Thursday, February 16, 2017

How Sweet It Is!

Year 9, Day 47 - 2/16/17 - Movie #2,547

BEFORE: Italian actor Gino Conforti, the voice of Jacquimo the swallow in "Thumbelina", carries over to tonight's film, which allows me to kick off my 4-film tribute to Debbie Reynolds, about one month after TCM ran their tribute to her.  (Those copycats - and they had the nerve to beat me to the punch!)  For a while it looked like I'd have to watch these in December, after "Star Wars: Episode 8", and then link to them via the documentary "Bright Lights", but I found a way to work them in to the February romance chain, which is really where they belong.

Before I get to Debbie, here's the TCM "31 Days of Oscar" line-up for tomorrow, 2/17:
7:00 AM The Merry Widow (1935)
8:45 AM A Midsummer Night's Dream (1935)
11:15 AM Mighty Joe Young (1949)
1:00 PM Mildred Pierce (1945)
3:00 PM Million Dollar Mermaid (1952)
5:00 PM Min and Bill (1930)
6:15 PM The Miracle of Our Lady of Fatima (1952)
8:00 PM The Miracle Worker (1962)
10:00 PM Mister Roberts (1955)
12:15 AM Mogambo (1953)
2:30 AM Mon Oncle D'Amerique (1980)
5:00 AM Monsieur Verdoux (1947)

It seems like a day for some strange creatures, like Shakespearean fairies (one day after I watched "Thumbelina"...), a giant ape and a mermaid (of sorts).  Plus a couple of miracles, one religious and one with Helen Keller.  I've seen two of these, "Mildred Pierce" and "Mister Roberts", so that brings me up to 70 seen out of 188.  I fear I'm headed from 50% down closer to 33%.

THE PLOT: A photographer is assigned to a photo shoot in Paris.  He decides to take his wife and his hippie son with him on the shoot.  Everything gets mucked up when she rents a house that belongs to a French lawyer, and must fend off his charms and stay true to her husband.

AFTER:  TCM is also running "Mogambo" tomorrow, a film about an African safari, and two films with French titles.  Coincidentally, this film is about a photographer who's just been on safari, and then for his next assignment, goes to France with his wife, son and a bunch of teenage girls.  What could possibly go wrong?  Though the IMDB description isn't really accurate, Grif Henderson doesn't "take" his wife and son with him - his son wants to travel in Europe to follow his girlfriend on a tour, and he's all for letting his son travel alone and "become a man", but his wife Jenny is so over-protective that she pulls some strings with her husband's boss's wife to get him assigned to take photos, then works herself into the plan also.

This is something of a contrivance - it just so happens that their son Davey is dating Bootsy, the daughter of his editor/boss, and it just so happens that Jenny is friends with the mother of her son's girlfriend, who is also her husband's boss's wife.  I'm probably making it sound more unlikely than it is, but since the plot can't move ahead without this coincidence, I'm forced to allow it.

Things start to go wrong when they all take a 10-day boat trip to get to Europe - why they didn't fly there, I have no idea.  The boat is sort of a no-frills cruise, and husband and wife get separated, because the men's cabins and ladies' cabins are separated.  And the women all snore, and the men all burp to entertain themselves.  Let's call that a "push" in the depiction of the different genders.  Still, there appears to be a lot of bed-hopping on the cruise, and the Hendersons try to fool around in a lifeboat, so the comical purser has good reason to think that all teens are "animals" and older married people are "sex maniacs".  I'm not sure why this married couple thought that being the oldest people on this ship would be a good idea - my wife and I prefer to cruise on the line with the most senior citizens, because that helps us feel young.

ASIDE: There used to be a show called "The Love Boat", where each week a bunch of sitcom stars and older movie stars would guest star as people going on a cruise, and it was essentially a bedroom farce on the ocean - the single character would end up married, the married characters would have their relationship tested, but ultimately stay together.  As a kid I probably learned a lot about relationships from this show, but in retrospect I now think that the scripts were probably approved by some conservative marriage-oriented coalition or something.  I'm probably only thinking about it because last night's film had the voice talents of Charo and Carol Channing, two frequent guest stars on that show, and tonight's film has Paul Lynde and Penny Marshall, two other sitcom stars from the same era.

After their time sleeping apart on the cruise, the Hendersons' world is further rocked when Jenny finds out that the man who rented them a villa on the Riviera had no right to do so, but fortunately the lawyer who lives there is willing to let her stay - unfortunately, he's a horny playboy who only does that so he can hit on her for a week.  Hey, at least he's honest about his intentions.  At the same time, Grif is bonding with the female chaperone on the girls' tour, so both are tempted and have to find their way back to each other.

To really understand this film, though, you have to consider the year it was released - 1968.  The world was changing, gender roles were being re-defined, and there were probably thousands of families like this, with "old guard" fathers, neurotic over-protective mothers, and teen sons and daughters who were talking about radical concepts like peace and free love.  And it seems the filmmakers here really wanted to tap into some of that hippie energy, but they just didn't really understand it yet.  For example, the high-school students seen here are protesting - not the war, or for civil rights - they're protesting gym class.  Did someone just want to avoid a real controversial topic? Or are we meant to believe that the students meant to protest for their right to exercise free speech, but accidentally ended up protesting exercise?

And what does this film say about men who go on long work trips, and bring home kinky African fetish-wear for their wives?  Or what can we deduce about French and Italian men, who all lose their self-control when they see Debbie Reynolds in a bikini?  (Of course, this was the generation before mine, the men of MY generation lost self-control when they saw her daughter in a metal bikini...)

This romp all comes to a farcical conclusion in a French whorehouse, which no doubt led to some great family stories to tell when they got home.  But again, it seems like the filmmakers didn't really understand what goes on in a brothel - so by all means, just make some weird stuff up (people wearing baseball equipment?)

Also starring Debbie Reynolds (last seen in "The Catered Affair"), James Garner (last seen in "Maverick"), Maurice Ronet, Terry-Thomas, Paul Lynde (last seen in "Under the Yum Yum Tree"), Marcel Dalio (last seen in "Catch-22'"), Donald Losby, Hilarie Thompson, Walter Brooke, Elena Verdugo (last seen in "House of Frankenstein"), with cameos from Vito Scotti (last seen in "Made in Paris"), Larry Hankin (last seen in "She's Having a Baby"), Penny Marshall (ditto), Jack Colvin (last seen in "Jeremiah Johnson"), Erin Moran, and the voice of Garry Marshall.

RATING: 5 out of 10 bunk beds

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