Sunday, March 28, 2010

Taken for Granted

Cary Grant: actor, philanthropist, LSD enthusiast. Women wanted him and men wanted to be him. Has he ever starred in a bad movie? The double-feature disc Thirty Day Princess/Kiss and Make Up tests this question.

Kiss and Make Up features Grant as a society plastic surgeon and beauty doctor. He makes all the women lovely, and all their husbands hate him. Husband Edward Everett Horton explains that he had a nice, comfortable wife, and Grant has made her glamorous and high maintenance. He wants a divorce.

Once Horton's wife (Genevieve Tobin) is divorced, of course she has to marry Grant. If only Cary would realize that his sweet secretary (Helen Mack) is the perfect woman for him. Instead, she marries Horton.

The movie satirizes the beauty industry rather brutally, to the point where nobody comes off very well. Grant is cold and egotistical, and her rather deserves what he gets when he marries Tobin, his creation, the stereotyped society beauty. Horton, in his usual role as a plain-faced, plain-speaking type, is too aggrieved to be really sympathetic. Helen Mack is very sweet as the adoring secretary, but is pretty much a doormat (until the happy ending) (spoiler). The scene where she thinks she is being seduced is well played, though.

Also, there is a car chase with chloroform at the end that could have been funnier. There are a lot of glamor shots of the women in the beauty clinic, in tasteful 1930s dishabille, but that's the best I can say for this. I can't think of a comedy that's left me feeling more depressed.

Thirty Day Princess is about as easy to sum up: a banker (Edward Arnold) is floating a bond issue for the tiny nation of Sylvania, or maybe Freedonia. He brings the Princess (Sylvia Sydney) to America to "give them the ballyhoo". When she gets quarantined with mumps, he finds her exact double in a starving actress (Sylvia Sydney, of course). Crusading newspaper editor Cary Grant sets out to rake some muck on the bond scheme, but winds up falling for the counterfeit princess.

While the comedy isn't exactly laugh-filled, it's pretty sunny throughout. Sydney does a fine job in either role, with a "European" or New York accent. Arnold is a fine scoundrel of an honest banker - in 1934, too. And Grant is Grant, blustery, impulsive, romantic and lovable.

I don't know if I can recommend either of these movies. Kiss and Make Up could be watched just for the sheer misanthropy. Thirty Day Princess isn't bad, but it isn't better than a lot of movies of its type. It might have seemed better next to Kiss.

If you do watch either one, let me know what you think.

1 comment:

Mythical Monkey said...

I haven't seen these but promise to put them on my list.

On the other hand, I have seen The Pride and the Passion which co-starred Grant, Frank Sinatra and Sophia Loren. Sinatra plays a Spanish guerrilla fighting the French during Napoleon's invasion of Spain, Grant is a British military adviser trying to keep a cannon out of the hands of the French and Loren is the beautiful woman who loves them both. And it is dull dull dull! Grant isn't allowed to be either charming or funny, Sinatra doesn't sing and has the worst Spanish accent in history and Loren stubbornly keeps her clothes on for 132 minutes.

The set was so uncomfortable that Sinatra finally bugged out and went home to New York. To cover for him, they put a coat on a hanger and shot scenes over its shoulder.

The coat should have won an Oscar. Everybody else no doubt chalked this up as the worst mistake of their career and moved on as quickly as possible.