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Friday, February 14, 2014

INDISCREET (1958)

Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman, with half a century’s worth of collective film history behind them, put on an acting clinic of relaxed charm & undiminished glamor in this ultra-smooth stage transfer from Stanley Donen. It’s a trifle, a theatrical amuse-bouche (School of Ferenc Molnár) wrestled out from the remains of Norman Krasna’s misbegotten play by . . . Norman Krasna! (Hard to figure out how Charles Boyer, Mary Martin & director Joshua Logan flamed out with it on B’way.) Bergman plays a sadder-but-wiser stage actress who falls hard for Grant’s financier/diplomat knowing full well he’s stuck in one of those unbreakable marriages so popular with playwrights & scripters before the ‘60s sexual revolution and eased up divorce courts made such things irrelevant. But an ironic twist to the relationship’s status quo just might screw things up. That’s about it for the plot, but it’s more than enough for a film that’s aged better than you might expect. There’s good support from cast & crew, and even if lenser Freddie Young didn’t get on with Donen, you’d never guess it from the rich look. (Just be sure to avoid the drab Artisan DVD issued in 2001.) Donen really knows what he’s up to, playfully starting the film with a pair of opening curtains, never overselling set pieces, encouraging Grant to cut up with some improvised hoofing on a Highland Fling, and famously splitting his screen to put Grant & Bergman in bed together visually if not physically, even while separated by the English Channel.* (And note our German poster which seems to promise a sequel to that other Grant/Bergman pic, Hitchcock’s NOTORIOUS/’46.)

SCREWY THOUGHT OF THE DAY/DOUBLE-BILL: *You’ll find a similar split-screen double-bed trick shot in a mediocre Screwball Comedy called WEDDING PRESENT/’36 that stars Joan Bennett and, of all people, Cary Grant!

READ ALL ABOUT IT: The chapter on INDISCREET in Stephen Silverman’s Donen bio, DANCING ON THE CEILING, shows the stars to be every bit as pleasant & winning as the film.

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