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Tuesday, February 23, 2016

THE GRASS IS GREENER (1960)

A couple of insurmountable bumps slow this marital-infidelity drawing-room comedy down. First: it’s tough to buy Deborah Kerr leaving hubby Cary Grant for a spur-of-the-moment affair with Robert Mitchum. Sure, Cary’s a cash-poor Lord in an English manor that’s open to the public while Bob’s a tempting millionaire American oilman. But in films where men sport tuxes, it’s always going to be advantage Grant. Second: (only slightly more important) it’s a third-rate play, the sole feature credit for writers Hugh & Margaret Williams. Still, worth wading thru the strained first half to catch Grant working his magic on the back nine, enlivening the limited action as he explains it all to a ditzy Jean Simmons, Kerr’s nosy, gal-pal & audience surrogate. The ‘sophisticated’ twist is that Grant must let his wife run out her fling if he wants his marriage back, slightly soiled, but ‘intact.’ And while he appears passive, appearances can be deceiving. William Douglas-Home, master of this sort of light comedy at the time (see Vincente Minnelli’s smashing THE RELUCTANT DEBUTANTE/’58*), had it all over the Williamses, but watch what Grant is able to make of this pale simulacrum thru underplaying, agogic emphasis & sheer personal style. Plus, here & there, in scenes Lubitsch might have agreed to shoot (a medley of vacated paired chairs; a neatly staged duel in a corridor), Donen shows his formidable directing chops.

DOUBLE-BILL: The third collaboration for Grant & director Donen; the third for Kerr & Mitchum; the third for Kerr & Grant; and the third for Simmons & Mitchum!  Twelve pics!  How many have you seen? And that doesn’t even include Grant/Donen’s upcoming CHARADE/’63.

SCREWY THOUGHT OF THE DAY: *Apparently, Rex Harrison was set to play the Grant role, but dropped out to nurse ailing wife Kay Kendall, his delectable co-star on DEBUTANTE. You can get a pretty good idea of what Rex might have done with the part watching THE YELLOW ROLLS ROYCE/’64, written by drawing-room dramedy master Terence Rattigan who’d go on to write a play specifically for Rex all about his dilemma with a dying wife (IN PRAISE OF LOVE/’74).

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