Dedications: My four late friends Rory, Stan, Bryan, Jeff - shine on you crazy diamonds, they would have blogged too. Then theres Garry from Brisbane, Franco in Milan, Mike now in S.F. / my '60s-'80s gang: Ned & Joseph in Ireland; in England: Frank, Des, Guy, Clive, Joe & Joe, Ian, Ivan, Nick, David, Les, Stewart, the 3 Michaels / Catriona, Sally, Monica, Jean, Ella, Anne, Candie / and now: Daryl in N.Y., Jerry, John, Colin, Martin and Donal.

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

A Kay Kendall double bill

I had put off re-watching Stanley Donen's little-seen now ONCE MORE WITH FEELING from 1960 which was Kay Kendall's last film - it was actually made in the summer of 1959, she died 3 months later (on 6 September '59) of the leukaemia she had been suffering from, and the film was released in 1960. I remember reading at the time (when I was about 13) that her Givenchy wardrobe, all in black and white, was created for the 'look' of 1960. After his musicals (with and without Gene Kelly) Donen was a deft hand at romantic comedy, and showcasing star teams like Grant and Bergman (INDISCREET), Grant and Hepburn (CHARADE) and Peck and Loren (ARABESQUE), and Peter Cook and Dudley Moore (BEDAZZLED) - not though Harrison and Burton (STAIRCASE)!

Here we have Kay as Dolly Fabian, scatty wife of egomaniac symphony conductor Victor Fabian (Brynner) and their spats and tempestous rows are amusing, until she returns to find him entangled with student Shirley Anne Field. There is rather a lot of Gregory Ratoff and it all ends in a delightful concert where there is a lovely bow out for Kay. She also has a delightful merry harp playing scene. She looks well and happy here, just a few months before her death. She had scored bigtime with Cukor's LES GIRLS (top) in '57 and Minnelli's THE RELUCTANT DEBUTANTE in '58 (below, right) [which preserves the high comedy style of Kay and husband Rex Harrison] and had never looked better after her English Rank Organisation films like GENEVIENVE in '54 after working her way up in bit parts. SIMON AND LAURA in '55 was also a big hit and she then went into American films with one of my favourite costumers, QUENTIN DURWARD in '56 with Robert Taylor - all already discussed here (and I have written other posts on Kendall also).

SIMON AND LAURA - This is now the acme of mid-'50s English comedy, as directed by Muriel Box and features Kay and Peter Finch as the temperamental pair of theatre stars who are lured into starring in a daily BBC serial about their domestic life. They have to pretend to be happily married though they were on the point of splitting up but money problems intervene. It is a funny satire on '50s television and the BBC types are amusingly played by Ian Carmichael and Richard Wattis, while Muriel Pavlow has one of her better roles as the scriptwriter getting entangled with the egotistical Simon (Finch, clearly enjoying himself). It was a fond childhood memory so rather nice to see it on dvd now. Real life Tv luminaries like Gilbert Harding and Lady Isobel Barnett play themselves, and the domestics are drolly played by Thora Hird and Maurice Denham. Its a sterling cast and a sterling production. Kay also had an amusing cameo in her pal Dirk Bogarde's DOCTOR IN THE HOUSE in '54 and also in her first teaming with Harrison in that other perfect mid-50s English comedy THE CONSTANT HUSBAND.

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