Monday, August 24, 2009


Using starpower to get fluff off the ground

By Edward Copeland
When you think of them separately, just by the disparity of their film roles, there are few starker choices for romance than Cary Grant and Robert Mitchum, but that's the quandary Deborah Kerr finds herself in Stanley Donen's 1960 film of the play The Grass Is Greener.

It is essentially a five-character comedy and the lightest of fare that would float away into nonexistence if not for the three stars named above and a fun fourth wheel played by Jean Simmons.

Grant and Kerr play the Rhyalls, a down-on-their-luck English pair who have taken to showing off their stately manor to tourists to help make ends meet, meaning the public have more access to their home than they have private rooms. The situation has grated on Hilary (Kerr) until one day an American oil millionaire named Charles Delacro (Mitchum) wanders off the tour and into the private section and proceeds to charm Hilary.

Before she knows it, she's planning a trip to London for shopping and hairdressing and a nice little affair but Victor (Grant) is sharp enough to know what the game is. Hilary mistakes Victor's attitude for indifference but with the aide of a gossipy, fun-loving friend of the couple (Simmons), Victor is determined to keep his wife by inviting Charles to the estate for a weekend, knowing it's when Hilary was planning to return as well.

The only other character of note is the Rhyalls' faithful butler Sellers (Moray Watson), who is really good at following orders.

The Grass Is Greener was written by Hugh Williams and Margaret Vyner, who wrote the original play and the stage roots definitely show. The laughs are not exactly uproarious and Donen does what he can with the pacing, but it's the cast who keeps the film from falling flat.

Grant has to tone down his natural charms to make the competition seem reasonable and Mitchum plays quite against type as the debonair tycoon. Still, Simmons seems to be the performer having the most fun. If it weren't for the cast, The Grass Is Greener would be instantly forgettable.

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This does sound like a good cast. It's great to see the snubbed greats in a film, especially a comedy.
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