Cary Grant’s career was packed with a whole slew of great films. Dramas, comedies, thrillers. He might be one of the most reliable movie stars ever when it came to the guarantee of quality on the screen At least some kind of quality. Just Grant’s involvement could elevate even the blandest stupidest scripts into watchable entertainment.
Well, not always.
It’s 1944 and Commander Andy Crewson (Grant) has scored a four-day shore leave in San Francisco with his two buddies. They want to forget all about the war and just enjoy each others company, pound down a succession of stingers and get some serious smooching in with a smorgasbord of lovely ladies.
Crewson being a sly master of procuring any and all things possible, lands the trio a free posh hotel room, a jukebox and eventually some foxy ladies come calling in the form of Jayne Mansfield and Suzy Parker.
As Mansfield falls for Lieutenant McCann (Ray Walston) Crewson begins to make time with Parker. However, their good time is constantly spoiled as the three pilots are harassed by a shipyard magnate trying to convince them to help boost morale on the homefront by giving speeches about their heroic experiences in battle. The three just can’t seem to get a break from the war.
This is really one of Grant’s lesser efforts. In fact I could go so far as to say it might be one of the worst films on his extensive resume. Admittedly I haven’t seen every film he starred in, but compared to the ones I have seen this ranks extremely low.
Directed by Stanley Donan, Kiss Them For Me starts as a promising light mischievous adventure with the three war buddies tearing up San Francisco and getting into some funny altercations and romantic entanglements. That never comes. The movie falls flat very quickly and never picks itself up. Even the title is kind of lame.
In the beginning when Grant scores the big hotel room and the pals vow to have a great time in San Fran with women and drinking I started to think this might become a mild version of Bachelor Party. Grant holding court as silly antics and characters fill up the big room and Grant and his buddies juggle all the lovely ladies. I was wrong.
Grant zeros in on Parker and the good time he keeps promising to have seems to escape his grasp in every subsequent scene.
The supporting actors are not at all funny. The comedy is forced and somewhat embarrassing to watch. I kept thinking, “come on guys, you can do better than this”. There’s no sharp dialogue and the romance between Grant and Parker just slows everything down further.
The effects of the war is a recurring theme, but it feels out of place and doesn’t leave much of an impact. Like the comedy it’s labored and superficial. The threat of the MP’s being called on the guys spoiling their good time is ironic since there really isn’t anything here for them to spoil.
Walston (in his film debut) looks ready to entertain us, but is sadly given a half-ass story of him running for Congress awaiting the voting results and that goes nowhere. Mansfield’s stuff works better as she desperately tries to hook up with him, but since Walston is a devoted married man he continually rejects her. She looks good and has a few funny lines, but she mainly does a typical ‘dumb blonde’ performance and doesn’t get enough screentime to make her participation very memorable. The movie might have been better had they given her a bigger role.
And Grant, this is way beneath him and even he can’t save any of it. This movie was tough to watch from the start. By three quarters into it I really started to zone out and almost stopped paying attention to it totally.
I began thinking why would Grant have done this flick. Was it just for the chance to work with someone specific in the cast, did he just have freetime in between other films and thought he’d do this one quick and get a check.
Kiss Them For Me got a very cold reaction when it was released. Oddly enough Mansfield got a lot of the heat for its failure despite her being a supporting player in it. It didn’t do very well at the box office and critics didn’t have anything positive to say about it. I am not at all surprised.
I'll bet you a million that Grant was playing out a winning formula that he hit upon with "Operation Petticoat." Which was the quirky World War 2 comedy.
I'm sure then as it is now when Hollywood sees success they plow the trend right into the ground. Then move on. This sounds like a movie that came in at the end of such a trend.