in Connecticut and Kerr's nationality isn't mentioned, but she works for the U.S. State Department--yet both of them are clearly British due to their accents. Why they just didn't make them Brits, I don't know.
The film begins with Grant negotiating oil contracts with the king of the fictional Muslim nation of Bukhistan. While they are celebrating the deal, the king's sexy daughter entertains them with a dance that isn't all that good but frankly, given how beautiful she is, Grant doesn't seem to notice. It seems that he's a bit smitten with the girl, though he is already engaged to Miss Kerr and so he soon leaves to begin married life in America.
Unfortunately, Miss Kerr is a hard-driven workaholic who really isn't all that concerned with when they'll marry or where they'll go on a honeymoon--if they go at all! She's a rather clichéd character--you know, the "working woman who has no time for love or romance". So naturally, Grant is irritated with her and decides to call off the wedding. And, to spite Kerr, he asks the king's daughter to marry him, as he likes that she's very old fashioned and submissive--and very little like the cold and almost sexless Kerr.
What follows pretty much looks like a 1950s or 60s sitcom--with Kerr assigned to act as liaison between Grant and his new bride to be (since she doesn't speak English and Kerr speaks both languages). The usual sexual tension you'd expect between Kerr and Grant is all there along with some kooky adventures as the new fiancée learns what it's like to be a liberated American. And, when the film degenerates to the kooky level, you can't help but want it all to end.
The bottom line is that this is a second-rate plot--too filled with lousy writing, clichés, sitcom-like plotting and dumb situations. Plus, is it at all realistic that a devout Muslim king would even allow his beloved daughter marry an infidel? Overall, this is a passable film only because it stars Cary Grant. Even in one of his poorer efforts, he's STILL Cary Grant and managed to enliven this mess enough to make it a decent time-passer.
Cary Grant is an oil executive and Deborah Kerr a female diplomat in the previously all male world of Foggy Bottom in the not too distant past. In negotiating for oil leases with the mythical kingdom of Bukistan, Cary is really bowled over by the fact that Princess Betta St. John is so unlike the career minded Kerr. A few words here and there and the engagement between Grant and Kerr is off and between Grant and St. John is definitely on.
Of course the culture clash occurs and it ain't quite what Grant envisions. And Kerr starts to work on St.John and she's got some new ideas sprouting in her head.
The Fifties were so different than now. Those kind of ideas in some Moslem countries would have gotten St. John killed now. Relations between the west and the Moslem world has certainly changed over 50 years.
Grant and Kerr make fine leads and notice should be paid to Walter Pidgeon as Kerr's State Department boss and to Eduard Franz as the King of Bukistan who turns out to be a very wise fellow indeed.
I wonder what Stewart Granger must have thought in seeing this film?
There's no excuse for such schlock. There was no chemistry with his fiancée 'Effie' and there was none with his 'to be bride' Tarji'. The whole damn movie was a mess. There's probably some goofs that's going to complain about racism or sexism in the whole mess, I was just wondering if there was another movie that the very cute actress Betta St. John is in. She's a looker but even she's no reason to bother with this flop of a 'movie'. I wonder what were they thinking???? I honestly can't give this more than a couple of stars in good faith.
Too bad too that Grant appears to be walking through his role in very uncharacteristic fashion. There's none of his usual bounce or spark. Apparently, he was on the brink of retiring and would not make another feature for two years. So there may well be an inside story to the MGM production. Kerr too seems too dour to be droll in a rather thankless role. At the same time, the results look like director Sheldon had no feel for the antic material, being more a popular writer than director. At least there's a winsome Betta St. John as the Arabian princess, an aptly commanding Walter Pidgeon as a government honcho, and a fearsome Buddy Baer as a towering enforcer. All in all, however, I expect this was not a movie Grant would like to be remembered by, nor one that his fans will revere him for.
(In passing—Iran's Prime Minister of the time, Mohammed Mossadegh, gets a quick mention in the dialog. No wonder, because he had just nationalized the country's oil production and would quickly be deposed by a notorious CIA plot. These events culminated about the time this movie was in production, ie. early 1953, and may well have inspired the premise.)
The plot is silly and implausible, but it's fun to watch Grant and Kerr in their first on screen performance.
Inane romantic comedy that is neither romantic nor funny. A terrible movie on nearly every level. The characters are very unlikable no matter how hard I tried due to my fondness for the actors. The best thing I can say about this is that I liked the name of Cary's character, Clemson Reade. Cary Grant didn't make many stinkers but he did here. It's one of the worst films in his career. It was so bad Cary considered retiring from acting after this and didn't make another movie for two years. Worth seeing if you're a die-hard fan of the stars or on the slim chance you might find something interesting about the socio-political stuff.
Grant is frustrated with his busy fiancée and decides to wed the subservient St. John...
Directed by Sidney Sheldon, "Dream Wife" can be described as "I Dream of Jeannie" without the magic. The later TV series was created by Mr. Sheldon, with the underlying theme enhanced by giving the young woman magical powers to please her master. Reportedly, Grant was unhappy with "Dream Wife" and almost retired. He appears to either be trying out a thinner "look" or recovering from an illness. His comic timing is fine, but often channeled improperly. Cast with bad contrast, second male lead Walter Pidgeon (as Walter McBride) makes Grant look smaller. Fortunately, Grant returned to the screen, with a more robust "look" assisted by better make-up and coloring.
**** Dream Wife (1953-06-19) Sidney Sheldon ~ Cary Grant, Deborah Kerr, Betta St. John, Walter Pidgeon
As it is, the storyline incorporates dated male and female gender roles in a way that's infrequently funny and more often silly. What begins as a promising, although greatly simplified look at the primitive wants and needs of each sex, devolves into a less than amusing review of old stereotypes. The film did receive an Academy Award nomination for its B&W Costume Design.
When Clemson Reade (Grant) finally realizes that his fiancée Priscilla Effington's (Kerr) state department job takes too much of her time and will likely delay their wedding, he decides that he's had enough. When 'Effie' realizes that 'Clem' was expecting her to give up her job when she'd married him, they mutually agree to end their engagement. He then sends a telegram to the Khan (Eduard Franz) of oil rich Bukistan, where he'd just been on business, to see if can wed the royal Princess Tarji (Betta St. John), who's been trained since birth, as per their 3,000 year tradition, to care about nothing else but pleasing her future husband. The only trouble is, the state department's Walter McBride (Pidgeon, with a rather minor role) and his assistant Effie, have been negotiating a big oil death with the Khan. They intercept Clem's crude telegram and express their concerns about his plans messing up theirs. McBride then assigns Effie, who understands Bukistan's customs and speaks their language fluently, to act as a liaison between Clem and Tarji, who's father accepts the proposal of marriage.
Of course, Tarji is perceived by Clem and his jealous co-worker friends (Les Tremayne, Bruce Bennett, and Richard Anderson's characters) to be the perfect wife, but her native customs (e.g. having to walk 3 feet behind him at all times, being unable to dine with him, etc.) and the fact that the wedding is scheduled 3 months in the future (during which the Princess's imposing bodyguard is to keep them from kissing one another), gives him second thoughts. Heavyweight boxing champion Max Baer's younger brother Buddy plays Tarji's bodyguard and, in the screwball tradition, Dan Tobin does his best "Franklin Pangborn", playing a befuddled hotel manager. So Clem asks Effie to help Tarji to become more sophisticated, or domesticated for U.S. customs, and of course his ex-fiancée is only too happy to educate the Princess about famous suffragettes and other early feminists. Effie's efforts help to undo 3,000 years of Bukistan culture in just 3 months! Meanwhile, Effie begins to see Clem's attraction to Tarji (or at least his ideal of a subservient wife), in a new light. When the now English speaking, yet still very naive Tarji goes out for a walk alone, she attracts men (including Steve Forrest) like flies. It doesn't take a genius to figure out where all this is leading and, in the end, the predictable is delivered.
This 1953 MGM film was 20 years ahead of the oil "crises" of the 1970s that had a devastating effect around the world. But it gives a glimpse of the world of foreign relations and international business dealings. And, in this case, how they can overlap and interact with an amusing angle. The younger audiences of today may not know much about the cultural changes in society during the mid to late 20th century. So, things like male chauvinism and women's lib may be nothing more than something they've heard about from the past.
Well, this film clearly seems to poke fun at some customs of the time. And, it is an early jab at women's lib way before the movement became widespread more than a decade later. We see that in the early scenes when Reade returns to the U.S. With his arms full of packages at the airport a woman won't open the door for him, but another man does. Then, other men remove their hats when a woman enters an elevator. Reade fumbles his packages to remove his hat while the woman has a glare of indignation on her face. Then, there's something of a role reversal with Reade having to wait on Effie all the time as she has to work late and gets calls away from their dinner and evening out to go back to the office.
All of this seems to be juicy fodder for a very good comedy. And, with these two leads and Walter Pidgeon as Effie's State Department boss, Walter McBride, "Dream Wife" should have been a big hit. But it wasn't when it hit theaters in 1953, and it's not even mildly entertaining today.
This is clearly a case of a terrible screenplay that sinks a movie. Sometimes, the roles of actors will lift weak scripts to make fair movies. But in this case, the dull script is so bad and humorless that even Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr can't save the film. As other reviewers have noted, Grant seems to grow detached from the film as it goes along. In the early scenes he seems to strain to give a sense of comedy, as he is so adept at doing with his side-glances and facial expressions. This script is so bad it's hard to imagine the producers, directors and studio seeing any humor in it.
Others have noted that Grant was embarrassed by this poor film so much so that he didn't do another movie for two years and almost hung up his stage spurs. Thankfully, he didn't and we have some wonderful and great films with Cary Grant in the lead into the next decade. On everyone's list of most memorable love stories is Grant and Kerr's pairing for the 1957 blockbuster, "An Affair to Remember." They showed that they did have chemistry on film – if the screenplay was right.
Worse than that, Grant looks and act in such a peculiar manner. He appears to be bone-thin, with his suits just hanging on him. And his expressions and body language border on the effeminate in some sequences. This is not the dashing, debonair, sophisticated Cary Grant we've all become accustomed to seeing in so many movies over the years.
Kerr has a brief drunk scene that is unusual for her screen persona. Aside from that, there's not much to her character that can save this dreary flick.
The one thing worth noting is the movie's benign portrayal of Islamic rulers. Was it really like that 50 years ago, or were we just too ignorant to know any better?
We are fully aware of the cultural differences between the Middle East and our culture. Kerr looked like she was annoyed with the whole film and rightfully so!
We know of the subservience of the Middle Eastern woman to the man. They didn't have to highlight this. The young lady sure learned quickly about American mores and she acted the part accordingly.
Walter Pidgeon had little to do here and this wasn't the way for Bruce Bennett to be ending his acting career, or for Richard Anderson to begin his.
How are they going to keep them down on the farm, after they've seen Paris? Easy. Keep away from this putrid film.
Am so tired of seeing an American or British woman who is totally immersed in her career to a point that she will forsake marriage and family. Hillary Clinton and other ladies, you've come a long way ladies!
While the plot is pretty thin, the best part of this film is the banter between Cary and Deborah. They have fantastic comic timing together, and they reprised their pairing later in An Affair to Remember and The Grass is Greener. One of my all-time favorite lines comes from this film: the pair is arguing about all the things they hated about each other when they were a couple, complaints they're now allowed to voice since they're not on good behavior anymore. Cary says he always hated Deborah's perfume. "My perfume? But you always used to ask me to put it on!" Deborah exclaims. He replies, "You always wore it! What was I supposed to do, ask you to take it off?" If you're laughing, rent the hilarious The Grass is Greener. Dream Wife has a few funny lines, but it probably won't end up being your favorite old movie.
SYNOPSIS: Clemson Reade, who wants a wife in the home, not in business, breaks with Effie, a State Department official who is too busy with an oil crisis to have time for matrimony. Remembering a comely princess, Tarji, whom he met on a trip to Bukistan and the fact that she had been schooled from birth in the art of pleasing men, Reade proposes via cable. Because of the oil situation, the State Department steps in and assigns Effie to see that her ex-fiancé sticks to protocol in his new courtship. The princess comes to the United States, but the feminine craft of Effie soon has Tarji figuring that emancipation is more fun than being a dream wife.
COMMENT: Whatever promise this one-joke romantic comedy may have had, is negated by a conventional plot and strictly routine direction - this was the first film screenwriter Sidney Sheldon (Annie Get Your Gun, Anything Goes) directed, the first of two, the other being The Buster Keaton Story, the direction of which has even less to commend it than Dream Wife has. Doubtless Cary Grant (Sheldon was involved in the writing of Bachelor and the Bobbysoxer) had something to do with the assignment of Sheldon to this pic. Be this as it may, the direction is as stolidly unimaginative as can be, and whatever humor was in the original screenplay has been effectively smothered by Sheldon's heavy handling. Deborah Kerr, in some stunning Helen Rose costumes, looks absolutely ravishing and while she has the best of everything - clothes, camera angles, coiffure - Betta St John is also allowed to make some impression as the princess; but the two other attractive young lasses in the cast, Patricia Tiernan as Miss Kerr's secretary and Mary Lawrence as Mrs Malvine get hardly a look-in. Walter Pidgeon has virtually nothing to do and Bruce Bennett has a miniscule role. Take-any-job Grant walks through the proceedings with his usual not-too-involved air. There are a few chuckles in the script. Trimmed to 75 or even 80 minutes, it might make passable entertainment. Production values are moderate. Miss Kerr gets the lion's share of behind-the camera attention.
We now have ready support in film for several types of fantasy worlds, concerning God, country and love of course. Identity if you are a teenager.
Love is a difficult one to understand because either it doesn't connect (because it is of a world we have chosen to exclude) or it does, in which case our objectivity gets entangled. What's really good is when you have a romantic film that directly supports this need and utterly fails.
This is one of those. Cary Grant in an ill-fitting suit. Deborah Kerr with amazingly fat thighs. A concept and script so incompetent one wonders just what they were thinking.
The guy behind this later found the groove in this formula with the "I Dream of Jeannie" TeeVee show. There, he softened things: made the "hard woman" softer and the "soft" woman so soft she wasn't even a real woman.
So this is interesting from that perspective. Bad films tell you more about the good ones than the good ones themselves do.
But there is another feature of this that seems fantastic these days. Along with the romance element, they bonded it with what was then seen as the exotic flavor of Arabia. There is a subplot concerning America's desperate need for oil (more than 50 years ago!) but the main exoticism is the contrast between Islam and US culture. Islam's quirks are seen as comic and innocently charming.
I had wondered elsewhere when we would again see Arab women in films as sexy beings. Didn't even happen here. Probably won't happen in my lifetime.
Ted's Evaluation -- 2 of 3: Has some interesting elements.
I will not recap this silly piece of '50's fluff. You must watch it for yourself, but please don't blame me if you want the 100 minutes of your life back. I did warn you. Nevertheless, in my opinion, Cary Grant in anything trumps an incredible percentage of movies being made these days. One must still wonder what Cary was thinking when he agreed to appear in this mess of a movie. It would be hard to believe that he needed the money, but, who knows? I suspect that it tanked at the box office and if I wasn't too cheap to buy a premium subscription to IMDb, I could find out.
Perhaps in retrospect Cary Grant, himself, provides us with the ultimate review of his movie, as he decided to retire from film-making immediately after making it.