Wednesday, April 08, 2009
cinema obscura: Mervyn LeRoy's "Mary, Mary" (1963) / Jean Kerr on Film
In his Friday, October 25, 1963 review, Bosley Crowther of The New York Times wrote:
"Obviously, Mervyn LeRoy did a little bit more than merely place his camera in the Helen Hayes Theater and shoot a straight running photograph of a performance of 'Mary, Mary' to get a film of the Jean Kerr comedy. But you would hardly be able to tell it from the rigidly setbound quality of his film version of the long-run stage play, which came to the (Radio City) Music Hall yesterday."
That just about says it all. Rarely has a film of a play been as faithful as LeRoy's film version of Kerr's urbane comedy, which was the most celebrated stage farce of its time. As Crowther indicated, the work of LeRoy's art director John Beckman and set decorator Ralph S. Hurst borrows heavily from the play's famed designer, Oliver Smith. Debbie Reynolds took over Barbara Bel Geddes's stage role, but the play's leading men, Barry Nelson and Michael Rennie, were back on that familiar set.
Yes, the film - about a divorced couple brought together for income tax purposes - is stagebound, but that's not necessarily bad. I like the idea of being transported back to the Helen Hayes Theater in 1960. The film perfectly approximates the joy of attending a matinee performance of a stylish, sophisticated comedy.
Warners' apprehension about releasing it to DVD is unfortunate, but "Mary, Mary" is not alone: Another LeRoy take on a play - his 1961 film verion of Leonard Spielgass' "A Majority of One" - has also been missing for years. How about releasing them on disc as a double bill?
Jean Kerr, who wrote "Mary, Mary," was of course the wife of the Times' great theater critic, Walter Kerr, and her adventures as the wife of a critic has been the subject of two other films - Charles Walters' bubbly "Please Don't Eat the Daisies" (1960), with Doris Day and David Niven as Jean's and Walter's on-screen surrogages, and Don Weis' "Critic's Choice," the film version of the 1960 Ira Levin stage comedy with Bob Hope as a theater critic whose wife, played by Lucille Ball, writes her own play.
By the way, Otto Preminger directed the original play and Henry Fonda played the role of the critic. "Critic's Choice" is new to DVD.
Artwork: Poster art for "Mary, Mary," "Please Don't Eat the Daisies" and "Critic's Choice," all connected by the late playwright Jean Kerr
Getting back to Debbie Reynolds, she has more than her share of lost movies. Among those missing from home entertainment formats are these made within a five-year period in the early 1960s: Frank Tashlin's "Say One for Me" (1959), George Marshall's "The Gazebo" and "It Started with a Kiss" (both 1959), Robert Mulligan's "The Rat Race" (1960), George Seaton's "The Pleasure of His Company" (1961), Gower Champion's "My Six Loves" (1963) and Vincente Minnelli's "Goodbye, Charlie" (1964). (Sounds like Debbie should get busy on her DVD titles.)
Reynolds' "The Mating Game," also directed by Marshall in '59, is one of the titles at long last being made available through WBshop.com,. Yes, Reynolds and Marshall made three - count 'em - three titles in 1959.
Note in Passing: Some Reynolds trivia... Her co-star in both "The Rat Race" and "Goodbye, Charlie" is Tony Curtis. Glenn Ford is her leading man in both "The Gazebo" and "It Started with a Kiss."
Posted by joe baltake at 4:50 PM