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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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What to Watch: Friday

The royal wedding of Prince William and Catherine Middleton holds no great appeal for me unlike many in America, however, the grand event, set for Friday, brings with it a cinematic celebration of sorts on Turner Classic Movies. That evening, the channel will air a number of royal-themed films, all of which happen to be good flicks.

Royal Wedding (1951)

First up at 8 p.m. ET is Royal Wedding starring Fred Astaire, Jane Powell and Peter Lawford. I have never been in love with Astaire but usually watch his films anyway. This one, however, is among my favorites. Astaire and Powell are a brother and sister musical duo on tour in London for Elizabeth II’s wedding. Powell meets Lawford and the two have an adorable romance. Meanwhile, Astaire tries to court a dancer. The musical contains the famous “Dancing on the Ceiling” number whereby a trick of simultaneously rotating camera and set make it seem as though Astaire is actually walking on the walls and ceiling (the same effect was used in certain scenes of 2010’s Inception). This is also the first solo directing credit for Stanley Donen.

Roman Holiday (1953)

 
Next on the schedule is Roman Holiday airing at 10 p.m. Given that Audrey Hepburn is my favorite actress, I naturally love this flick directed by William Wyler. It was her first major role and she won her only Best Actress Oscar. Hepburn plays Princess Ann who runs away while visiting Rome and is rescued by American reporter Joe Bradley, played by Gregory Peck, after sleeping pills have her adopting a street-side bench as a bed. The young princess explores the city anonymously, although Bradley has figured out who she is. No one could have played the free-spirited Ann like Audrey.

The Glass Slipper (1955)

A new take on a classic princess story, Cinderella, is the subject of the 12:15 a.m. airing of The Glass Slipper. Leslie Caron plays the pauper who is lucky enough to attend the prince’s ball. This flick is not as great as the previous two, but it is a nice live-action musical with one of the greatest musical stars of France: Caron. It also offers a realistic take on the fairy godmother character, who is a crazy old lady that fell from a prominent position in society after “reading too many books”.

The Swan (1956)

Finally, if you can make it to 2 a.m. you will be entreated to a romantic Grace Kelly flick that predicts her eventual royalty. The Swan casts Kelly as a princess whose family has fallen out of the good graces of a greater sect of the family that includes the queen. To save the family, Kelly’s Alexandra must win over a distant cousin (Alec Guinness) and marry him. The trouble is, she is in love with her tutor (Louis Jourdan). It is one of the less memorable of Kelly’s roles but a great one anyway.

 

Cinematic Shorts: Charade

 Wowza!

     Welcome to the first of what should be a common occurrence on this site. The Cinematic Shorts will be quickie reviews of movies. I will reserve this approach for movies I have not watched recently but on which I would like to comment anyway. For instance, you likely noticed I’ve seen nearly all of Hitchcock’s movies, so I’m not likely to rewatch them any time soon, yet Notorious is really dang good, so I’d like to tell you about it. Since this is my first along this vein, I think it only fitting to go with my favorite movie from my favorite actress: Audrey Hepburn.

     I’m not sure how I first discovered Charade. It might have been a rental from the library or when I bought a $5 copy at the movie store where I worked. The set up is ideal for me: Audrey plus Cary Grant. It is the only picture they did together, sadly, but quite a gem. It is a comedy, drama, action, romance and murder mystery all rolled into one.

     Set in France, Audrey plays a woman who returns home from vacation to find the husband she wants to divorce is dead and their home empty following an auction of their belongings. She had bumped into Grant’s character while on vacation and he finds her again in her empty home. A romance of course ensues featuring adorable lines such as:

You know what’s wrong with you? Nothing.

and

Oh, you should see your face. –What’s the matter with it?– It’s lovely.

     *Sigh* I’m swooning just thinking of it. All kinds of switcheroos occur as Audrey tries to understand who killed her husband while avoiding being whacked herself and who Grant really is. Add in some great Audrey fashions and I was sold on the first viewing. I would also be remiss if I failed to mention an adorable little boy in the picture. Look out for his “I would bury it in the garden” line. It’s classic.

     If you like Audrey or Cary Grant, Charade is a must see and one I can never get enough of.

"How do you shave in there?"

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