At peak commercial cachet, and positively bloated with glamour, Dick & Liz (that’d be Burton & Taylor) are fabulous (in the mythical sense) & embarrassing in producer Martin Ransohoff’s iniquitous surf-side romance. The whole ludicrous package pulled from his ‘original’ story,’ which turns out to be a gloss on Somerset Maugham’s RAIN. (The one about the hypocritical minister who falls for a sexual, free-spirited woman.) Massaged into shape by pricey scripters Dalton Trumbo & Michael Wilson, it juggles scenic California exterior locations with studio interiors shot on Paris soundstages. (To help keep the tax-man away.) Vincente Minnelli & lenser Milton Krasner find some good angles on La Liz (she alternates between startlingly pretty and blobby under hide-it-all ponchos by Irene Sharaff), playing a bohemian artist living in a beachfront lean-to that might pass as a Pier One store. But when her son is ordered to attend an elite private religious school, Reverend Burton starts hand-delivering status reports, and succumbs to baser instincts. Taylor's odd acting choices have her flying off the handle at the drop of a hat when not holding things up for a proto-feminist speech; then snuggling down for post-coital musing with a wounded sandpiper nesting in her hair. Eva Marie Saint is around for contrast as Burton’s ‘B’-cup wife, unable to compete with the Taylor mammaries. In a famous howler of a shot, Liz modestly covers up with too petite hands when Dick interrupts a posing session for Charles Bronson’s sculptor. All this plus Beach Front Hootennanies; never-ending cool-jazz variations on Johnny Mandel’s ‘The Shadow of Your Smile;’ and a final bittersweet resolution. Lordy, what a show.
ATTENTION MUST BE PAID: Listen up as Liz imagines a solitary life like Robinson Caruso, the world-famous tenor castaway.
WATCH THIS, NOT THAT: Dick & Liz are infinitely more fun in their previous guilty pleasure THE V.I.P.s/’63.