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Indiscreet

Ring a Ding Ding

Indiscreet (1958)

     I recently commented to a friend after seeing This Means War in the theater that it is interesting/good to see movies that portray single men and women who are beyond their 20s finding love and marriage, in some cases for the first time. In fact, with stars like Reece Witherspoon (36) and Jennifer Aniston (43) who perhaps have gotten better looking with age, many romantic movies today appeal to a demographic beyond its college years. But watching one of my favorite movies this week, Indiscreet, I realized that motion pictures have never shied away from mature romance.

      As in contemporary conveyances of adult romance, the lead characters have typically eschewed love and marriage in favor of a career or have “been there, done that” and are now divorced. Thus is the case with Ingrid Bergman (43) and Cary Grant (54) in Indiscreet, sort of. Berman is famous British stage actress Anna while Grant is a financial expert Philip whom NATO seeks for employment.

     The two meet through mutual friends –Alfred (Cecil Parker) and Margaret Munson (Phyllis Calvert), the latter being Anna’s sister– and Anna is struck with love at first sight and reacts as a grown-up school girl. Philip is interested as well, but when Anna later asks him to the ballet, he reveals he is married and separated “and cannot possibly get a divorce”. The two nevertheless maintain an affair aided by the man’s acceptance of the NATO job in France. He commutes every week to London and has taken a flat below Anna’s so he may sneak up to her place without alerting the building staff and damaging the actress’ reputation.

     When Philip is assigned to work in New York for five months, Anna impulsively asks the man to marry her, but immediately rescinds the plea. She soon finds out that Philip’s marital status is not as she expected and plans a ruse to teach him a lesson.

     Extramarital affairs were not terribly kosher in 1950s cinema and the Hayes Office never cared for any display of premarital relations, but Director Stanley Donen is, well, discreet in how he conveys the relationship. The couple are never depicted doing anything more than kissing, made more suggestive with the camera tracking backward from Anna’s front door. The characters, however, always seem to wake up in their own beds. Although, in another subliminal move, Donen split-screens the protagonists speaking on the phone to one another while laying in bed. The shot is done in such a way as to make it look like they are laying side by side.

     The story was adapted from the play “Kind Sir” that had proven a Broadway flop. The central premise was one that had potential, however, and so the rights were acquired cheaply and delivered to Donen. The director had been working with Grant on Kiss Them For Me, and was looking for another film on which to collaborate. Grant was amenable to the adaptation but insisted Bergman be his leading lady. She did not need much convincing. Donen had some concerns because this comedy was not something Bergman had engaged in much during her career, yet she pulls it off swimmingly. Grant has remarked it is one of his favorite pictures he made.

     Indiscreet is a fun and touching movie. Although we have fun watching the romance blossom between the two characters, we also feel for Anna as she becomes frustrated with her other-woman status. Both Grant and Bergman bring something special to the roles and the seasoned actors are so comfortable together. The two had also played romantic parts in Notorious 12 years earlier, but their maturity was evident in the later flick.

Source: Cary Grant: A Celebration by Richard Schickel

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Lady L

Ring a Ding Ding

Lady L (1966)

It is easy to forget or perhaps not even contemplate that Sophia Loren was actually a very talented actress because she played so many fun or purely sexual parts. Lady L is not an example of a film that showed off her acting talent in a serious way but it highlights how lively she could be in comedic settings. One cannot help but be jealous of the life Loren’s character lives in this exciting tale of love, crime and wealth.

Lady L opens on the wife of an English lord who is celebrating her 80th birthday. She is highly revered by all around her, and a friend desires to write her biography of the life of which he apparently has no notion. As this Louise (Loren) describes for the writer Sir Percy (Cecil Parker) how she came to be who she is, the man ultimately discovers her story is too scandalous/too moral to be told.

Louise was a laundress for a French brothel, the owner of which is forever enticing the girl to join the crew, if you will. It is here she meets Armand (Paul Newman) who is a master of disguise/anarchist/thief who has just robbed and blown up part of a bank and then disperses the money to the prostitutes of the brothel. Louise climbs into bed with him to help him escape the police and is instantly attracted to the man. The couple runs to Switzerland where they enjoy a poor existence subsisting only on love. Just as Louise learns she is pregnant, she comes home to find Armand pledging into a radical group and being assigned to assassinate Prince Otto of Bavaria. The mother-to-be leaves the love of her life because she cannot abide such extreme crime.

Louise moves on to Nice where she poses as a widow countess and secures a room at a hotel that is otherwise fully occupied by one man: Lord Lendale (David Niven). The two become friendly and Lendale reveals he is on the hunt for a wife and is in need of an heir. He realizes the beautiful woman is a fraud and pregnant before she can reveal it. He also has her agree to marry him provided he will help Armand escape the country after the assassination attempt. Upon their flight via train, however, the young lovers rekindle their romance while Lendale hangs on.

When Armand is finally arrested, Louise stays with Lendale, who returns to his English home after possibly 18 years away to present his wife and child. The two have a happy and wealthy existence but when Armand is released from prison, Lendale offers to build his wife a summer house where she can keep her lover.

The story does a great job of bending our opinion of which lover Louise should choose at various junctions in the movie. Armand is handsome and exciting until he goes rogue, and Lendale becomes a fantastic shepherd for the woman when she is in a motherly pickle.  When the initial couple is reunited however, we cannot help but think that true love should prevail before being glad to see the Lord and Lady start their life. Dressed in corset and the well-covered fashions of the early 20th Century, Loren’s sexual appeal is played to as much of a minimum as someone with such a beautiful face can be. This lends the actress to use her non-physical attributes to win us over. She is an absolute delight, which makes for a wonderfully fun and romantic tale.

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