Monday, October 29, 2012
on turner: Mervyn LeRoy's "Mary, Mary" (1963) /plus 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. And I was there as a kid.
Yesterday, Turner Classic Movies televised "Mary, Mary" at noon, and I was there front row-center. In hand, I had my copy of Jean Kerr's stage script, courtesy of the Dramatist's Play Service. I read the play along with the actors on my television set, that's the fidelity that, except for two minor added sequences, scenarist Richard L. Breen brought to the film.
Jean Kerr 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 stage and Henry Fonda played the role of the critic.
Posted by joe baltake at 12:16 PM