Rock Hudson is usually reason enough for me to watch a movie. And when the film co-stars Gina Lollobrigida, there is no doubt about it – I have to see the film! They were great together in Come September – one of my favorite 60s rom-coms. So when a “new” Gina-Rock film showed up on Amazon, I knew I had to get it. Commenters on imdb warned that Strange Bedfellows was no Come September, so I held off buying it, for a while. And then, last Christmas, I finally gave in to temptation and ordered it.
Carter Harrison (Rock Hudson) is an up-and-coming young executive in Inter Allied, an American oil company. While strolling along a London street, he runs into a paint-brush that lovingly coats his face with black oil paint. The woman behind the importunate paint-brush – Toni Vincente (Gina Lollobrigida) – takes him home to wash off the paint with some home-brewed turpentine oil. As she removes the paint to reveal
Rock Hudson Carter’s face, a voice-over tells us that “Toni is an artist and very impressionist”. The impressionism, in this case, is completely mutual. Before long, the two are married and honeymooning blissfully.
Their impressionism, however, doesnt survive the cold light of the day, or rather Carter’s love does not survive Toni’s bohemian ideas or her political views. Toni tries to persuade him with the tried and tested pizza-on-the-face technique. And then, just for a change, she uses him as a target for her home-made missiles (paint and/or sundry domestic movables) but Carter is immovable - from his principles, that is. He moves fast enough to dodge her missiles and runs all the way to the middle-east, where he stays for the next seven years, growing to be one very important oil-exec.
Just as Carter is getting ready to take his rightful place as a top man in Inter Allied Oil, Toni asks for a divorce. The company’s top trouble-shooter - Richard Bramwell (Gig Young) – is dispatched to persuade Carter against resigning his family-man status. Richard cautions him against becoming a divorcé as it would ruin his career prospects, but Carter will not be moved. He’s determined to divorce his “Italian fruitcake” and sticks to his guns. But it would take a stronger man than Carter to remember his principles in the light of said fruitcake’s shapely and stockinged legs, luscious lips, and overall gorgeousness. Thankfully for him, Toni is still “impressionist” and the two have a quick reconciliation on their way home from their divorce lawyers’.
Mr. and Mrs Harrison wake up to a new day of love and happiness. They talk of babies and family men, and while Toni runs his bath (urgh!) Carter conveys the good news to a relieved Richard. Sadly, the ship of Carter-Toni’s new-found happiness soon runs aground. First there are heated exchanges over an expressionist statue that has been banned by the American National Gallery because neither the lady nor the horse in the sculpture have a strategically placed fig-leaf. Toni argues fiercely for the rights of statues to discard fig-leaves, but Carter is unmoved. He feels that if the National Gallery demands fig leaves, fig leaves (expressionist or real) should be forthcoming! One thing leads to another and Carter is soon out in the rain, with a divorce once again imminent.
When Carter trudges up to Richard’s office, to tell him that his off-and-on divorce is definitely on, now, Richard brings out a bombshell. He was sent out to prevent Carter’s divorce because Carter is in line to be the heir to the big boss. A divorce will cost Carter the highest office in Inter Allied Oil! With such a big promotion at stake, Carter is willing to reconcile with Toni for a few weeks. But things arent quite as simple as all that. Toni’s boss, and faithful friend-cum-companion of years - Harry Jones (Edward Judd) - wants to marry her and will do anything to upset a Carter-Toni reconciliation.
When Carter promises Toni that he is a changed man, and will support her in all her liberal activities, Harry does his best to stretch Carter’s nouveau-liberality to breaking point. As a result, Carter is obliged to share the flat with Toni’s fellow-fruitcakes and support her in her maddest endeavour yet – her resolve to ride as Lady Godiva to protest against American banning of nude, expressionist statues. In full view of top American dignitaries and the press, Toni proposes to recreate Lady Godiva’s legendary ride (the lady rode nude through Coventry), and present a protest letter to the American ambassador. If that doesnt break Carter’s thin veneer of newly acquired liberality, Harry judges, nothing will.
What Harry does not realise is that Carter has too much at stake to walk off from his marriage. So his only option is to stop Toni from taking part in a stunt that is guaranteed to ruin his chances of career advancement. How will he do it? With ingenious scheming, thats how. The scheming is pretty even-handed. Just when you think Carter will take home the beacon, Harry pulls a fast one, and just when you think Carter is dished for good, he makes a smart comeback.
The film has lots of witty retorts and funny dialogues, the situations are mostly hilarious and made me laugh a lot. But overall, I agree with the imdb commenters – this is no Come September! The film is less than the sum of all its parts that just dont come together very well. And the end seems to come out of nowhere – its so out of tune with everything we learn of the characters throughout the film. Which brings me to my other complaint – the characters. They are very two-dimensional stereotypes with no spark to them. Carter is a sexist, Toni is a fruitcake and Harry is just the boring British beau. Carter keeps telling Toni that they shouldnt muddy the waters with 'chemistry', and I kept thinking that that is exactly what the film needs – some 'chemistry'!
The film is not a total washout though. It was a pleasant watch and was good for several laughs the first time. For Rock Hudson (and Gina Lollobrigida) I’d sit through a lot worse!