Thursday, April 8, 2010

Strange Bedfellows (1965)

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 Septemberone 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 divorcĂ© 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!

26 comments:

  1. Oh dear. I'd been meaning to get hold of this one, but seeing as I don't much like Come September (it's very pretty and Walter Slezak has some good dialogue, but I thought the core premise was a little weak)... maybe not for me. But Hudson? Mmmm. ;-)

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  2. Ooooo Rock Hudson! I'm on Rock+Douglas Sirk binge at the moment and I must say I'm loove with him! I watched come september once, and remembered it was such a charming film, but i definitely have to check this out for some more Rock hijinks!

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  3. dustedoff, it IS rather hard to avoid bad movies when Rock Hudson insists on being in them! You may even like it, since you didnt enjoy Come September. I landed up buying this film thanks to you! While ordering The Englishman's Cameo from Amazon, I decided to get this, too (multiple items reduce shipping costs). Amazon refused to cough up your book, but this DVD arrived very promptly!

    Rum, Rock Hudson is definitely must-see - if not for his hilarious comedies, then for his eye-candy impact, which is HUGE. His films with Douglas Sirk, though, are not exactly his best work. Have you seen Magnificent Obsession? Rock Hudson obsessing over Jane Wyman does stretch my suspension of disbelief to breaking point!

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  4. I'm sure Dhanno would leap at this. As would I. Rock Hudson. With or without chemistry, worth a watch. I'm pretty sure they used bits of this film in the dud 'Mr & Mrs. Khanna'. That too lacked essential chemistry. :)

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  5. Oh, so TEC was useful in some ways! ;-)

    Of all the Rock Hudson films I've seen so far, I guess I'd put Send Me No Flowers as my favourite, though Man's Favourite Sport? is also pretty high up on the list. Magnificent Obsession is good, but as you say, the Hudson-Wyman romance sort of stretched things... I guess I prefer the earlier, Robert Taylor-Irene Dunn version.

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  6. I could sit through it just admiring Rock Hudson! And if this has some witty retorts and funny dialogues, I might as well watch it.

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  7. Banno, obviously Dhanno has inherited good taste from her Mom! If you could sit through Main Aur Mrs Khanna, you would definitely love this one. Salman doesnt have chemistry even with his own botox.

    dustedoff, TEC was useful in more ways than just getting me a new Rock Hudson film! I am saving it for a second read, before it flies around the world to entertain my siblings.

    For all his gorgeousness, Hudson doesnt seem to have gotten very many great films. Apart from a few good comedies (I agree that Send Me No Flowers and Man's Favorite Sport are his best), his other films veered more towards mediocre and boring. Not that it ever stops me from trying to get my hands on each and every one of them. One never knows - there might be hidden gems!

    sunheriyaadein, Rock Hudson and Gina Lollobrigida are both worth watching here - the film definitely does not let down in the eye-candy department!

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  8. Rock Hudson's Come September I just love it. But this post is not about Come September.

    As a kid I watched Rock Hudson's A Farewell to arms but don't remember a thing.

    One movie of his that still haunts me to this day and I wonder if it is available, is the one in which he co-starred with Kirk Douglas. The name was THE LAST SUNSET. Anyone seen this one? It's a very poignant tale where the law-breaker impregnates the heroine and goes out of the town and her life as well. The Sheriff, Rock Hudson, loves her notwithstanding the love-child - a girl. Now when this girl grows into a beautiful woman, Kirk Douglas returns to this town and pursues this girl not knowing that she is his daughter. Nor does the girl know that he is her father. What happens thereafter is quite dramatic.

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  9. Nasir, The Last Sunset sounds wonderful! Anything with Rock Hudson plus Kirk Douglas is definitely a must-see in my book, no matter how it turns out. I'll look out for it...

    And I love Come September, too. Sadly, this film tries very hard to be just as funny, but doesnt quite make it.

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  10. Yes, Nasir - I've seen The Last Sunset. It was pretty unusual, and I remember wondering about Kirk Douglas's character's actual relationship with one of the others... a different sort of film.

    Has anybody seen the Elizabeth Taylor-Hudson starrer Giant? I've been meaning to order it, but would like some feedback on how it is. Supposedly it won great critical acclain, and imdb praises it - but then, my faith on imdb rankings is a little shaky.

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  11. Yes Bollyviewer, I'm sure you'll love The Last Sunset. I miss those movies of the Golden era of Hollywood - especially the Westerns. As a kid I couldn't understand English but I did enjoy them a lot and I wonder what happened to those titles. There were for instance: The Fastest Gun Alive (Glen Ford?); Man Hunt (Don Murray?); Gunfight at OK Correl; Apache (Burt Lancaster); Sitting Bull; Run of the Arrow; High Noon (Gary Cooper) and so on.

    @Dustedoff: I remember having seen the poster of Giant, exhibited outside a restaurant. That's all.

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  12. dustedoff, I have seen parts of Giant on TV and it looked like a well-made film. But for some reason I never could work up the enthusiasm to watch it all the way through. Its so clearly the kind of film that I am supposed to like and admire that I perversely neither like nor admire it! Besides, I do not want to see Hudson play a patriarch, I want to see him play a romantic hero in a frothy flick!!! :-)

    How did you like The Last Sunset?

    Nasir, sounds like you need a subscription to Turner Classic Movies! :-) These films show up on their channel pretty regularly, especially Gun Fight At OK Corral and High Noon.

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  13. Hmmm, "Strange Bedfellows" sounds like an excellent candidate for Netflix instant watch. I'm off to see if they have it...

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  14. How come I've never seen this? It sounds right up my alley.

    Personally Pillow Talk is my Hudson fave - to watch him act like a man deep in the closet is hilarious. You KNOW everyone on that set was giggling over every shot. Especially him and that twinkle in his eyes. And paradoxically, I've never wanted to see a couple make out more than those two kids. Sigh. Simply don't make it like that any more.

    DustedOff - Giant is fabulous although Hudson delivers a performance completely unlike his romcom self. It's a movie that puts you through a wringer.

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  15. I wouldn't have the patience to watch Turner classics on PC but thanks for the suggestion any way Bollyviewer.

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  16. Rock Hudson makes me wonder who might be or have been a closeted gay actor/actress in bollywood, surely there has to be one

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  17. @bollyviewer: The Last Sunset is good, but again not your typical Hudson film - definitely not something to watch when you're looking for fun and happiness. It also has a rather strange unresolved relationship that remains a big question mark. And oh, by the way - if you like Kirk Douglas a lot, maybe you won't want to see this.

    @amrita: Thank you. Even though bollyviewer doesn't seem to think that highly of it, I just may watch Giant after all - considering the number of films, good and bad, that I watch!...

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  18. Shalini, hope you found it! If not, I will happily share...

    Amrita, you mean you havent diligently looked up Rock Hudson's filmography on imdb and hunted down every last film? For shame!!!

    And whats this about Hudson being in the closet in Pillow Talk - isnt he just pretending to be a "good" guy when he is really a libertine. This one, by the way, has a LOT of gay jokes. Hudson keeps falling into situations that lead his fellow-characters to suspect his orientations! :-)

    Nasir, watching TV on computer isnt my favorite thing either. Its too bad TCM isnt available everywhere. Canada just got it a couple of years ago, too.

    bollywooddeewana, that got me thinking too! :-) I can think of some amongst the current crop of actors, but who among the earlier generation? Any suggestions?

    dustedoff, I do love Kirk Douglas but its very rare to see him play an admirable character. So, I am resigned to seeing him play the heel or worse!

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  19. No clue bollyviewer, amongst the earlier generation i can't really say perhaps i'd describe some as Bi than say Gay, for some reason Raaj kumar pops into my head..Lol Amongst the current crop i really have no clue, Karan Johar is an exception

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  20. @dustedoff: I believe Kirk Douglas is unforgettable as Spartacus in the movie of that name. How I love that movie and this character!

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  21. @Bollywooddeewaana, earlier on people here at least were generally unaware of sexual orientations of the celebreties. I, for one, never imagined that a Romantic Star such as Rock Hudson could be a gay. It was only when he succumbed to AIDS that I learnt the shocking truth. Such things, I believe, were a closely guarded secret among older generations.

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  22. @Nasir: I have to admit I've not yet got around to seeing Spartacus, though I've heard so much about it! But have just finished seeing The Vikings, also with Kirk Douglas, and liked it a lot.

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  23. bollywooddeewana, Raj Kumar? :-D Is that because of his wig and all the make-up he insisted on wearing, even in real-life?

    Nasir, its funny about Hudson's closely guarded sexual orientation, because thats the first thing I knew about him - that he was gay, a big Hollywood star and dying of AIDS! And that was in the 80s (when I didnt even understand what 'gay' meant!). I didnt see my first Hudson movie till the late 90s, and it never occurred to me that there was a time when he wasnt known to be gay!

    dustedoff, Spartacus is definitely worth watching, especially for Kirk Douglas's scenery chewing. He does it with such charm, too! :-D

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  24. @Dustedoff. Vikings huh? I'm sure I had seen it in the 50's but I would love to see it again especially because this name has some fascination for me.
    As Bollyviewer recommends too, you'll certainly love Spartacus. I get goose-pimples when the story heads towards the climax and the end leaves me with a very heart and sighings! In fact, the new version was no match for the older movie.

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  25. @Nasir, bollyviewer: Okay, now I certainly have to get hold of Spartacus! As it is, I'm a sucker for anything historical... going off to search for it.

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  26. Oooh I'd love to see The Vikings too, though it sounds a bit bloodthirsty.

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